Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Do We Do With Those Who Tortured In Our Name-- And On Our Dime?


Sometimes when really difficult, nuanced issues come up that require an especially great depth of understanding I wake up in the morning hoping that Ken tackled it on East Coast time. But so far DWT hasn't really looked into the moral imperatives enmeshed in the release of the Bush Regime torture documents. I think about it everyday and I read as much of Digby's reporting as I can before making myself sick. And then I invariably wind up turning to Glenn Greenwald's seering analysis as quickly as he gets it online at Salon, just in case there's any chance I could sleep at night.

Yesterday, almost in passing, we decried the lack of real leadership from our political class, with just a few exceptions. The one we pointed out this time-- rather than the usual Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Alan Grayson (D-FL)-- was Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), one of the few brave souls in elective office willing to go on record denouncing this week's teabaggery for what it was: "It’s despicable that right-wing Republicans would attempt to cheapen a significant, honorable moment of American history with a shameful political stunt. Not a single American household or business will be taxed at a higher rate this year. Made to look like a grassroots uprising, this is an Obama bashing party promoted by corporate interests, as well as Republican lobbyists and politicians.”

Schakowsky's leadership instincts hardly ended there. Maybe she's reading Greenwald and Digby too-- or maybe just the reports that come to the House Intelligence Committee-- but she puts the rest of her political party-- from top to bottom-- to shame for their complicity after the fact in the Bush Regime torture scandal. There is no acceptable defense for torture and the fact that some disgraceful hack lawyers hired by the rogue regime to give torture a patina of legality cannot be allowed to pass as an excuse. "Just following orders" is what Nazi concentration camp guards claimed; we didn't let them get away with it. But it was the top dogs in the Nazi and Tojoist regimes, or a few of them, who hung. Am I making a case that Bush and Cheney and Gonzales and their top cronies be hung? If you have to ask, you're probably new at DWT. Of course I am! And from the highest trees or in the biggest town squares.

The Obama administration did the right thing in releasing the torture memos, but they very much did the wrong thing in declaring that the torturers who were following orders from the White House wouldn't be prosecuted. Prosecutions should begin at the top, with Bush and Cheney. Schakowsky is the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and she was interviewed by Ryan Grim at HuffPo this week.
This notion that 'I was just obeying orders'-- I don't want to compare this to Nazi Germany, but we've come to almost ridicule the notion that when horrific acts have been committed that people can use the excuse that, 'Well, I was just following orders' ...In general, I think that contractors need to be held accountable for what they do, but particularly the inventors of the program.

If Obama plans to let the CIA and "contractors" skip out free and clear, will he at least appoint a special prosecutor for the criminals who gave the orders and gussied up the process? Russ Feingold (D-WI) implies he may. Feingold:
The president has stated that it is not his administration's intention to prosecute those who acted reasonably and relied in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice. As I understand it, his decision does not mean that anyone who engaged in activities that the Department had not approved, those who gave improper legal advice or those who authorized the program could not be prosecuted. The details made public in these memos paint a horrifying picture and reveal how the Bush administration's lawyers and top officials were complicit in torture. The so-called enhanced interrogation program was a violation of our core principles as a nation and those responsible should be held accountable.

UPDATE: Jay Bybee Must Be Impeached

Who is Jay Bybee? And why impeached? Tomorrow's NY Times explains all that in an editorial, The Torturers' Manifesto that starts from the premise that the Bush DoJ memos on torture are a "journey into depravity." Jay Bybee was an assistant attorney general and waterboarding advocate and admirer. Today he's a federal judge. Bybee's aim in writing the memos was to provide "legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country’s most basic values." It appears like Obama is playing along too.
The Americans Civil Liberties Union deserves credit for suing for the memos’ release. And President Obama deserves credit for overruling his own C.I.A. director and ordering that the memos be made public. It is hard to think of another case in which documents stamped “Top Secret” were released with hardly any deletions.

But this cannot be the end of the scrutiny for these and other decisions by the Bush administration.

Until Americans and their leaders fully understand the rules the Bush administration concocted to justify such abuses-- and who set the rules and who approved them-- there is no hope of fixing a profoundly broken system of justice and ensuring that that these acts are never repeated... [A]as far as Mr. Bush’s lawyers were concerned, it was not really torture unless it involved breaking bones, burning flesh or pulling teeth. That, Mr. Bybee kept noting, was what the Libyan secret police did to one prisoner. The standard for American behavior should be a lot higher than that of the Libyan secret police.

At least Mr. Obama is not following Mr. Bush’s example of showy trials for the small fry-- like Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib notoriety. But he has an obligation to pursue what is clear evidence of a government policy sanctioning the torture and abuse of prisoners-- in violation of international law and the Constitution.

That investigation should start with the lawyers who wrote these sickening memos, including John Yoo, who now teaches law in California; Steven Bradbury, who was job-hunting when we last heard; and Mr. Bybee, who holds the lifetime seat on the federal appeals court that Mr. Bush rewarded him with.

These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him. And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. If that means putting Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales on the stand, even Dick Cheney, we are sure Americans can handle it.

After eight years without transparency or accountability, Mr. Obama promised the American people both. His decision to release these memos was another sign of his commitment to transparency. We are waiting to see an equal commitment to accountability.

UPDATE: Rahm Emanuel Claims Obama Wants To Let Everyone Off-- The Torturers, The Ones Who Ordered It, The Ones Who Covered It Up... Everyone

Not pot heads rotting in prisons, of course, but anyone and everyone involved with torture related war crimes should be free to go about life as though nothing had happened. I knew it was a bad sign when Obama picked Emanuel as Chief of Staff.

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At 8:45 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

There is no evidence that the Bush administration engaged in torture, certainly nothing in the released memos suggests so.

At 6:44 AM, Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

What're we gonna do?

Nothing that costs'em anything.

Probly they blew their chances for a medal of freedom---oh, wait, except for Tenent...

Probably grant 'em a much nicer retirement than any of US can look forward to...

At 4:01 PM, Anonymous me said...

"What Do We Do With Those Who Tortured In Our Name-- And On Our Dime?"If you are Barack Obama, you give them a comfortable retirement.

I've had it with that asshole. Absolutely had it. I regret my vote for him. I won't make that mistake again.


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