President George W. Bush shuffled back onto the national stage last week, just long enough to shill his new memoir, Decision Points, and remind everyone exactly why he is justly regarded as one of the worst disgraces to ever hold the highest office in the land. Saying "After I sell this book, I'm going back underground," Mr. Bush made it clear that, in his own mind, he remains blameless for the economic meltdown, and that he retains almost every ounce of the appalling, self-centered stupidity that was the hallmark of his administration.
Perhaps the single best example of Mr. Bush's persistent, hollow machismo lay in his declaration during a recent interview that he not only authorized the waterboarding of three prisoners, but that he'd do it again because "that decision saved lives" both in this country and in the United Kingdom. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, swiftly disavowed the ex-president's claim, but as has been America's consistent shame, Mr. Bush was neither pressed to present evidence supporting his belief, nor even vaguely threatened with the legal consequences for his public admission to violations of both domestic and international law, and the commission of a war crime.
Calling George W. Bush a war criminal is not hyperbole or crazy, partisan, hysteria. There is no controversy - flatly, whatsoever - about the legality of waterboarding. Rather, there is merely a dismal and pervasive cowardice when it comes to prosecuting the political class for deeds and policies that would land any ordinary American either in jail or in front of a tribunal at The Hague. At the time he takes office, every president swears not to "keep us safe," but to uphold and protect the Constitution - a document which explicitly states that the law must apply equally to everyone. Mr. Bush is either equal to anyone else in the eyes of justice, or he isn't; if he isn't, then he is a member of a protected class; and if a protected class exists in the United States, then our entire legal system is an utter sham.
If another country failed to bring to justice a former leader who publicly confessed to authorizing torture, they would be roundly condemned by our politicians, our pundits and our press corps. The hypocrisy of our collective, shoulder-shrugging inaction is not only the deepest of stains on our national character, but corrosive to our foundational principles of equal justice and fuel for the fires of our enemies. Our use of torture eliminates our moral standing to condemn the violation of human rights by others, and puts our own military personnel at risk of what is so pathetically called "harsh interrogation techniques."
We are either who we say we are - even in the most trying of circumstances - or we aren't, and for the past decade - as Mr. Bush reminds us - we have not been who we claim to be.