by Mentarch | 4/17/2008 10:41:00 PM
Over the last seven years, the words and actions of President George W. Bush, of the whole of his administration, as well as those of allies, enablers and supporters of said administration, constitute a veritable litany of lies, hypocrisy, arrogance, mendacity and outright incompetence.

As a matter of fact, this three-parts series aims to illustrate why the whole lot of them are absolute paragons of incompetence.

Herein is Part I, in which the arrogance inherent to incompetents is discussed - using President Bush's torture memo as the main example.

By way of introduction, I offer again the Eight Principles of Incompetence:
Zeroth Principle: Incompetence is driven by intellectual sloth.

First Principle: Incompetence surrounds itself with incompetence.

Second Principle: Incompetence is ethics-impaired.

Third Principle: Incompetence abhors transparency and accountability.

Fourth Principle: Incompetence does or says anything to defend itself.

Fifth Principle: Incompetence always supports incompetence.

Sixth Principle: Violence is the last refuge of incompetence.

Seventh Principle: Incompetence is nothing but consistent with itself.
Let us now dissect the now infamous February 7, 2002 National Security torture policy memo signed by President George W. Bush (pdf here), begining with its first point (links and emphasis mine):
1. Our recent extensive discussions regarding the status of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees confirm that the application of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of August 12, 1949 (Geneva) to the conflict with al Qaeda and the Taliban involves complex legal questions. By its terms, Geneva applies to conflicts involving "High Contracting Parties" which can only be states. Moreover, it assumes the existence of "regular" armed forces fighting on behalf of states. However, the war against terrorism ushers in new a paradigm, one in which groups with broad, international reach commit horrific acts against innocent civilians, sometimes with the direct support of states. Our Nation recognizes that this new paradigm -- ushered in not by us, but by terrorists -- requires new thinking in the law of war, but thinking that nevertheless be consistent with the principles of Geneva.
This very first point in the President's memo fully illustrate how intellectual sloth-driven incompetents reason:
Intellectual sloth reaps ignorance. In turn, ignorance festers fear which, as we know all-too-well, acts as a powerful motor in driving irrational thinking and actions. Furthermore, fear is quite expert in the exercise of nullifying any semblance of intellectual and emotional maturity in people – in other words, fear transforms a supposedly adult (and thus mature) person into an irresponsible, reactionary, judgement-impaired, and comfort-craving, child or adolescent. One who searches for easy and absolute answers (...).

Ignorance breeds fear. Fear fosters hate. In turn, hate leads inevitably to violence (...) when will we acknowledge the fact, once and for all, that it is the incompetents among us who consistently promulgate violence as a solution for anything, to everything? (...) we must strive to forget nevermore that rationalizations supporting the use of violence - other than the need for the rightful exercise of self-defense when set upon by a genuinely clear, present and immediate danger - invariably constitute deceitful fabrications meant to conceal, disguise or justify incompetence ... including our very own for embracing such mendacity,
Putting aside Bush's demonstrated desire to rush to war, what essentially were the so-called "complex" legal questions mentionned in this first point of the President's memo? A) The USA is not bound by international obligations to Afghanistan because it is a "failed state" and, therefore, the War Crimes Act of 1984 and the Geneva Convention do not apply to prisoners from the Afghanistan conflict (pdf); B) the Geneva Convention does not apply to al Qaeda or Taliban prisoners - however, the possibility of U.S. officials being subject to prosecution for violating U.S. and international laws if the Geneva Conventions are applied is quite likely (pdf); and C) there are "reasonable factual grounds" to determine that members of the Taliban captured in Afghanistan are not entitled to prisoner of war (POW) status under the Geneva Convention (pdf).

You will notice that the fear-driven thinking outlined in Bush's memo is quite simplistic and superficial, involving essentially any reason ("reasonable factual grounds") deemed good enough to justify putting aside the Geneva Conventions. Hence, why consider such facile deliberations (i.e. "Taliban are not a real goverment", "terrorists are bad people", "Afghanistan is a failed state, so ... it is not a High Contracting Party", "we now have a new paradigm", "we need new thinking in the law of war", etc.) as "complex legal questions"? Because of the (then) definite possibility that Congress, or Senate or both, could (but never did) decide that the Geneva Conventions and War Crimes Act apply regardless - ergo: these questions were at the time deemed "complex" because of the possibility for punishment involved.

These people were frightened by the unexpected and were panicking, hell bent on not only getting base vengeance but likewise on preventing another terrorist attack at any price (except for their own petty hides).

Unfortunately, Congress and Senate ended up following suit - sadly enough.

Let us now go the point 2 of the President's memo (links and emphasis added):
a. I accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice (pdf) and determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world because, among other reasons, al Qaeda is not a High Contracting Party to Geneva.

b. I accept the legal conclusion of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice (pdf) that I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time. Accordingly, I determine that the provisions of Geneva will apply to our present conflict with the Taliban. I reserve the right to exercise this authority in this or future conflicts.

c. I also accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice (pdf) and determine that common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees, because, among other reasons, the relevant conflicts are international in scope and common Article 3 applies only to "armed conflict not of an international character".

d. Based on the facts supplied by the Department of Defense and the recommendation of the Department of Justice (pdf), I determine that the Taliban detainees are unlawful combatants and, therefore, do not qualify as prisoners of war under Article 4 of Geneva. I note that, becauee Geneva doee not apply to our conflict with al Qaeda, al Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war.
In essence, what we have here are further circular justifications in order to claim the "high legal ground" in nullifying Geneva and the War Crimes act. The problem, of course, is that all of this convenient reasoning rests upon the house of cards foundation principle that "Afghanistan is a failed state" and that the war on terror is "international in scope". Indeed - the Taliban was the de facto government of Afghanistan (and treated as such by U.N. agencies) with defined borders - hence, an actual High Contracting Party. Furthermore, Taliban fighters fit to a tee the definitions of Articles 4A.1, 4A.2 and/or even 4A.3 of Geneva. But since "Afghanistan is a failed state", as the reasoning went, this consequently gave carte blanche in the incompetent minds of Bush and Co. to simply say that none of this "nice" stuff applied to either the Taliban or al Qaeda.

In addition, notice the contradictions between points b and c/d with regards to the application (or not?) of Geneva to Taliban fighters.

Notice as well the recurrent "among other reasons" justification in the memo - as much as a nebulous "anything fit in" box, or reasoning device, also very typical of intellectual sloth-driven incompetents.

But then, there was still the problem of Article 3 of Geneva on the treatment of prisoners, whether they be POW's or not. Once again, the simplistic reasoning was to simply call them all "unlawful combatants" and thus have one's hands clean - right?

Wrong. Because of Article 5 of Geneva (emphasis added):
Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.
So in other words: already there and then, President Bush had made himself judge and jury to determine in advance, and without even holding a single "competent tribunal" to this effect, that all prisoners (Taliban or otherwise - in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else) were unlawful combatants, period.

And there we see the arrogance and vanity which go hand in hand with incompetence:
Incidentally, a person guilty of intellectual sloth is egocentric and selfish, even greedy, in his/her immature search for facility and instant gratification. Furthermore, such a person refuses to accept any fact of reality which confronts, rattles, or even invalidates, the comfort of one's “convictions”. To this effect, such a person will be arrogant, if not contemptuous, towards anything and anyone that confronts his/her ignorance generated by intellectual sloth.
Hence, it was this very dynamic which lead from "we must get vengeance for 9/11" to "Afghanistan is a failed state anyway" to "anyone around the world who fights against us in our war on terror is by definition an unlawful combatant - because we say so".

It was that same dynamic which made Bush proclaim (in b) "I choose not to exercice my self-determined constitutional right to suspend Geneva at this time, but reserve the perogative of doing so at any time and in any other conflict".

This, if anything else, underlies the sheer arrogance of the President and all of his staff - including their utter incompetence:
Incompetents find security and comfort in echo chambers - consequently, loyalty to self, as well as to same ideology/beliefs/party, overrides all considerations in the incompetent's petty mind (i.e. cronyism rules). To this effect, incompetents will seek to bring all those around them to their level. Therefore, incompetents are always surrounded by like-minded, and likewise, incompetents. In addition, in this context, incompetence always rewards incompetence. Some call this "functionning inside the bubble".
And this is exactly what these people did: they spent countless hours of performing legal gymnastics, bouncing them back and forth at each other in an echo chamber, in order to arrive at legal conclusions which, then, they decided now constituted laws of the land.

They came up with legal theories which they automatically assumed as valid, lawful realities because they themselves agreed with these - and thereafter acted accordingly.

In other words: they were right because they thought so, and confirmed it to themselves.

Which, finally, brings us now to points 3 and 4 of Bush's memo (emphasis mine):
3. Of course, our values as a Nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment. Our Nation has been and will continue to be a strong supporter of Geneva and its principles. As a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.

4. The United States will hold states, organizations, and individuals who gain control of United States personnel responsible for treating such personnel humanely and consistent with applicable law.
(Point 5 of the memo reiterates point 3 and point 6 delegates the implementation of the directives to the Secretary of Defense - at the time, Donald Rumsfeld).

Like true incompetents, they sought to preserve the image of legality (national and international) and adherence to the principles of Geneva with bold (but in effect empty) proclamations to this effect - hypocrisy at best, mendacity at worse ... and, actually, both.

Furthermore, the use of the expression "to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity" constitutes a veritable incompetence-reasoned "back door" to allow torture, thinking that none would be the wiser while at the same time convincing themselves that their hands were clean - all despite the glaring, morally humane fact that torture is torture, not counting their obvious wrongdoings of abuse of powers that they were comitting.

And on top of it all, they thereafter proclaim that they will hold everyone else to the letters of the Geneva conventions, in effect forbidding anyone of indulging in similar legal exercices as they have just done.

In short: "do what we say, not what we do".

That is, once again, insufferable arrogance combined with a pathological lack of morals and ethics - the lot of incompetents:
It is a fact that those individuals who are 'corrupted' by power are inevitably revealed at their core to be selfish, greedy, covetous, paranoid or fearful. Consequently, these use power expediently as a tool for the wasteful satisfaction of their every whim, want and need, or as a weapon to aim recklessly at their outwardly-projected inner demons.

In short: only incompetents abuse power.

Incompetents cheat, lie, misuse, "backstab" and abuse anything and everything in order to get their way - and they always make perfectly quaint rationalizations, as well as giving themselves a deluded moral highground (or authority), to justify their wrongdoings. In other words, incompetents are morally hypocritical and ethically impaired, because of their intellectual sloth-driven reasoning/emotional immaturity, egocentricity, intellectual vanity/intolerance, and slavery to expediency.
Desire for vengeance.
Need for expediency.
Lack of morals and ethics.
Vanity and arrogance.


Thus I give you President George W.Bush and the whole of his administration, resulting in this fateful February 7, 2002 National Security memo which allowed torture by the United States of America.

(In Part II, mendacity will play the lead role)

(Cross-posted from APOV)

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