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U.S. touts ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ — except when it comes to Bush and torture

“Equal Justice Under Law.” Along with a seal of the United States, those four words appear on a huge marble slab covering almost the entire back wall opposite the entrance of the Federal Building/U.S. Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis – four words that say so much.

If only they were true.

The attorneys in the United States Attorney’s Office on the sixth floor must be going in the back door. The words are impossible to miss if one walks in the front door.

A group of us recently met with two assistant U.S. attorneys, one of whom is second-in-command to U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones. Among our requests was that former President George W. Bush, who will speak at a Beth El Synagogue fundraiser in St. Louis Park on Sept. 21, be brought in for questioning while he is in Minnesota, the jurisdiction for which Jones is the chief federal law-enforcement officer.

The attorneys said little in response, nothing that would indicate whether they would act on our requests. But the bemused looks on their faces spoke volumes. And First Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marti did say to one of the participants as she was leaving that the prosecution of George W. Bush for torture “ain’t gonna happen.”
“Equal Justice Under Law”? Maybe a paraphrase of George Orwell would be more accurate: All of us are equal under the law, but some are more equal than others.
Admits authorizing water boarding
On his book tour last fall, former President Bush repeatedly proclaimed that he had authorized water boarding. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have been clear that water boarding is torture. The Federal Torture Statute outlaws conspiracy to torture if the torture occurs outside the United States. President Bush’s multiple admissions fall precisely into this category. The case against George W. Bush is an easy case.

When he signed the Convention Against Torture in 1988, former President Ronald Reagan summarized the essence of its most important provisions: “Each State Party is required to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”

Ah, but what about those legal memos? Didn’t Bush rely on the legal advice he was being given? By his own words, no, he did not. On Nov. 8, 2010, in an interview with Matt Lauer of NBC, he was asked about the water boarding that he had authorized: “You’d make the same decision again today?” He responded, “Yeah, I would.”
Legal memos withdrawn as inoperative
If Bush would make the same decision today, when he knows that the legal memos he supposedly relied on were withdrawn as faulty and inoperative legal advice — which occurred during his own administration — it’s questionable whether he was actually relying on those legal memos at the time. This is not a difficult case.
Marti heads up the Terrorism and National Security Team in the local U.S. Attorney’s Office. Nothing he or Jones could do would do more for national security than to open an investigation into Bush’s admitted crimes, bring him in for questioning, and if necessary prosecute him for violating 18 U.S.C. Secs. 2340-2340A, the Federal Torture Statute. It would weaken al-Qaida, strengthen our alliances, and enhance our human-rights standing in the world.
Unless that happens, that slab of marble is a mere decoration. If “equal justice under law” ain’t gonna happen for George W. Bush in this jurisdiction, I would again summon the words of Reagan: “Mr. Jones, tear down this wall.”
Chuck Turchick is a retired Minneapolis resident who is concerned about torture and torture accountability issues. A Candlelight Vigil Against Torture will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., outside Beth El Synagogue, 5224 26th St. W. (Hwy. 100 and 26th St.) in St. Louis Park. Coincidentally, in 1981 the United Nations declared Sept. 21 International Day of Peace, also known as World Peace Day. As President Bush is feted inside, the vigil will call for a return to the rule of law.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Steve Clemens on 09/16/2011 - 09:11 am.

    there are few cases which are so clear about our double standards of “justice” when the FBI raids nonviolent activists but remains silent in the face of this clear violation of the Convention on Torture.
    Bravo, Chuck!

  2. Submitted by Sonja Johnson on 09/16/2011 - 11:06 am.

    One could suggest neon-flashing-lights for “Equal Justice Under Law” to get attention because “we, the people” do not seem to be taken seriously. What will it take for the laws against torture to be applied to those who ordered torture?

  3. Submitted by Peter Swanson on 09/16/2011 - 12:30 pm.

    Let’s say that I agreed wholeheartedly with your position. There are still a few unanswered questions.

    1. If this is solely a case of B. Todd Jones’ cowardice and not living up to…a sign above the front door, why has war crimes tribunal in the Hague not brought war crimes charges against the former president?

    2. Why would the District of Minnesota be the one to prosecute the case? Because he is coming here for a speech?

    3. If Henry Kissinger made a speech at the same fundraiser, would you bring him in for questioning on anything?

    4. Whether or not you think guilt is clear, do you really think this would be an easy case to prosecute?

    5. You mention other requests besides questioning Pres. Bush. What were they?

  4. Submitted by chuck turchick on 09/16/2011 - 07:14 pm.


    1. The United States has not signed or ratified the Rome Statute, which would subject us to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. We had signed it, but President Bush withdrew that signature, and even though we previously had signed it, the Senate had not ratified it.

    2. Yes, when former President Bush is in this jurisdiction, B. Todd Jones’ office would have personal jurisdiction over him, and could arrest him for crimes committed elsewhere.

    3. I’m not sure if this was a rhetorical question or not, but Henry Kissinger does have places that he avoids travelling to for precisely this reason.

    4. Yes it would be an easy legal case to prosecute. Politics is another issue.

    5. We requested several things. Among them were a request that the Attorney General Advisory Committee, an 18-member U.S. Attorney committee, chaired by B. Todd Jones and which advises Attorney General Holder on a range of policy issues, take up the issue of accountability for U.S.-committed torture, especially for those who were responsible for the illegal criminal policy. We also noted that Jeanne Cooney, Director of Community Relations for the local U.S. Attorney’s office, recently told the media that “the word is definitely out there that you don’t want to be caught with an illegal gun in Minneapolis.” We suggested a similar public statement be issued from this office about those for whom there is a “reasonable ground” (language of the Convention Against Torture) for believing they conspired to commit torture in violation of the Federal Torture Statute.

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