Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Torture and the rule of law: Did Bush just call Democrats' bluff?

So Bush is now, according to reports, not going to pardon people who engaged in torture because he believes the Democrats lack the balls to come after him and the other torturers. Sadly, I think he's made as good a call as any war criminal could ever make.

Obama ran his entire campaign on avoiding partisanship, so he's not going to agree with anything that begins to look like witch hunt. And Turley agrees with me.

Maddow: So the White House says now, at least to the Wall Street Journal, that they are not likely to pardon anyone who might have implemented or taken part in these torture policies because they believe that their Justice Department memos excuse them, so there's no need to pardon anyone. Are you buying that reasoning?

: No. I don't believe that anyone seriously believes in the administration that what they did was legal. This is not a close legal question. Waterboarding is torture. It has been defined as a war crime by U.S. courts and by foreign courts. There's no ambiguity in it. That is exactly why they have repeatedly tried to stop any court from reviewing any of this.

And so what's really happening here is a rather clever move at this intersection of law and politics. That what the administration is doing, is they know that the people that want him to pardon our torture program is primarily the Democrats, not the Republicans. The Democratic leadership would love to have a pardon so they could go to their supporters and say, "Look, there's really nothing we could do. We're just going to have this truth commission, we'll get the truth out, but there really can't be any indictments now."

Well, the Bush administration is calling their bluff. They know that the Democratic leadership will not allow criminal investigations or indictments. And in that way the Democrats will actually repair Bush's legacy, because he will be able to say, "There was nothing stopping indictments or prosecutions, but a Democratic congress and a Democratic White House didn't think there was any basis for it."
I understand Obama's wish to avoid partisanship and his reluctance to tie his administration up prosecuting the previous administration. However, we have the Bush administration's admission that they have engaged in torture by waterboarding, the question now is whether or not Obama's administration is going to do what many other country's are about to do.

Should Bush, Cheney or many other members of this administration ever travel abroad, they will face the same fate as Pinochet or Kissinger, they will find themselves hounded by people seeking to indict them war criminals - a right afforded to those other country's under international law if the country of origin refuses to charge them with those crimes.

I understand why Obama doesn't want to indict the previous administration, I understand why this is dangerous to him politically, but there is still such a thing in this world as right and wrong, and torture is wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I know he's never going to do it and I understand the political reasoning behind that choice, but it's wrong. America is going to allow war criminals to walk away. And they know the people they are allowing to walk away are war criminals and they are letting them walk for political expediency.

That's just wrong. And yet Bush is gambling that that this is exactly what they will do, and I think Bush is calling this one - in terms of saving his own political skin - correctly.

I wish I was wrong, but I bet I'm not.


Dusty said...

John Dean had a lot to say on this subject too on Countdown Wed night.

Its all so fucked up. Obama won't be doing shit bout this set of war crimes.

Kel said...

I find it shocking. And other countries will attempt to prosecute these buggers if they ever leave America's shores.

America can't prove that she is against torture by simply stopping it. She needs to prosecute those who participated in it. And not the "few bad eggs" which they always claim were responsible, they need to go for the people at the top who gave the orders. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the law officers - John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales etc - who pretended that they thought that this shit was legal.