Good riddance, Gonzales, but don’t forget Cheney and Addington, the true architects of torture


OK, so the departing Attorney General was not as malevolent as some made out: more a willing pawn of his old friend George W. and his guiding brain, the recently departed Karl Rove, and, moreover, of the genuinely malevolent Dick Cheney, and his close associate David Addington. The notorious memorandum, in January 2002, which paved the way for torture at Guantánamo –- by dismissing the Geneva Conventions as “quaint,” and insisting that “strict limits on [the] questioning of enemy prisoners” hobbled efforts “to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists” –- was, for example, signed by Gonzales, but was actually written, as Barton Gellman and Jo Becker noted in a Washington Post series on Cheney in June, by the rather more articulate and definitely more fear-inspiring David Addington, Cheney’s chief counsel and his old buddy from the Reagan days, when the two men, revisiting the love of unfettered executive power that Cheney had first admired under Richard Nixon, bullied Congress to defend Reagan’s right to –- you guessed it –- do what he damn well pleased during the Iran-Contra scandal.

Alberto Gonzales resigns

Bye bye, Gonzo. Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP.

So, a clown and a scapegoat, then, as was indicated in April by his repetitive memory loss during the Senate hearing into last year’s politically motivated dismissal of eight federal prosecutors, when, as the Washington Post reported, he “uttered the phrase ‘I don’t recall’ and its variants (‘I have no recollection,’ ‘I have no memory’) 64 times,” and as was proved conclusively by his attempt, during a previous Senate hearing in January, to explain that, although the Constitution states that “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it” (Section 9, Clause 2), this doesn’t prove that citizens actually have habeas rights in the first place. The full exchange, between “Gonzo” and Senator Arlen Specter, is worth revisiting, perhaps as a suitable epitaph for the newly departed and unlamented Attorney General.

GONZALES: [T]here is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it’s never been the case, and I’m not a Supreme –-

SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?

GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, “Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by –-

SPECTER: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.


In conclusion, then, there may no longer be a Fool on the Hill (or not that one, at least), but Cheney and Addington are still in place, and it was they (with Timothy Flanagan and John Yoo) who drafted not only the memo signed by Gonzales that stripped “terror detainees” of their rights under the Geneva Conventions, but who also masterminded four other crucial documents whose aim was to elevate the President to the position of Dictator and Torturer-in-Chief, and which have done so much to tarnish the reputation of the United States, both at home and abroad: the open-ended Authorization for Use of Military Force (18 September 2001), a secret memorandum authorizing the warrantless surveillance of communications to and from the United States (25 September 2001), Military Order No 1, which stripped foreign terror suspects of access to any courts, authorized their indefinite imprisonment without charge, and also authorized the creation of “Military Commissions,” before which they could be tried using secret evidence (13 November 2001), and the notorious “Torture Memo” of 1 August 2002, which sought to redefine torture as nothing less than organ failure or death.

Impeach CheneyThe call to impeach Cheney is here. The notoriously secretive Addington, meanwhile, needs vilifying as regularly and as publicly as possible. As a lengthy US News and World Report article in May 2006 explained (which highlighted Addington’s role as, amongst other things, the shepherd of Bush’s lawless “signing statements,” and a key player in the fiction that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Niger), he’s “the most powerful man you’ve never heard of.” Now that’s scary.

David Addington
Addington, as seen by The Heretik.

For more on the development of US torture policy, see my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

As published on CounterPunch.

5 Responses

  1. University Update - Dick Cheney - Good riddance, Gonzales, but don’t forget Cheney and Addington, the true architects of torture says...

    […] Clark Good riddance, Gonzales, but don’t forget Cheney and Addington, the true architects of torture &#1… This Summary is from an article posted at Andy Worthington on Monday, August 27, 2007 Good […]

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    After this article was published on Counterpunch, I received the following message:


    During the controversy over the 2000 presidential election, I recall some discussion (perhaps even in the Supreme Court) that voting in presidential elections, at least, was NOT a federally protected right at all – UNLESS state legislatures, in their sole discretion, independent even of the states for which they spoke, CHOSE popular election, as the means of selecting a state’s presidential electors. That decision – popular election of a state’s electors – is always revocable by the legislature (some claim), even after the election.

    In counting the electoral votes, of course, Congress need not acquiesce in an outrage – such as a state legislature’s invalidating a popular election for that state’s presidential electors.

    The Florida legislature’s post-2000 election threat to award Florida’s electors to Mr. Bush by concurrent resolution was, I believe, the REAL reason for the Supreme Court’s otherwise incomprehensible intervention in that election AND its decision in Mr. Bush’s favor, as well as the Democrats’ acquiescence in that decision.

    The myth of popular election of the president needed to be kept alive. Forget about vote fraud and voter suppression in 2000! The US doesn’t have anything approaching the direct election of the president, even in legal theory! State legislatures control everything; and they may elect directly, if they choose.

    I, however, hold the view shared by a tiny minority, only: that constitutional crises are best faced, when they arise, rather than avoided. The price of avoiding such conflicts can prove fatal to a country; and there was never a better time than November and December 2000, and even early January 2001, for preventing a Bush administration.


    Attorney at Law

  3. Andy Worthington: Will Eric Holder Be The Anti-Torture Hero? - My First New Blog says...

    […] the independence of the Attorney General is supposed to be a given — which made the abominable betrayal of that independence by Alberto Gonzales so wounding — in reality, even the most principled […]

  4. Will Eric Holder Be The Anti-Torture Hero? by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] the independence of the Attorney General is supposed to be a given — which made the abominable betrayal of that independence by Alberto Gonzales so wounding — in reality, even the most principled […]

  5. Andy Worthington: Will Eric Holder Be The Anti-Torture Hero? | says...

    […] the independence of the Attorney General is supposed to be a given — which made the abominable betrayal of that independence by Alberto Gonzales so wounding — in reality, even the most principled […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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