01 January, 2009

Great American Hypocrisy: Torture Prosecutions for Thee but Not for Me

It seems the United States can prosecute torture - as long as it was someone else who did the torturing:

While fiercely loyal establishment spokespeople such as The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus continue to insist that prosecutions are only appropriate for common criminals ("someone breaking into your house") but not our glorious political leaders when they break the law (by, say, systematically torturing people), the Bush administration has righteously decided that torture is such a grotesque and intolerable crime that political leaders who order it simply must be punished in American courts to the fullest extent of the law . . . . if they're from Liberia:

MIAMI (AP) -- U.S. prosecutors want a Miami judge to sentence the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 147 years in prison for torturing people when he was chief of a brutal paramilitary unit during his father's reign.

Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. His conviction was the first use of a 1994 law allowing prosecution in the U.S. for acts of torture committed overseas.

Even in the U.S., it's hard to believe that federal prosecutors who work for the Bush DOJ were able to convey the following words with a straight face:

A recent Justice Department court filing describes torture - which the U.S. has been accused of in the war on terror - as a "flagrant and pernicious abuse of power and authority" that warrants severe punishment of Taylor.

"It undermines respect for and trust in authority, government and a rule of law," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller in last week's filing. "The gravity of the offense of torture is beyond dispute."

Why, yes. Yes, it is. Which is bloody well why we should have Bush, Cheney et all locked up in cells awaiting the displeasure of the court.

There is an excellent fucking case to be made for delivering Bush and his cronies to the Hague:

A political scientist named Michael Haas has just published a book titled George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes:

Based on information supplied in autobiographical and press sources, the book matches events in Afghanistan, Guantánamo, Iraq , and various secret places of detention with provisions in the Geneva Conventions and other international agreements on war crimes. His compilation is the first to cite a comprehensive list of specific war crimes in four categories-illegality of the decision to go to war, misconduct during war, mistreatment of prisoners of war, and misgovernment in the American occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Haas accuses President Bush of conduct bordering on treason because he reenacted several complaints stated in the Declaration of Independence against England, ignored the Constitution and federal laws, trampled on the American tradition of developing international law to bring order to world politics, and in effect made a Faustian pact with Osama Bin Laden that the intelligence community blames for an increase in world terrorism. Osama Bin Laden remains alive, he reports, because Bush preferred to go after oil-rich Iraq rather than tracking down Al Qaeda leaders, whose uncaptured presence was useful to him in justifying a "war on terror" pursued on a military rather than a criminal basis without restraint from constitutional checks and balances.

The worst war crime cited is the murder of at least 45 prisoners, some but not all by torture. Other heinous crimes include the brutal treatment of thousands of children, some 64 of whom have been detained at Guantánamo. Sources document the use of illegal weapons in the war from cluster bombs to daisy cutters, napalm, white phosphorus, and depleted uranium weapons, some of which have injured and killed American soldiers as well as thousands of innocent civilians. Children playing in areas of Iraq where depleted uranium weapons have been used, but not reported on request from the World Health Organization, have developed leukemia and other serious diseases.

If actions like this do not make our leaders war criminals worthy of trial and conviction, nothing does. We have no right, none, to prosecute and imprison people for doing what we ourselves have done.

Digby excoriates the prevailing political winds blowing in the direction of forgive, forget, and pretend we can keep it from happening again without going through all the ickyness of a trial. She takes that down with alacrity, finishing with a stark reminder:
And this is one issue where there is absolutely no room for compromise --- the world is watching and our national security depends upon Obama completely and without reservations ending these programs, closing Guantanamo, following the Geneva conventions and standing firm against any kind of lawless and unproductive anti-terrorism measures. Investigating and exposing the full extent of what went on is also, in my view, a necessity if we are to restore any kind of credibility around the world. If he doesn't do these things, this moment will be as squandered as the world's sympathy was squandered by Bush after 9/11. The world will be unlikely to give us a third chance at getting this right.
Second chances are hard enough to come by. We were extraordinarily lucky that Obama came along and restored the world's faith in us. We need to show them their faith is justified.

And yes, there is something we can do about it. We can apply some pressure.
Ari Melber at The Nation has a good suggestion:

The Obama transition team is taking questions again at Change.gov, throwing open the site this week for citizen input. The first run of this experiment was a mixed bag. The platform was open and transparent, but the official answers felt more like old boilerplate than new responses. When the submitted questions parrot toics in the traditional media, of course, the exchange can feel like a dated press conference. But here's a vital question that few reporters have ever presented to Obama:

Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor (ideally Patrick Fitzgerald) to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?

That question ranked sixth in voting last time -- out of over 10,000 submissions -- but the transition team only answered the top five questions. Now that Vice President Cheney confessed his support for waterboarding on national television, flouting the rule of law, the issue is even more urgent. Activist Bob Fertik, who has submitted the question twice, explains how you can vote to press this issue on the transition team:

  1. Sign in at http://change.gov/openforquestions
  2. Search for "Fitzgerald"
  3. This will display several similar questions, so look carefully for "Bob Fertik"
  4. Look right for the checkbox, mouseover it so it goes from white to dark, then click to cast your vote
Now that we've shown we have the stomach to prosecute other countries' citizens for torture, we need to stop being big fat fucking hypocrites and prosecute a few of our own.

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