The Omnibus CYA Act of 2009

By David Swanson

A healthy rivalry between the branches of government is the soul of our republic, so when the Senate’s proposed ban on releasing photos and videos of torture fell short of completely covering things up, the White House proposed allowing prisoners to plead guilty to capital crimes and be executed without actual trials that might reveal evidence. Preemption being the technique of the hour, I’m going to preemptively fill you in on the next move from Capitol Hill. You will have read it here first.

The next bill logically should find guilty of a capital crime anyone killed in US custody. And suicide, real or fake, will provide no escape from the law. Under this new regime, al Libi will have convicted himself, a hunger strike will be a guilty plea, and any wise guy who shoots himself in the back of the head while handcuffed in a police car will simply not get away with it.

There is also probably no reason to leave the president’s preventive detention policy subject to the complaints of human rights groups. An innovation Congress might consider, short of declaring all prisoners “guilty”, would be to declare all those preventively detained to be non-humans.

In fact, a true Omnibus CYA Act of 2009 would need to include the following additional measures, drawing inspiration from the president’s proposal to kill people who might talk:

-Descriptions of torture by victims will constitute returning to terrorism and be punished accordingly.

-Descriptions of torture by direct participants will be punishable as treason, as will the hearing of any case involving torture by any judge.

-Public photos and videos of US torture will be collected and burned on the National Mall, removed from the internet, and their possession and distribution criminalized.

-The International Committee of the Red Cross will be listed as a terrorist organization.

-Diaries, journals, newspaper and magazine articles, Congressional reports, radio commentaries, books, and blogs documenting US torture will be edited and corrected by a new presidential commission.

-Presidential orders, signing statements, Department of Justice memos, and notes from Donald Rumsfeld authorizing torture will be classified and forgotten.

-The internet will be closed to independent bloggers so that nobody remembers.

-Dick Cheney will be drugged and taken to an undisclosed location.

Some of these steps might at first appear extreme, but then so did aggressive war, foreign bases, warrantless spying, mercenary armies, state secrets claims, signing statements, executive orders, lying to congress, executive privilege, assassination squads, unmanned drones, the electric chair, supermax prisons, bankster bailouts, staying in Iraq and Afghanistan and 96 other nations forever and ever and ever, privatized vote counting, triple digit interest rates, secret agencies with secret budgets, rendition, and legalized campaign bribery, and you don’t hear too many complaints about any of those things any more, do you? And when you do, the complaints are aimed at changing the status quo, not maintaining it. Similarly, concerns about torture, but not the torturing itself, will soon be a thing of the past.

Sure, I’ve exaggerated and simplified, but do you really expect nothing to be done about the mountains of existing evidence when those in power are moving mountains to block some photos? And do you think our republic will survive acceptance of foreign empire, detaining people without charge, and executing people without a trial?

Of course, we COULD snap out of it immediately, splash some cold water on our faces, and compel the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor. Then, if we’re really serious about restoring a nation of laws, we’ll take the additional steps at that same link, including making prosecutions happen locally, at the state level, and internationally, forcing Congress to impeach Jay Bybee, exposing yet more evidence, demanding that Congress use the Capitol Police to enforce its own subpoenas, passing the State Secrets Protection Act, passing the Lee-Wexler bill for a commission on abuse of power, passing the Baldwin resolution to address all of these issues, and hounding the torture lawyers and doctors and officials out of our universities and professional associations.

We’ve come to our senses and solved crises before. There is no reason we can’t solve this one. Our duty is to condemn all speculation as to whether or not we will succeed, and to devote all of our energy to working for success.