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COMMENTARY:

Tortures for the Torturers

by J. Russell Tyldesley

The problem with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al., who decide to use torture on others, is that they themselves have never experienced torture. They also have a tendency to start wars, because none of them has ever experienced war first-hand.
In his reach for absolute power as President and Commander-in-Chief, President Bush seems to be the last holdout for the right to torture and to decide what constitutes torture. Of course, his minions in the Justice Department favor a narrow interpretation of torture, but they work for the Commander-in-Chief, where no dissent is tolerated. And Justice Scalia?....well, he wants to be the most conservative Justice in the history of American jurisprudence, so he would probably look way back to original framers that predate our republic, and approve stoning and the rack as reasonable interrogation methodologies.

The problem is that none of these people has ever experienced torture. In fact, they also have a tendency to start wars because none of them has ever experienced war first-hand.

Here's how we can help them further their education:

The President should be required to read 100 books after he leaves office. These books would, no doubt, be a form of torture, in that they would be selected by a board of eminent scientists and scholars independent of political pressures and ideology. These scholars would not be drawn from the prostituted ones that fill the ranks of this administration; nor would they be fellows of the right-wing pseudo think-tanks. To prove that he has read the books assigned, Bush would have to answer 10 or 20 simple questions about their contents. If he can't correctly answer these questions (pitched at, say, a 9th grade level), and if he appears to be unaffected mentally by this new educational experience, it should be mandatory that Yale and Harvard revoke his degrees, because it would be obvious that he never really "attended" classes.

In the continuing spirit of taking away what does not belong, and what severely tarnishes the reputation of prestigious institutions, it would be determined that Bush's appointment to the Presidency based on the election of 2000 was fraudulent, unconstitutional and a grave mistake which needs to be corrected. Be it so declared that forthwith all history books will refer to the Bush presidency with an asterix, much like Barry Bonds' single-year home-run record is likely to be referenced in sports anthologies.

There is another form of torture that people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paulsen (our Treasury Secretary, for anyone who does not recognize this particular whiz-kid) and other representatives of the present-day robber barons should be subjected to: let them try to live on the AMI, the average median income in any geographical area they wish to retire to. Since the half of the population living on less than the AMI has no accumulated wealth, these geniuses of capitalism and the free markets would be allowed no access to their wealth for, say, one year. Would this be enough torture? One year of such "torture" should turn them into missionaries and champions of the poor. Then they can go on speaking tours and relate their experiences and recant their former "bankrupt" lives of excessive wealth and privilege. People will finally listen to them because they will be able to tell the truth, which is far preferable than living the lie and extolling false virtues. Of course, they will not earn $100,000 for a 45-minute speech to the scions of industry, because those people would not want to hear their new message. But, I'm sure their new audience would sit at rapt attention, applaud vociferously, and pass the hat, being more generous than their circumstances might suggest, and light years more generous than their speakers had ever been before their conversion.


J. Russell Tyldesley writes from Santa Fe, New Mexico.


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This story was published on February 15, 2008.