Monday, February 19, 2007

George Washington or George III?

By Nancy Jane Moore

On a day when George W. Bush has the nerve to assert that his so-called "war on terror" is a fight for liberty like George Washington's efforts in the American Revolution, Scott Horton on Balkinzation and Huffington Post points out a crucial difference: Washington insisted on humane treatment of prisoners under the laws of war.

According to Horton, Washington stood firm on this issue despite the fact that the British -- who considered the Americans traitors -- treated their prisoners dreadfully, with large numbers dying in captivity. Given U.S. treatment of those held at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, it appears that George Bush has more in common with George III than with George Washington.

Horton writes:
Washington's rules on the treatment of prisoners were doctrine of the United States Army for 227 years. From Washington's perspective, they were not marginal matters. Rather, they defined the United States in relationship to the rest of the world. . . .

But early in 2002, a later George W, one who knew no military service, decided he knew better than the Founding Father. . . . [W]hat transpired in that notorious Iraqi prison [
Abu Ghraib] was not the misdoings of a few "rotten apples," but rather the foreseeable consequence of policies shaped at the highest levels of the Bush Administration. . . .

Venting at the constraints of international law, which they deemed quaint and outmoded, and seemingly ignorant of the proud American tradition behind that law, policymakers like Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales were determined to dabble in what Vice President Cheney called the "dark side." The consequences of this gravely mistaken departure from America's foundational values have been exactly what Washington foresaw in his charge of September 1775: shame, disgrace and ruin.

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