GW Bush on “known killers”

Johni I listened to Britt Hume interview the two Bushes on Fox News Sunday.  It was less than inspiring, but informative of the mentality of these three men.  At one point one of the bushes referred to the Oval Office (in which they were standing) as a "shrine of democracy."

Say what?

Having spent some time in that room, I must say that it never struck me as anything other than a working office for the person who runs the Executive Branch of the federal government.  This talk of "shrines" is more of the monarchical baloney that has tended to attach itself to the presidency over the course of the Republic’s history.  "Shrine of Democracy?"  Through a connecting door is the pantry where Monica and Bill trysted and where she said she earned her "presidential kneepads."  A few feet farther away is the little room where Cheney explained to Bush at lunches what is that he (Bush) really thought about things.  Considering the rather limited scope of Cheney’s world view, one must wonder which clever person had previously explained Cheney’s opinion to Cheney.  "Shrine of democracy…"  Remarkable.

The BIG MOMENT for me in the interview was GW’s assertion that torture a la Jack Bauer had been a good thing for the US government to employ because it had enabled the winkling out of information from "known killers," and at another point in his discourse "known criminals."

How were they "known?"

In the US scheme of things it has usually been thought that criminals and killers are "known" by virtue of having been convicted by a jury of the crimes for which they are accused.  I seem to remember that this notion starts back in the time of King John of evil memory.  You remember him, "Magna Carta" and all that.  Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham maybe?

It would seem that this is not a meaningful discussion for GW.  By that I mean a discussion of the epistemology of guilt.  If you follow his logic, then the accusation of police, bureaucrats or other enemies might well be sufficient cause for one’s (anyone’s) imprisonment and questioning under "enhanced procedures."

Is the man really that blind to the tyranny lying close to the surface of such a notion of "knowing."

On the other hand, I and others like me who have criticized him savagely are still walking around, perhaps a little the worse for wear, but still free to criticize.

For that, I salute him.  pl

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28 Responses to GW Bush on “known killers”

  1. taters says:

    An absolutely brilliant assessment Col. Lang.

  2. COL,
    You say, …I and others like me who have criticized him savagely are still walking around, perhaps a little the worse for wear, but still free to criticize. For that, I salute him.
    Those critical of the current Administration are perhaps still free because that Administration just hasn’t gotten around to imprisoning you yet. Unless there is some change we can believe in in the next Administration, I fear we will remain on the trajectory that indeed punishes the bravest of patriots for their criticisms, and without a jury trial, due process, or 4th/5th Amendment rights.

  3. Donald Johnson says:

    Okay, it’s pretty obvious you were being ironic at the end. My knee jerks sometimes.

  4. Duncan Kinder says:

    There is, of course, the euphemism, “known to the police,” apt to turn up in British murder mysteries of the Agatha Christie variety.
    Col, your reference to King John, Magna Carta, and what not invokes the subject matter of From Memory to Written Record: England 1066 – 1307 by Michael T. Clanchy
    Clanchy describes how, during this period, England evolved from a largely oral, semi-tribal society to an emerging literate bureaucratic society.
    A feature of oral tribal societies is that they rely upon talismans, swords of office ( the sword Excalibur ), rituals, and – yes – shrines to enable society to remember important things. Written societies rely instead upon charters, deeds, archives, and the like. Eg: Magna Carta.
    Unfortunately for the Bushes, while the oral, traditional tribal society might well indeed have been well equipped to enable Beowulf to go after Grendel – it was by no means the high powered omnipotent state that Cheney apparently would have preferred. That calls for all sorts of record keeping.
    As for Monica, really Col., you must realize that the old baronial halls did have their wenches.

  5. Sven Ortmann says:

    The German police knows not guilty, suspect and guilty – but recently I heard about a new category: “Gefährder” (~endangerer). Our minister for interior affairs used that word.
    My problem with that (similar to “known killers”) is that it adds a bias against these suspects that’s simply undue for a fair state.

  6. Donald Johnson says:

    I hope you’re being ironic in those last two sentences. Probably you are and I’m being too literal.
    On the chance that you’re not, I suspect that in a different country (say some Latin American one a couple decades back), Bush would have gone much much further–in the US there are too many constraints for a would-be tyrant to go all-out. He did manage to make the pro-torture position one that people would argue for in polite society, so he has weakened some of those constraints.

  7. Frank Newbauer says:

    George the Elder, a man of real talent (although limited) who served our country bravely (mostly – how did that voodoo economics thing work out?) must (well, anyway should) be bitterly disappointed to have fathered a son who has so failed our country.
    George the Lesser, besides being the anti-Midas, presided over an administration that was the personification of contempt for constitutional, republican democracy and the rule of law. Clinton may have sodomized a consenting adult; Bush the Lesser and his cabal of enablers raped our system of government. Bill Clinton’s sexual pecadillos (where the only person who really suffered was Chelsea) fade into utter insignificance next to the immeasurable harm Bush the Lesser inflicted on our county. Clinton was impeached for lying about a blow job; how has Bush the Lesser suffered for repeatedly, intentionally violating his oath to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution?

  8. Donald Johnson says:

    Off topic, but sometimes it’s a little hard to follow the flow in threads here because sometimes posts appear out of order–for instance, the post where I say my knee jerks makes no sense, unless you realize it came after I asked whether you were being ironic. I’m glad to see this in a case where I know the order of the posts (since I wrote them before), because I’ve been confused by conversations in other threads sometimes.

  9. ked says:

    “Is the man really that blind to the tyranny lying close to the surface of such a notion of “knowing.” ”
    Absolutely… among numerous other blindnesses. He is the archetype for willfull blindness at the zenith of modern politics. But, hey, it’s worked for him.
    “On the other hand, I and others like me who have criticized him savagely are still walking around, perhaps a little the worse for wear, but still free to criticize. For that, I salute him.”
    Not for any lack of trying on his (& his various brains’) part. & of course, there is the decades-long march towards the National Security State to deal with, so don’t relax too much – though a little breather would be nice.

  10. lina says:

    King John is rated as one of the worst English kings. He and GW Bush do have a lot in common. Both presided over ruinous foreign and domestic policy. John signed the Magna Carta and proceeded to ignore it. Bush just ignored it.

  11. joel hanes says:

    I and others like me who have criticized him savagely are still walking around
    … which shows that your savage criticism has not been perceived by the Court of George II as a threat to the royal interest. Don Siegelman is once again free to walk around, but Bush deserves no credit for that. And former GOP IT administrator Mike Connell seems unlikely, now, to be available for depostion.

  12. ritamary says:

    SP, Dubya’s critics are still walking around, as you point out because that administration didn’t get around to imprisoning them. Sometimes prison isn’t necessary to shut most of us up. Witness the tactics used against Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame.
    Obama usually ignores what few critics there are. When the critics cannot be ignored, they are accused of racism. Then we have the case of Joe the Plumber who dared to ask Obama a question and found his personal information released to the media by an Obama supporter in the Ohio state bureaucracy.

  13. Mongoose says:

    Concise and to the point, as always. Let me just echo the developing consensus that W. has several ways to “lock up” those “wishy-washy” types that appear on blogs such as this one, i.e., those damn liberals and conservatives who think such things as civil rights, habeas corpus, evidence properly presented and vetted before courts of law have something to do with our republic. The blathering talking heads of the MSM, who are more interested in the number of Clinton’s erections than the number of times W. undermined (I’m being gentle here) the Constitution, the example made of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, the studied silence and/or outright lies iterated and reiterated by the Bushies, combined with the lack of real concern by much of the citizentry of our republic, bears witness to the many ways someone like W. can walk away from his (now our) disasters with a smile, a wink, a devil-may-care-attitude.

  14. Ormolov says:

    Accused = guilty.
    It was back in the day when my sister told me her favorite show was COPS that I saw this idea gain real mainstream acceptance. Because on COPS, if you’re onscreen then you did it. For years whenever we talked about crime, she equated an accusation to guilt and an arrest to an ironclad conviction.

  15. whet says:

    Excellent post. One thing I’ll say in, well, sympathy towards GWB is this: he was, from the time he finished at Yale until he was elected governor of Texas, handsomely rewarded for one period of mediocrity after another.
    Imagine if every time you played poker, from the first time you learned to play into middle age, you won money no matter what you were dealt or what cards you played?
    Not only would you not understand the game, it would probably warp your sense of cause and effect. He doesn’t strike me so much as “blind” or “oblivious” as just someone whose perception of the world is utterly foreign.
    As far as I’m concerned it wouldn’t be any weirder to have spent most of one’s life hung upside-down by one’s ankles.

  16. wisedup says:

    Is is no wonder that GW has had no qualms about the guilt of those tortured and killed
    “Asked by People magazine what moments from the last eight years he revisited most often, W. talked passionately about the pitch he threw out at the World Series in 2001: “I never felt that anxious any other time during my presidency, curiously enough.”
    GW’s handlers saw no reason to disturb George with doubts about any thing.

  17. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I’ll leave a remark that might seem rather completely off topic, but happens to be the first thing that struck me when I read the Colonel’s point, “how were they known?”
    One disclaimer: I actually am a practicing game theorist (at least part time) and the occasional attack on my profession on this site does bug me quite a lot. But, many of the attacks on game theory here are also the criticisms that I tend to share, though.
    What game theory does is to make sense of the knowledge that we do have using mathematical logic. The trouble with the way it has been applied to policymaking is that, somehow, people sold it as a substitute for the real knowledge–and used it to “justify” their own suppositions and speculations. I imagine they could claim that game theory justifies torture too since we “know” that the tortured are “known” killers/criminals. Of course, they don’t bother with the alternate premise that perhaps we don’t “know” those things, which would throw all things off balance–even with good old game theory.
    Just a remark on the misconstruction of “science” by “social sciences,” that is all…

  18. Ian says:

    What game theory does is to make sense of the knowledge that we do have using mathematical logic…
    We apply math to the world by making certain assumptions, and when the world does not conform to those assumptions the math can only lead us astray. This is a problem for all math (e.g. the imperfection of Euclidian mathmatical models in physics), but it’s proven to be a singularly serious problem with game theory.
    The problem with game theory is that the way it labels its variables leads people to apply it incorrectly. For example, defining a rational person as a self-interested being, caring only about his or her own payoffs…neither altruistic nor envious.
    Note the possibility of equivocation. “Rational” can mean quite a lot of different things in ordinary language, most of which are not compatible with the game theoretic definition.
    This has real world consequences. For example, can irrational Iran be deterred from launching a nuclear first strike?
    The way game theory labels its variables is sufficiently misleading as to give a false picture of human nature, and so to mislead policymakers.
    The usual error is to pretend that we humans are exclusively one or the other — altruistic or envious. The problem here with the prisoner’s dilemma — pretending that we can be neither, yet still be recognizably human — is novel, but still an error.”

  19. Ken Roberts says:

    Game theory, critical path, probability-weighted scenarios are all useful as ways to get another take on a social or organizational process, highlight our assumptions so we can plan better. But it is unwise to attribute too much to the calculus which arises from the theory. I speak as one who spent many years being trained in that way of looking at the world.
    As a simple example of the hazards in using theories, consider cause and effect – if A consistently precedes B, then A may possibly cause B; certainly B does not cause A.
    Each morning, we’ve noticed light replacing dark outside the window. On some days, the sun will later appear. Probably daylight causes (sometimes) the sun to appear. Further study is needed. Funding request to follow.

  20. gatherdust says:

    We’ve all been left free to savagely criticize the Bush administration for the simple reason that the criticism has been irrelevant to the government. Wish it otherwise but the success of the American state lies in the impotence of its opponents.
    You might have made a stronger point about Clinton if you had pointed out that Clinton approved rendition in that very office rather than the gotten a simple blow-job.
    Because a blow-job is so much more serious than rendition.
    Rendition is central to our current folly in the epistemology of knowing who’s been bad.

  21. Patrick Lang says:

    Those among you who have bristled over the reference to Clinton really do not GET IT. I could care less about Clinton’s (or Monica’s)sexual behavior and personality deficiencies. America is filled with prudes and puritans. I am not one of them.
    My point had to do with my total lack of respect for the Oval Office as a “shrine of democracy.”
    Get a grip! pl

  22. Brett J says:

    Classic image used on this post! I remember (in school history books) that grimance/stare of King John, facing the viewer, as if he couldn’t bear to see what his hand was doing simultaneously.

  23. zanzibar says:

    Since Dubya “knows” that these were “killers” and felt he had the right to order torture and everyone looks on as if its perfectly normal – why do we believe we have a republic?
    I continue to believe that as the Cheneyites get away with the subversion of our Constitution in broad daylight as our political “club” believes its more important to “look forward” than hold those at the highest echelons of power that break the law with impunity accountable – we will see the next acts of lawlessness to be even more brazen. Ordinary citizens who express contrary opinions will be deemed “known killers” by the potentate and tortured for sport – far fetched??

  24. Just remember it was the Baron’s that imposed MAGNA CARTA (the Great Writ) not the King. My question is who in the current system of the United States are the Baron’s who might be interested in adopting and enforcing restrictions on our elected Royalty? Still looking but know that none in Congress or the Judiciary. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Hope our cells are close together PL. At least for MORSE CODE communication.

  25. ads says:

    Thus said Fred:
    If we are to accept the validity of the John Yoo treatment then it should be put to use on all of the Bushies who are brought before the court for their crimes. No, not the torture or war; but the embezzlement, fraud and a 1001 other such crimes and misdemeanors. I’m sure Wall Street Millionaires will be quite happy to be subject to the same standard.
    (spoken to Severian by a spectator at an excruciation)
    “W-without you, where are their nightmares, where are their restitutions, so long promised? Where are their chains, fetters, manacles and cangues? Where are their abacinations, that shall leave them blind? Where are the defenestrations that shall break their bones, where is the estrapade that shall grind their joints? Where is she, the beloved whom I lost?”
    – Gene Wolfe, The Shadow of the Torturer

  26. Highlander says:

    You seem a wise and worldly man. What are we citizens to do in these perilous end of empire days with so many real and not inconseqential dangers about?
    Do we turn to the “idiot de jour” occupying the Imperial Palace(White House)?
    Or do we go with all the puffed up “Blue Hairs” down at the Senate?
    Or maybe the wise men(and women)of the establishment media,They seem to always anticipate everything.(at least after it has already occurred)
    Just like in 450 AD, not only are the barbarians at the “Gates”, but some are already comfortably at home inside?
    We are going to need some intensely courageous and brillant leadership real soon!(Or we all will have to give up our villas)
    What will it be the brillant but ruthless(and possibly slightly “nuts”) Caesar?
    Or the doddering and slightly befundled “Blue Hairs” in the Senate? They are not too ruthless,and they are certainly democratic.(At least for the well heeled who purchased them)
    But there seem to be very few monuments attesting to the brilliance or courage of committees.
    What are we mere citizens to do? Strap in tightly and wait?

  27. Highlander
    “Ignorant armies” abound. Fortify your villa. I speak figuratively of course, Sort of. pl

  28. RBM says:

    This question from elsewhere piqued my interest. I realize it’s not as weighty as the usual matters discussed here.
    Any idea what % of detainees in Gitmo were arrested based on intelligence gathered by US/NATO forces, and what % were turned in by bounty hunters or based on evidence given the US by Iraqis/Afghanis?
    Thank you for your consideration.

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