Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Already the Whining has Begun... "No to War Crimes investigations."

It was boringly predictable that this lament would start to be heard all over the right wing world:

For the sake of national security and national unity, President-elect Barack Obama should put a stop to efforts to investigate or prosecute Bush administration officials for anti-terror "war crimes."

The motive behind such efforts is not -- as claimed -- "truth" or "justice," but political vengeance.

Firstly, I fail to see how American national security would be harmed by people who committed what the entire world recognises as war crimes being brought to justice. In an age when soft power matters as much as military power wouldn't that strengthen the US's national security? I mean wasn't that the reason Bush and others sought to prosecute Lynndie England and others who perpetrated abuse? To prove to the world that the US did not approve of such things?

Bush stated at the time:
Bush promised a "full accounting" for "cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi detainees." He said the treatment is an "insult to the Iraqi people" and an "affront to the most basic standards of morality and decency." He said those involved will "answer for their conduct in an orderly and transparent process."
Bush wanted justice to be "orderly" and "transparent" because he wanted to show the world the American way of dealing with what he called the "cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi detainees."

If it now transpires that this "cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi detainees" was actually official policy then why should the people who ordered the abuse not have to go through a similar "orderly and transparent" process?

Why should the people who carried out the policy be considered more reprehensible than the people who ordered it?

Nor, after Cheney's recent jaw dropping interview in which he breezily admitted authorising waterboarding, can there be any doubt that war crimes have been committed. The only remaining question is whether or not those who ordered torture and abuse to take place will be prosecuted in the same "orderly and transparent" manner which Bush insisted upon for Lynndie England and others.

Because what Mort Kondracke and others are actually asking for is that the political class should be exempt from facing the very same law which they used to punish others, even when those other people were actually merely following orders issued by that same political class.

He bemoans the recent New York Times editorial calling for prosecutions and is amazed that the NYT haven't called for Bush and Cheney to be charged. On this point we are in agreement, as I personally think Cheney especially has opened himself up to prosecution.

But there's no need to investigate whether Bush -- or Cheney -- authorized the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques or warrantless terrorist wiretapping or renditions ("snatching") of terrorist suspects.

They've admitted it and defended it as being necessary to defend the nation in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- and justified it by pointing out that the homeland has not been attacked since.

What Kondracke misses here is that all war criminals can cite good reasons, at least according to their own logic, as to why they had to do what they did. This does not stop what they did being a war crime.

As I have pointed out before these are not known as peace crimes, they are not actions which become understandable at a time of war to keep "the homeland" safe. They are known as war crimes because it is precisely at a time of war that leaders might be tempted to employ these hideous tactics.

The fact that Bush and Cheney have admitted what they did should actually make prosecution inevitable. However, we all know that in the real world the same president who called for an "orderly and transparent" process when dealing with "the few bad apples" who were caught carrying out his policies will have many right wing defenders who will insist that the nation will fall into the sea if he is ever subject to the same kind of trial that he insisted was inflicted on others.

And I note that Kondracke has even tried to find a way to blame Obama should Bush decide to issue blanket pardons for all the war criminals in his administration.

On the other hand, Obama said on the campaign trail in April that "I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we've got too many problems to solve."

Obama should find an opportunity soon to reiterate that position. If he did so, he could eliminate the unseemly possibility that Bush, on his way out of office, would issue a blanket pardon to everyone in his administration who participated in the war on terror.

You see, if Bush had to do this it would be because Obama had been too slow to make his intentions known, leaving Bush with no choice other than to take this "unseemly" path.

I don't know which part of this argument sickens me more, the plea to ignore war crimes or the pathetic attempt to make Bush pardoning them somehow someone else's fault.

America's moral authority has been badly damaged and, much as we all applaud and support the presidency of Barack Obama, that authority will not be restored unless his presidency delivers the change that he promised.

The typical attack from conservative corners during the primaries was that Barack Obama was "just words". That behind those words there was no substance. Now, they are demanding that he become the very thing which they attacked him for, that he distance himself from the pledges he made during his campaign:

Obama insisted during the campaign that if he found "that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws (and) engaged in cover-ups of those crimes ... then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law."

Kondracke's argument is the complete opposite of Obama's. He is insisting that the political class should be above the law. I have no faith that an Obama administration will prosecute these criminals, but the US - and Obama - will suffer as a result.

The entire world knows that war crimes have been committed, Dick Cheney is on record admitting so, but the world will now watch to see if that famed American sense of justice and fair play which Bush insisted was needed after Abu Ghraib, will extend itself to America's political class.

I somehow doubt that the same "orderly and transparent" process which Lynndie England faced will be considered appropriate for the people who issued the orders on which she was acting.

Click title for Kondracke's piece.


Katrina said...

As someone who has had acquaintantship with Ms. England, and who has seen what Bush policies have done to her life, I do hope Obama, who I voted for, will understand that social justice must be applied to those who set up the policies that nurtured what happened at Abu Ghraib. Ms. England tortured no one - just got into pictures that the public still does not know the full truth about. Why can the Bush crowd retire in comfort when this young woman can't even get a job at Walmart in order to support her son? President-elect Obama must take up this matter if he actually stands for social justice and getting to the truth of the lies and flagrant abuses of our rights as American citizens. Meanwhile, Lynndie sits in her trailer afraid to go out. Contact her lawyer, Roy T. Hardy, in Keyser, WV - he will tell you the life she currently faces....

Kel said...

Why can the Bush crowd retire in comfort when this young woman can't even get a job at Walmart in order to support her son?


I couldn't agree with you more. I think she should sue Bush and Co.

It's scandalous that they can walk away and yet she was prosecuted for following orders.

theBhc said...


As loathsome as it will be, it seems fairly certain that Obama will not exercise due diligence on this matter. Hell, we've had 40 years of the same pattern: Republicans break the law, get investigated, a few take a hit, and the pardons start dropping in the name of "healing" and "national unity." That phrase alone is tired and stale, but it is still trotted out whenever GOP operatives get nailed for illegality of one kind or another.

Watergate, investigations, hearings -- pardon. Iran-Contra, investigation, hearings, pardons. And now war crimes, investigation, hearings, only this time there won't even be a need for a pardon or pardons. Subsequent cases have demonstrated escalating criminality with fewer and fewer consequences until, finally, the American political class can agree that, in the case of heinous violations of international law and the War Crimes Act, no charges or indictments of any kind will even be needed, because, once again, the country needs to "heal" after Republicans have gone off on a spree of abuse and lawlessness.

After calling everyone who has disagreed with them a terrorist lover, now suddenly Republicans and Bush supporters want national unity. Fuck off. They want impunity for their criminal conduct. That's what they want, and nothing more.

Kel said...


Sadly I agree with you. Obama will do nothing. The old canard of "national unity" will, once again, be trotted out by the very people who did more to split the country apart than anyone else.

I do, however, hope that the international community will take some steps against these criminals.