Gonzales was evasive on matters of substance, jocular in response to questions touching on matters of human suffering. Asked if he thought that setting dogs on naked prisoners was a form of torture, he said he did not give opinions on individual detention practices. He shifted responsibility – and hence blame – from the department of justice to the department of defence when it suited him. Above all, he was apparently oblivious and indifferent to the consternation, rage and concern which recent US policies – enacted following the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington – have occasioned.
There is nearly always something slightly chilling when groups of mid-Atlantic government officials, arrayed in phalanxes of grey suits, get together to discuss their security concerns. But never, in more than thirty years of observing such occasions, have I seen such an appalling, collusive, complacent and – in its own understated way – evil, performance as this.
That the US – its officials and citizens – has been, and will continue to be for a long time, the object of violent attacks, at home and abroad, is not in question. Nor is the right, and responsibility, of any state to protect itself as it can, including by taking anticipatory measures abroad. The issue, and what has become a matter of worldwide alarm and criticism, is the flouting of international law, the laws and norms of combat and international opinion, as well as the disdain in which the Bush administration, from the president downwards, continues to hold international law and the institutions in which it is embodied. In this regard, the performance by Gonzales, on a sunny March morning in London, was true to form…
A transcript of Gonzales’s address (in Microsoft Word format — yuck) is available from a link on this page.