Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Phillip Butler: Congress must prosecute Bush

Phillip Butler: Congress must prosecute Bush


I , Phillip Neal Butler, having been appointed a midshipman in the United States Navy, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, so help me God.

I first took this oath in 1957. Upon graduation from the Naval Academy in 1961, I had the honor of repeating the oath as I was commissioned as an ensign. I served 20 years as an active duty commissioned officer. During that time, I became a naval aviator, flew combat in Vietnam, was shot down over North Vietnam on April 20, 1965, and became a prisoner of war.

I was repatriated Feb. 12, 1973, having served 2,855 days and nights as a POW — just short of 8 years.

The Vietnamese were not signatory to international treaties on treatment of prisoners. They pronounced us "criminals" and freely used torture, harassment, malnutrition, isolation, lack of medical care, and other degradations during our captivity. I was tortured dozens of times. But I often thought of our Constitution and the higher purpose we served—a purpose that helped me resist beyond what I thought I'd ever be capable of. We POWs often reminded each other that our country would never stoop to torture and the low level of treatment we were experiencing at the hands of our captors.

This oath, the same one sworn to by all officers, government officials, presidential cabinet members, senators and representatives of our nation, has had a powerful affect on me. It has given me an over-arching purpose in life — to serve the greatest and most influential legal document ever written. The only different oath is specified for the president. Constitutional Article II, Section 1 (8.) mandates that he or she will "... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution."

So what in the world happened during the eight years of the Bush administration? He and his subordinates trampled our precious Constitution and the rule of law into the ground while our elected members of Congress have stood idly and complicitly by. Our highest elected officials have utterly failed in their duty of greatest responsibility.

During these years, we have seen gross attempts to institutionalize torture. Our Article VI (2), commonly known as the "supremacy" clause, clearly states that treaties made shall become "the supreme law of the land," thus elevating them to the level of Constitutional law.

The Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners, ratified in 1949, says, "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." This and numerous other ratified treaties clearly stipulate that "prisoners" is an inclusive term that is not limited to any nation's uniformed combatants.

Gross Bush administration crimes, in addition to authorizing torture, include: 1) the use of "signing statements" to illegally refrain from complying with laws; 2) authorization of the illegal suspension of habeas corpus; 3) authorization of wire-tapping and other intrusive methods to illegally spy on American citizens; 4) unilateral declaration and pre-emptive conduct of war in violation of U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 8 (11).

The violations have reduced our nation to the level of international pariah. We no longer set the example for other nations. We no longer stand on a firm foundation.

I despair when I think of the personal sacrifices made by so many in U.S. wars and conflicts since 1776. Our forefathers would surely be angry and disappointed. I think they would call for redress by punishing those who are guilty.

The only way our nation can right itself is for Congress to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.

I therefore call on my elected representatives in the Senate and House to bring criminal charges against President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, legal counsel William J. Haynes and David Addington, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and potentially other high officials and uniformed officers. There is no other option if they are to carry out your responsibilities.

This was adapted from a statement Butler recently provided to Congress. He was a light-attack carrier pilot in 1965 when he was shot down over North Vietnam, where he spent eight years as a prisoner of war. He was awarded two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Heart medals. He later earned a doctorate in sociology from UC-San Diego and completed his Navy career in 1981. He founded and owned a management consulting and professional speaking business. He lives in Monterey.

Phillip Butler: Congress must prosecute Bush

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