In Washington Wednesday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey took the helm of the criminally-damaged Justice Department. President Bush was there to put his stamp of approval on his latest hire, as were John Ashcroft and Dick Thornberg, but, strangely, no Alberto Gonzalez. Muskasey, the federal judge who rubber-stamped every abuse of the Constitution imagined by the Bushies, now is in charge of the lame-duck administration’s last-ditch assaults on the Constitution, and appears up to the job. The only question is how much more of a mess the Democrats will have to clean up in ‘09, when they take charge and clean the dirty floors and files of a Justice Department as off-the-rails as the rest of the administration, if not more so.
The big issue in Mukasey’s confirmation hearings was "waterboarding", that time-honored torture technique that has regained favor in Bush and Cheney’s anything-goes war on humanity. Mukasey was more than slippery on the issue, pretending that he didn’t know enough about the ungodly procedure to make a judgement call on its appropriate use. You could see Dick Cheney nodding with pride in his office as the pliant former judge morphed into the pliant AG. You see, if it’s good enough for the Spanish Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge, it should be good enough for us. I mean, if we act like respectable humans, the terrorists win, right?
I always wondered why all this focus on pussy-footed techniques used by our wayward 21st-century interrogators, like waterboarding, sleep deprivation and the cold cell. The answer appears to be that your government favors torture that does not leave visible scars. But, if it’s really a matter of national security and the safety of millions of Americans, as torture advocates claim, why not let it all hang out? Hell, someone has information about the nuking of New York City? Why not thumb screws? The Iron Maiden? The Rack? What are we fooling around for? Let ‘em have it!
These are the questions that should have been asked of our latest Bush AG. Mr. Mukasey, how do you feel about the Rack? Do you think we should be allowed to use it? After all, the fate of millions hangs in the balance. Come on, judge. What about the Rack?
Chances are, Mukasey wouldn’t have answered that question either. "The Rack? Gee, I don’t know whether that is torture or not." He might quote Saint Giuliani: "It depends on how it’s done and who’s doing it." Any answer other than equivocation is considered weak or, at least limiting. You could imagine Cheney storming into the green room if Mukasey vacillated, his face red with rage. "Why the hell did you say that about the Rack?!!" he would mutter in twisted rage.
Well, with Mukasey now ensconced in the Gonzalez Memorial chair at the Justice Department, he doesn’t have to answer all those damn questions any more. As with all the Bush appointees, his ability to get away with outrages is limited only by the occasionally annoying squealing of those underlings with a conscience, of which there are fewer in Washington everyday. In his limited time in office, Mukasey’s charge will be to help Bush further stack the federal judiciary with weak sycophants (like Mukasey himself) and to fill the Justice Department civil service with more recruits from nut-right universities and "think"-tanks.
In Mukasey, Bush and Cheney have obviously found a kindred spirit. In discussing the "difficulty" of prosecuting accused terrorists, Mukasey wrote in the Bush-friendly pages of the Wall Street Journal "...the rules that apply to routine criminals who pursue finite goals are skewed, and properly so, to assure that only the highest level of proof will result in a conviction. But those rules do not protect a society that must gather information about, and at least incapacitate, people who have cosmic goals that they are intent on achieving by cataclysmic means."
Translation: We should not have to prove guilt in the most serious of cases like it’s some damn retail theft. I’ve wondered about the logic of these over-heated meatheads who insist that regular Constitutional protections are just too much when it comes to terrorism suspects. Alright, you say the guy’s a terrorist. Why? What’s your proof? Just prove it and you can do whatever you want to him. What’s so wrong with making you prove it? Putting all these people in this we-can’t-even-tell-you-why-we-think-you’re-bad Kafkaesque limbo is a large part of why the rest of the world has become alienated from us during the glorious Bush years. We have gone from one of the most legally fair countries in the world to a international legal pariah overnight.
By contributing to this bastard "intellectual" aberration, Mukasey fits right in. But I still want to know if he supports the Rack.