Kremlinology

This latest from the WaPo contains precious little new information – apparently Americans tortured Binyamin Mohammed psychologically before we sent him to Morocco to be tortured the old fashioned way. I think that the article is nonetheless valuable for the glimpse it provides into the clearly unresolved debates over the word ‘torture’.

To illustrate the point, I have pasted every sentence from the article containing either ‘torture’ or its euphemisms. Please note that Mohammed’s psychological abuse clearly qualifies as torture under binding United States law.

The British government disclosed Wednesday once-secret details about the United States’ harsh treatment of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee after losing a lengthy legal battle to suppress the information.

The information, from a judge’s summary of a classified CIA report to British authorities about Binym Mohamed, said he was subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment during interrogations in Pakistan in 2002 that included him being shackled and deprived of sleep while interrogators played upon “his fears of being removed from United States custody and ‘disappearing.’ ”

Arrested in Pakistan in 2002, Mohamed claims he was tortured by American authorities and others under U.S. instruction there and Morocco.

Mohamed claims Britain knew about his torture because, he says, information used on him during his questioning could have come only from British intelligence.

Reprieve, a legal organization representing Mohamed in a suit against the British government, said in a statement that the disclosures show that “the U.S. documented their efforts to abuse Mr. Mohamed” and that British authorities “knew he was being abused and did nothing about it.”

Miliband denied the British government was complicit in torture.

Encouraged that the article mentions ‘torture’ several times? Or did you notice that every mention other than the first sentence entails a direct quote from some outside source? Congrats to those who went with ‘B’.

It seems fair to ask why the Washington Post style guide still requires editors to use ‘harsh treatment’ to describe what inescapably qualifies as torture under U.S. law. Republican bamboozlement certainly plays a role, but GOP terminology doesn’t always catch on (anyone remember ‘homicide bombers’?). In my opinion the wind beneath this particular euphemism’s wings is that Washington Post editors know particularly well what happens when you accuse the government of flagrantly violating U.S. law, especially laws as central to our ideals as a nation as the conventions against torture.

The WaPo needs clever euphemisms to avoid the inescapably ugly scene of declaring j’accuse!, Zola-like, every time they describe Bush-era detention policies. The trade-off is that every time they put off a reckoning, another piece of America’s soul dies. Euphemistic torture and then real torture becomes that much less unthinkable.

Three polls taken since 2007 make the point as clearly as I ever could. Bars indicate the percentage of Americans who oppose waterboarding, a torture technique favored by Nazis, the Imperial Japanese army, the Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge. Even granting methodological differences (the last poll asked about a specific case rather than waterboarding as a general policy, and Rasmuessen characteristically tilts Republican) a trend seems hard to deny.

data-3

The next time abu Ghraib happens, the President may not feel compelled to apologize. I would consider that moment to be the death of America as its founders would have understood it. A government unaccountable to law in its use of torture and worse contravenes every principle laid out by Founders in the Constitution, in the Federalist Papers and in every other contemporary writing. I think it would give them cold comfort to know that they were right to the end, understanding as they did that the Hobbesian side of men in power will inevitably triumph without a vibrant and adversarial press corps to provide shame and transparency.

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97 replies
  1. 1
    Zifnab says:

    But the liberal media was mean to Sarah Palin!

  2. 2
    srv says:

    Outstanding post.

  3. 3
    rootless_e says:

    The media has worked hard to sell this idea.

    OT

    Stupid fucking “liberal” economists.

  4. 4
    beltane says:

    It’s been a good run, but all things must come to an end. When the press becomes nothing more than a handmaiden to power, rather than speaking truth to power, it is hard to see how a democracy can thrive.

    Instead of a marketplace of ideas, our media offers us an all you can eat buffet of salmonella tainted chicken wings.

  5. 5
    Elisabeth says:

    I saw Kit Bond on MSNBC this morning. I caught him in mid-sentence but he said that abu Ghraib was a recruiting tool for terrorists. Hmmm. I wonder if he meant just don’t get caught.

  6. 6
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    Indeed, there is no need to beat around the bush, the United States engaged in torture as a matter of policy. And the Washington Post engages in propaganda, no need to use euphemisms such as “clever euphemisms.”

  7. 7
    Napoleon says:

    This is exactly why I have always thought the Obama administration needed to prosecute people in the last administration for torture, to put front and center with the American people so they could stare directly in the face what was going on. If they had that chance you would not see these poll results.

  8. 8
    Phaedrus says:

    The fact that Obama has done nothing to address this is the main reason I think he’s a failure – HCR or no. He’s institutionalized it and is turning a blind eye to war criminals, in violation of US and international law.

    but, hey, the Republicans are worse so keep voting Dem!

  9. 9
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @Elisabeth: Yeah, that’s the obvious follow-up. To which Bond would reply “…and the terrorists wouldn’t have caught wind of it if you fuckers in the media didn’t report it!” And then the media would declare that they would no longer be giving a platform to morons like these because they clearly have no respect for the work journalists do.

    (Kidding on the last part)

  10. 10
    El Cid says:

    That evil Hugo Chavez and his allied media are such propagandists.

  11. 11
    Liz says:

    I find this all more disturbing than Sarah Palin. Which is very much so. :(

  12. 12
    c u n d gulag says:

    Ah! Our “Zombie” MSM!!!
    We’ve got to make this term “ZOMBIE” stick! THey’re eating OUR brains!
    They’ve gone from ‘The Fourth Estate,’ to a ‘fifth’ of hootch, a hooker, a hash-pipe, a hook-line on their headline, and the killer of all hope for truth.
    When I hear “Bartcop” whom I love, defend torture, I know we’ve lost.

    All together:
    THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR TORTURE!!!
    PERIOD!
    None!
    No matter how much your ex-significant other hurt you, you shouldn’t project that onto some poor SOB who was captured somewhere or other, or threatened to blow-up Alaska, or some shit.
    HELL! Not even if they hold a gun to the blessed Glenn Beck’s head.
    Well, ok, maybe then…
    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  13. 13
    beltane says:

    @Napoleon: By failing to prosecute, they signaled that no crime had been committed. When people are told that a certain behavior is not a crime, they tend to not regard it as a crime. It is all very simple.

  14. 14
    Joe Beese says:

    It took Bush to mainstream US human rights violations. But it took Obama to make it bipartisan.

  15. 15
    Zifnab says:

    @Phaedrus:

    but, hey, the Republicans are worse so keep voting Dem!

    Well, that’s the joke isn’t it? Your options for politician are drunken step-dad or stockholm syndrome wife.

  16. 16
    srv says:

    Tim, you might also be interested to know who replaced Phil Carter (of Intel Dump fame, he resigned last year) as Obama’s deputy assistant for detainee affairs.

    The guy who lawyered up the policies under Rummy.

    previously served as a special adviser to Jim Haynes, the top Pentagon lawyer during Donald H. Rumsfeld’s tenure, when Rumsfeld and Haynes codified torture and indefinite detention as hallmarks of Bush-era terrorism policy. The position, which is not subject to Senate confirmation, came open late last year, after Phil Carter, the previous deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs and a favorite of civil libertarians, abruptly resigned.

    That is all.

  17. 17
    cleek says:

    When the press becomes nothing more than a handmaiden to power, rather than speaking truth to power, it is hard to see how a democracy can thrive.

    it has always been this way.

    there has never been a truly independent, investigative, incredulous media. reporters and editors are people: easily impressed by power, afraid of rocking the boat, eager to do the bidding of their masters, and subject to their own biases. so, even if one lone wolf reporter breaks away from the pack, he’ll be cut off, shunned and case as a wild-eyed rabble-rouser. and then we can all blissfully ignore the radical.

    the US will survive this because, in the bigger scheme of things, it is nearly irrelevant. the government tortured a few people that most citizens prejudicially hate anyway ? a trial of the law-breakers would cause more of an outrage than the torture.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    Martin says:

    No ‘We Are All North Koreans Now’ tag?

    This is at least the 2nd post today that deserves it.

  20. 20
    JGabriel says:

    Those three polls form one of the most depressing statements about our country that I have ever seen.

    We’ve gone from George Washington refusing to torture the British in kind to greater than 70% (80%?) support for waterboarding. What a disgrace.

    .

  21. 21
    DCLaw1 says:

    A government unaccountable to law in its use of torture and worse contravenes every principle laid out by Founders in the Constitution, in the Federalist Papers and in every other contemporary writing.

    Hear hear, Tim!

    You may enjoy my rant on precisely that subject:

    http://insideoutthebeltway.blo.....world.html

  22. 22
    liberty60 says:

    I used to try to argue this point on wingnut blogs, but gave up. However, one point I tried to make was what will be said the first time a “rightwing terrorist” is “harshly interrogated”.

    It isn’t snark, because it WILL happen. We all know it will become the norm, the standard for how quick information is gathered- or information that we want them to say.

    When it happens, my schadenfreude won’t be nearly delicious enough to cover my disgust.

  23. 23

    @Napoleon:

    This is exactly why I have always thought the Obama administration needed to prosecute people in the last administration for torture, to put front and center with the American people so they could stare directly in the face what was going on. If they had that chance you would not see these poll results.

    Yes, you would. You’d also see a bunch of acquittals, or, at best, mistrials. I find it extremely unlikely that you would ever assemble a jury of twelve adult Americans that would unanimously vote to convict. The main difference between where we are now and where we would be in the case of prosecutions is that we would have established legal precedent that what the Bushies did was okay.

    I guess I find the situation even more pessimistic with regards to my fellow citizens approval of torture than you do.

  24. 24
    rootless_e says:

    @J. Michael Neal: Because the Federalist Judiciary is chomping at the bit to rebuke the Bush administration! Snort.

  25. 25

    @rootless_e: I don’t think the composition of the judiciary would matter. Sure, you might get rulings tossing the case out, but, even if you don’t, you need to get a jury unanimously willing to convict, and I don’t think that it’s at all probable that you’d get one. If they vote to acquit, the Justice Department can’t appeal the acquittal. The case is over, and can’t be resurrected.

  26. 26
    rootless_e says:

    @J. Michael Neal: I think u are right, but I also think that any such trials would be used to give the judiciary license to run through internal papers of the administration on “discovery” of whatever bullshit the defense attorneys from RW foundations would decide to try.

  27. 27
    jwb says:

    I know that last poll result is from Rassmuessen and so can’t be fully trusted, but is it really now only around 30% who oppose waterboarding? I missed that particular poll when it came out (I think I must have been too busy avoiding wall-to-wall coverage of underwear bomber), and it’s one of the most depressing things I’ve seen. We are so fucked.

  28. 28
    DCLaw1 says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    Still, far better to prosecute and risk acquittals – which I don’t think are nearly as assured as you say – than to refuse to prosecute at all.

    Jury acquittals are not “precedent” – otherwise, a wide variety of criminal laws would be at risk. Far more precedential is an official policy not to prosecute an entire category of crimes and criminals. This is because governmental inaction is sometimes viewed under the law – certainly by history, in any event – as condoning the behavior not acted upon.

  29. 29
    scudbucket says:

    The next time abu Ghraib happens, the President may not feel compelled to apologize. I would consider that moment to be the death of America as its founders would have understood it.

    Well, the first time it happened the Pres. failed to apologize. His successor has failed to prohibit it from happening again. How much more dead can the vision of the founders be?

    the Hobbesian side of men in power would inevitably triumph without a vibrant and adversarial press corps to provide shame and transparency.

    IMO, the role of the press has never been adversarial, full stop. It’s adversarial only in context of the politics it is trying to promote. Since the death of the class-based, pro-labor papers circa the 20s, the dominant voice in the media is pro-establishment, pro big business. Some real adversarial reporting will sneak in, but these are outliers, usually on peripheral issues, and often motivated by getting the ‘scoop’. Just look at the annual lists complied by Project Censored to see how the MSM systematically fails to live up to its mythical role.

  30. 30
    cleek says:

    @liberty60:

    However, one point I tried to make was what will be said the first time a “rightwing terrorist” is “harshly interrogated”.

    it’s hard to get more right-wing than a nationalist, racist, religious fundamentalist .

  31. 31
    rootless_e says:

    @scudbucket: Is it really your theory that Abu Ghraib was a “first”?

  32. 32

    There is no floating gray area in the law or history when it come to torture. Our useless old media was (and is) too lazy to bother to actually check. They were (and and continue to be) stenographers for those who justified their incompetence with torture.

    A Small Clique Of Legal Extremists…

  33. 33
    Violet says:

    Excellent post. I’m sad for my country that this is how things have gone. We have lost something extremely valuable and I don’t know how we can get it back.

  34. 34
    ruemara says:

    It’s depressing to me that the country I love has lost it’s way so thoroughly. I can’t hold the president or the congress accountable tho, because the people have acknowledged that they do not want accountability, ethics, hard work or fairness. They want lottery tickets and comfort and “american exceptionalism”. There has to be some hope that people can wake the heck up.

  35. 35

    […] in Daily life, Torture at 2:32 pm by LeisureGuy Well worth reading. Many good […]

  36. 36
    Marlene says:

    Maybe we should start pointing out that this country is acting like North Korea and Iran when we use torture.

  37. 37
    Zifnab says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    The main difference between where we are now and where we would be in the case of prosecutions is that we would have established legal precedent that what the Bushies did was okay.

    Distinction without a difference. The same as saying, “We should have never tried OJ, because if he’s going to be found innocent then the public interest isn’t served in running him through the legal process.”

    I’ll spot you a mistrial or acquittal here or there. But then we’d get to stare down the barrel at the district justices who twisted the law left or right and how the prosecutors pressed the cases and whether or not the SCOTUS judges ruled the Bush Administration untouchable.

    Either way, if Dick Cheney showed up on national TV, he wouldn’t just be a former vice president, he’d be an alleged murderer.

    Besides, if you’re so convinced that “no jury in the world would convict”, please explain why Scooter Libby needed Presidential Clemency.

  38. 38
    rootless_e says:

    @Michael Bersin:

    There is no floating gray area in the law or history when it come to torture

    Which is why William Colby was so sternly punished for operation Phoenix and the US advisors who assisted in El Salvador were subjected to swift and certain justice, just like our advisors to Savak. Similarly, every time New York city cops kill an unarmed black man or gun down a black cop in the back, swift and merciless justice follows.

  39. 39
    Ash Can says:

    It seems fair to ask why the Washington Post style guide still requires editors to use ‘harsh treatment’ to describe what inescapably qualifies as torture under U.S. law.

    Maybe using the t-word is a firing offense at the WaPo.

  40. 40
    Corner Stone says:

    I’m sorry Tim F., but now you’re just wanking here.

  41. 41
    Darkmoth says:

    The next time abu Ghraib happens, the President may not feel compelled to apologize. I would consider that moment to be the death of America as its founders would have understood it

    According to Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, the North American Indian population in 1500 would have been roughly 12 million.

    In 1900, it was barely 237,000.

    Then of course there was Slavery. And the Spanish-American War which William Randolph Hearst manufactured to sell papers.

    We’re just…not that country, where torture would be one of the worst things we’ve ever done.

  42. 42
    DonkeyKong says:

    When does that chart hit the pay-per-view demarcation. Or has it already?

  43. 43
    Brachiator says:

    This latest from the WaPo contains precious little new information – apparently Americans tortured Binyamin Mohammed psychologically before we sent him to Morocco to be tortured the old fashioned way.

    This story is getting substantial coverage in the British media, which only doubly damns weak American coverage.

    Senior judges erased damning criticism that M15 operated a culture of suppression and disregard for human rights after a secret approach by the Foreign Secretary’s lawyers to amend their draft judgment, it emerged today.

    The astonishing revelation came as the Court of Appeal dismissed an attempt by David Miliband to stop publication of seven paragraphs detailing evidence of M15’s complicity in the torture of the British Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.

    And let’s not just condemn WaPo. I will bet good money that NPR is continuing its policy of not calling torture exactly what it is.

    I would consider that moment to be the death of America as its founders would have understood it.

    The framers who would oppose torture are obviously not real Americans. This goes twice for George Washington.

    A government unaccountable to law in its use of torture and worse contravenes every principle laid out by Founders in the Constitution, in the Federalist Papers and in every other contemporary writing.

    Tim’s post and the Jane Mayer New Yorker article are outstanding, but many Americans, especially conservatives egged on by Dick Cheney and their puppets have crossed an ideological Rubicon.

    They don’t believe that there are any inalienable human rights, only the rights of patriotic Americans, and whatever indulgences we allow everyone else. For these people, torture to “protect” America is not only permissalbe, it is essential.

  44. 44
    Corner Stone says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    The main difference between where we are now and where we would be in the case of prosecutions is that we would have established legal precedent that what the Bushies did was okay.

    In what way?
    And this is better than a de facto acquittal setting “precedent”?

  45. 45
    scudbucket says:

    @rootless_e: To a large degree, yes. Mainstream media picked it up because was too big to deny, especially given the photographic evidence. Without the pictures, I don’t think the story gets much – if any – traction. But even then, the initial reporting on this was spun to let the primary players off the hook and let a few rogue privates take the heat, quite likely in the hopes that the story would die (which is certainly what the Bush WH hoped for). And look, I’m not saying that once the story comes out that good honest journalists aren’t going to try to write important stories exposing more aspects of this. I’m saying that the initial reporting was an anomaly, precisely because it was too big to go unreported.

  46. 46
    Darkmoth says:

    @Corner Stone:
    I’m not sure you can have a “de facto acquittal”.

    If I blow by a state trooper at 80 mph and he fails to pursue me, I assure you that does not make it legal for you to do it.

  47. 47
    Corner Stone says:

    @Darkmoth: No, I agree. It’s also why I put quotes around precedent.
    Not sure how JMN’s legal argument works.

  48. 48

    @Zifnab:

    Besides, if you’re so convinced that “no jury in the world would convict”, please explain why Scooter Libby needed Presidential Clemency.

    Because it was easy to make it look like his action hurt national security. Despite being correct, that’s a harder case to make in the case of torture. The case that it was necessary is visceral and easy to swallow. Further, no matter which way you turn, just about everyone connected to this can claim that he was just following orders, until you get far enough up the chain of command that they can claim that the orders they gave didn’t mean to permit *that*. It’s all bogus in terms of what should work as a defense in court, but it will. You might not get acquittals, but I have a very hard time seeing you putting together a jury of 12 people that doesn’t have at least one member that buys into the logic completely.

    And, I should make clear that I don’t think that the situation would be worse had prosecutions happened. What I doubt very much is that it would be sufficiently better to have prosecutions without convictions to be worth everything else Obama wants to accomplish, which would get shut down amid the noise surrounding them. In terms of likely outcomes, I think that your choices are prosecutions with no convictions and nothing else of Obama’s program, or no prosecutions and a fighting chance of accomplishing other things. If I’m right in my assumption that there would be no convictions, I’ll take option two.

    Also, as I understand it, if the Justice Department agrees with my assumption, they aren’t supposed to launch a prosecution. Ethically, they are only supposed to file cases where they not only think that the defendant is guilty, but also that they can win the case. If they don’t think that they can get a jury to convict, their responsibility is to file no charges.

  49. 49

    @Corner Stone:

    Not sure how JMN’s legal argument works.

    That’s because I phrased it very poorly; I shouldn’t have used the word “precedent.” I didn’t mean that it would provide a legal precedent. It would, however, send a signal that a jury of Americans are okay with torturing brown people. In my view, the effects of that on future behavior would be pretty much indistinguishable from not prosecuting at all.

  50. 50
  51. 51
    cleek says:

    @Brachiator:

    I will bet good money that NPR is continuing its policy of not calling torture exactly what it is.

    i sent them an email back in May, complaining about their non-use of ‘torture’. here’s how they responded:

    Thank you for contacting NPR.

    We regret if our programming has not met your expectations. We strive to offer the highest quality of news and information available. Listener feedback helps us to accomplish this goal.

    We welcome both criticism and praise, and your thoughts will be taken into consideration.

  52. 52
    DCLaw1 says:

    @Brachiator:

    The framers who would oppose torture are obviously not real Americans. This goes twice for George Washington.

    Agreed – they are about as pre-911 as you can get!

  53. 53
    El Cid says:

    The Magna Carta sounds kinda damn foreign to me.

  54. 54
    DCLaw1 says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    Also, as I understand it, if the Justice Department agrees with my assumption, they aren’t supposed to launch a prosecution. Ethically, they are only supposed to file cases where they not only think that the defendant is guilty, but also that they can win the case. If they don’t think that they can get a jury to convict, their responsibility is to file no charges.

    This is only true if the reason they think they couldn’t win the case is for lack of factual evidence or legal support – not because the jury might nullify the crime, as you suggest.

    In other words, the legal and factual predicates are solid enough to support a prosecution and conviction by a jury that bases its decision on the facts and the law. That jury nullification could result because the victims are brown and the government’s cause was to Keep Us Safe does not create an ethical obligation not to prosecute. If anything, it enhances the moral obligation to do the opposite.

  55. 55

    @El Cid:

    The Magna Carta sounds kinda damn foreign to me.

    French, I think.

  56. 56
  57. 57
    rootless_e says:

    @scudbucket: I’m giving you an example of US torture from the 1960s and 1970s that resulted in zero prosecutions.

  58. 58
    The Populist says:

    If any of you smell something putrid in the air, it’s not the villagers farting out their McDonald’s burgers and fries but the death of Democracy and the rule of law.

    A revolution has to be coming if Americans can accept the torture of human beings, no matter how despicable these terrorists are.

    We are better than that…or at least I thought we were :(

  59. 59
    scudbucket says:

    @rootless_e: Well…thanks for the links. I thought we were talking about whether our major media is cantankerous and adversarial. Did you mean for that link to go to someone else?

  60. 60
    Corner Stone says:

    I’m just tired of this nonsense. No one’s ever going to do a damn thing about what we’ve done, what we’re doing, or what we will do next.

  61. 61
    Mnemosyne says:

    So, um, is there some weird statute of limitations that says that if Obama doesn’t start prosecutions during his first year in office, no prosecutions can ever take place? Because that’s sure how some people act despite the five (5) ongoing torture investigations.

  62. 62
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    I don’t disagree with anything in this post. It is well thought out and measured with basic facts without hyperbole. The only question is what do we do about it? I want to see Cheney in chains as much or more than most, and Bush wearing striped pajamas. But it is not a small nor simple thing for Obama, or whoever was presnit, to just charge forth with indictments and trials.

    And even if you concede to swallow the political consequences in a whole host of negative ways and just say those be damned and full steam ahead, there exist a bunch of legal minefields as well, say like enormous conflicts of interest of likely involved in some way many career gov employees that worked for Bush and now Obama in the Executive branch. All sorts of nightmares of evidence and discovery that cross branches of government and the separation of powers requirements in the constitution. It would be a circus like none other to try a former presnit and VP for crimes against humanity in this country.

    Not saying it wouldn’t be worth it, because I agree whole heartedley that to just sweep this under the rug gives license to the next winger who takes American Exceptionalism to mean anything goes as long as you claim it’s in defense of the Red, White, and Blue realm. Not to mention leaving a cancer on the republic that will likely grow and metastisize over time.

    Seems to me at least a truth commission or something along those lines to isolate and expose this sad chapter in our history must be done/ But full on criminal trials might end up being more of a large hammer to crush our unity and sanity in this country. Aside from occupying our national attention completely for the near and extended future.

  63. 63
    4jkb4ia says:

    Cheers for British government. Is that the end of the legal process?

  64. 64
    4jkb4ia says:

    It looks like it. If the WaPo and NYT joined in the suit the dreadful national security consequences are not likely.

  65. 65
    DCLaw1 says:

    @General Winfield Stuck:

    there exist a bunch of legal minefields as well, say like enormous conflicts of interest of likely involved in some way many career gov employees that worked for Bush and now Obama in the Executive branch.

    There are well-worn contingencies for these situations. In the most intertwined situations, there’s always appointment of a Special Prosecutor that has no such conflicts, with a staff that has similarly been cleared. Plenty of DOJ lawyers would qualify and jump at the opportunity.

    All sorts of nightmares of evidence and discovery that cross branches of government and the separation of powers requirements in the constitution.

    Again, not uncharted territory. DOJ – and government generally – has investigated and prosecuted executive officials before and there are procedures and court precedents for it. Separation of Powers would pose no obstacle – I’m not sure where you get that concern – it’s one branch prosecuting members of the same branch. There would be executive privilege concerns, but they could be dealt with under ample precedent.

    It would be a circus like none other to try a former presnit and VP for crimes against humanity in this country.

    The trial of OJ Simpson became a circus – should he not have been prosecuted? Many other high-profile trials have become media circuses as well. If holding high-level officials to account for their crimes results in media and public spasms, that is the necessary price of justice and the rule of law.

  66. 66
    rootless_e says:

    @scudbucket: i must have confused myself.

  67. 67
    Svensker says:

    @Brachiator:

    They don’t believe that there are any inalienable human rights, only the rights of patriotic Americans, and whatever indulgences we allow everyone else. For these people, torture to “protect” America is not only permissalbe, it is essential.

    This is the heart of the darkness.

  68. 68
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @DCLaw1: Actually there is a special prosecutor looking into what happened. I know it was announced as justified to see if people exceeded the Bybee and other memos outlining various torture techniques. But to do that or any other evaluation for prosecution the entire machinations will have to be investigated first.

    As far as the rest of your comment, I got a good laugh out of comparing such trials to OJ Simpson. Were you really serious about that? I think you are grossly underestimating the ginormity of problems and impact of one administration of one party trying to put the last administration of the other party in prison, or worse. Especially when large portions of the populace think what they did was ok, including more than a few dems, and our current polarized politics. Again, it could be worth it in the long run, doing it this way, but we cannot fathom right now the magnitude of consequences of such action, imho. You may differ, so be it.

  69. 69
    TuiMel says:

    @Martin:
    I was thinking “We are all Jack Bauer now.”

  70. 70
    Molly says:

    There’s a place for us,
    Somewhere a place for us….

    It’s called The Hague.

  71. 71
    DCLaw1 says:

    @General Winfield Stuck:

    Yes, I was talking about a Special Prosecutor with the broadest authority to plumb the full depths of the past administration’s torture policies.

    I am from the school of thought that pernicious, cynical politicization of serious issues by the GOP must be confronted aggressively and directly, instead of passively backing away from a potentially messy fight. I also believe very strongly in doing the right thing, and standing for core principles.

    Otherwise, the side that fights dirtiest wins by default, and that reward is encouragement for them to do it even more. This is much of the reason why our politics and our discourse is so unbelievably distorted.

  72. 72
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    Yes, I was talking about a Special Prosecutor with the broadest authority to plumb the full depths of the past administration’s torture policies

    I am sure this one does. Do you think it would have been smart or dumb for Holder to announce such things rather than citing the purpose as limited? The SP will have to know everything that happened, to ascertain where any boundaries might have been crossed for the purpose of later prosecution. If it involves Bush’s torture policy, you can bet this guy will have the authority and will to check it out. Now what happens with the info when he is finished, we don’t know, but he will be thorough as to learning what all happened.

  73. 73
    WaterGirl says:

    I have always thought that Obama didn’t want to prosecute torture, etc is that if he did, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything because the Republicans would obstruct everything. Since they are obstructing everything anyway, what’s the difference?

  74. 74
    Citizen Alan says:

    @General Winfield Stuck:

    I think you are grossly underestimating the ginormity of problems and impact of one administration of one party trying to put the last administration of the other party in prison, or worse. Especially when large portions of the populace think what they did was ok, including more than a few dems, and our current polarized politics.

    Ya know, it took me a few seconds to realize you were talking about the “ginormity of problems” which might arise from the hypothetical investigation of Bush era crimes by the Obama administration, instead of the actual investigations initiated by the Republicans during the Clinton era. Because the actual efforts by Republicans to put numerous Clinton era officials in prison for ridiculous trumped-up reasons, culminating in the failed coup d’etat that was the impeachment drama, doesn’t appear to have caused the Republicans any long term problems at all. Perhaps the upcoming Palin Administration won’t even bother trying to charge Obama officials with anything. Perhaps they’ll just snatch Democrats off the streets and disappear them. It’s not like “large portions of the populace” wouldn’t be fine with the outright assassination of Democratic politicians by future Republican leaders.

  75. 75
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @Citizen Alan: I wasn’t talking about the ginormity of investigating anything, I was referring that to actual prosecution of a former US Presnit for crimes against humanity. At least the wingnuts had the stones or stupid, whichever, to impeach and try a dem presnit while in office for lying about a blow job. Why didn’t dems with the House during Bush’s final two years impeach Bush for his boatload of illegal shit? But now folks want Obama to do the dirty work? And this is exactly what part of the Bush/Cheney defense would be, and it’s not a half bad one IMO./

    I think JMNeal is right. They would get acquitted and that would be worse than not trying them imo. Americans just don’t put former presidents in prison, sad but true. Best to go with truth commission.

  76. 76
    4jkb4ia says:

    memeorandum: Nelson will join bill to force military commission trials. Webb cosponsors, Lieberman likely to go for it, so one more Republican besides Collins and Snowe necessary to stop cloture.

  77. 77
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @4jkb4ia:

    If i get this right, It would be up to those pushing for mil commission trials to get 60 for cloture. not the dem majority that opposes such a bill and really wouldn’t even need to filibuster, unless there was at least 7 or 8 more dems willing to sign on for the bill./

  78. 78
    scudbucket says:

    Apropos this thread, Emptywheel posted a little gift. Apparently, (via a story in the Guardian), the Bushies engaged in torture 75 days before the cover of the Bybee memo justifying its use. If true, it paves the way for a comparatively simple investigation focusing on only Cheney, Rummy and other WH decision makers such that the appeal to WH legal counsel is eliminated as a defense. Here’s the Guardian story.

  79. 79
    Citizen Alan says:

    @General Winfield Stuck:

    For the record, I think the Dems who refused to investigate and pursue impeachment after the ’06 elections were craven cowards. I feel the same about the Obama administration today and for the same reason. The next Republican President to come along will do everything Bush did and worse, because every Democrat in a position to prevent it, from Obama to Pelosi to Reid, was too fucking gutless to do anything.

  80. 80
    rootless_e says:

    @Citizen Alan: the idea that prosecutions now would in any way inhibit the actions of a future republix administration seems like wishful thinking to me.

  81. 81
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @Svensker: Mistah Kurtz, he dead.

  82. 82
    The Sheriff's A Ni- says:

    Acquittal or a conviction followed by years of appeals before the blanket pardon by the next GOP President.

    Pick your choice.

  83. 83
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @Citizen Alan: The book is yet to be closed on the Obama administration, when it is and if he does nothing, I will likely agree with you. Though there is more than one way to bring this rotten chapter out into the open and put a scarlet T on it for all to see. One way is trials, there are other ways as well.

  84. 84
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @Citizen Alan: Gutless? No. The political calculus then was the same as now: Could Pelosi have found enough votes for impeachment? Probably not. If the House had impeached, would the Senate have had enough votes to convict? Definitely not. Under those conditions, trying to get an impeachment and removal from office and failing (by whatever margin) would have been worse than not doing anything. Such a failure would implicitly (at least) have given a stamp of approval to the Bush era doctrines.

  85. 85
    demo woman says:

    Just damn. John Yoo still lectures, Cheney still preaches and Bush still sits on his ass watching sports. I’m ashamed.

  86. 86
    burnspbesq says:

    @Phaedrus:

    “but, hey, the Republicans are worse so keep voting Dem!”

    Snark fail. Republicans are worse.

  87. 87
    tesslibrarian says:

    @Starfish: That story was on the front page of the local paper this morning because the guy briefly lived here.

    I’m waiting for the howls of complaint from local wingnuts that the word “torture” in the headline and the story wasn’t in quotation marks.

  88. 88
    El Cid says:

    @scudbucket: Maybe. Or they’ll just argue, and maybe have it approved by a court or prosecutors that, well, you see, as long as a memo is written at some point that the action was legal and correct, well, it was.

  89. 89
    Comrade Dread says:

    During the next WaPo chat, you should suggest they start calling it ‘information retrieval’ and make the very sensible suggestion that the government start billing clients for the time the use of the IR specialists.

    “Don’t fight it son. Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating.”

  90. 90
    XYZ says:

    According to the NYT, Hillary Clinton was amongst those who urged the British government not to reveal this information.

    I used to think George Carlin was exaggerating when he said there aren’t two political parties in America. Now I see he had it exactly right.

  91. 91

    @XYZ:

    According to the NYT, Hillary Clinton was amongst those who urged the British government not to reveal this information.

    I keep forgetting…who does she work for again?

  92. 92
    Tim F. says:

    @Mnemosyne: Yes, there is a statute of limitations for torture. Eight years. Every year that passes under Obama, one Bush year is forgiven by law.

    The relatively few whom we tortured to death might still see justice. That adds up to about 100 by some estimates, but the rest might as well have never happened.

  93. 93
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Tim F.:

    Yes, there is a statute of limitations for torture. Eight years. Every year that passes under Obama, one Bush year is forgiven by law.

    Unfortunately, that was pretty much inevitable since the Bushies were in office for 6 years after they started torturing. Just trying to figure out all of the moving parts and exactly who did what will take at least a few years, especially given the state that the records were left in. At this point, who would you arrest? What evidence would you use to charge them with?

    The relatively few whom we tortured to death might still see justice. That adds up to about 100 by some estimates, but the rest might as well have never happened.

    Given how much happened, it is absolutely inevitable that some victims would not get justice even if trials had begun on Jan. 21, 2009. There is no such thing in this world as perfect justice. But there is no statute of limitations on murder.

  94. 94
    Mnemosyne says:

    And just to make my position absolutely clear, I, for one, would not be satisfied with a rushed investigation that results in a bunch of mistrials and acquittals in the name of getting something — anything! — done as soon as possible. If we’re going to prosecute, I want it done right. I want people to go to jail for life. If it means that a few of the small fish drop off so we can prosecute the big ones right and make it stick, so be it. As I said, there is no such thing as perfect justice in this world.

  95. 95
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @Mnemosyne: I say a good way is someone bring charges in The Hague, though since many in Europe and elsewhere talk big about punishing the Bush administration for it’s crimes, they are also afraid of pissing off the economic beast and sometimes protector, the US of A. But if they had the balls to take the case, it would have to be tried in absentia no doubt, but it would allow airing of what happened from those it happened to. Not the best outcome, but better than nothing, and could heal some wounds around the world.

  96. 96
    Tax Analyst says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I’m just tired of this nonsense. No one’s ever going to do a damn thing about what we’ve done, what we’re doing, or what we will do next.

    OK, so…ummm…”lay back and enjoy it” is your advice?

  97. 97
    Corner Stone says:

    @Tax Analyst: No, my advice is to not be a wanker like your Uncle Corner.
    And people who can still call their mom, should call their mom and tell her you love her.

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