Thursday, December 18, 2008

Will There Be Torture Prosecutions?

It's interesting to listen to Senator Levin come to the same conclusion which I did regarding Cheney's admission that he has committed war crimes. Cheney's defence, that the administration were advised that what they were doing was legal, is also dismissed by Levin who argues that any criminal could get a lawyer to tell him that something was legal, but that wouldn't make the act legal.

I am also pleased that Levin is arguing that there should be an outside commission who ultimately decide whether or not there should be prosecutions over what are now openly admitted war crimes.

I have no faith that we will ever see these people prosecuted, but at least Levin is making the case that a commission should consider this matter.


What I find most astonishing about all this is the way in which torture, which we previously all accepted as illegal, is now openly discussed and debated on US television. We have those for it and those against it as if what is being discussed is perfectly normal.

What is being discussed here are war crimes. And yet that fact is simply ignored as we discuss whether or not the US should engage in this practice.

And while Smerconish applauds torture and reminds us of the uncivilised nature of the enemy, he ignores the fact that what he calls for takes a civilised society down to the level of that enemy. They say al Qaeda wants to destroy our civilised way of life, Smerconish and others like him appear to be doing that for them.

Smerconish appears to say that his moral code is defined by his Americanism, and that anything Americans do is automatically legal, but if the other side do it that would be a war crime.

Sadly, that view appears to be quite widespread on the right.


Young Turks discuss the way the right wing first denied that torture was taking place and then, latterly, embraced it.

But, as Cenk rightly states, Cheney has clearly admitted to war crimes. This tape should come back to haunt him.


As always Glenn Greenwald lands right on the money.

This is the Jack Goldsmith argument: while what Bush officials did may have been misguided and wrong, they did it out of a true fear of Islamic enemies, with the intent to protect us, perhaps even consistent with the citizenry's wishes. And while Douthat presents this view as some sort of candid and conflicted complexity, it isn't really anything more than standard American exceptionalism -- more accurately: blinding American narcissism -- masquerading as a difficult moral struggle.
As Glenn rightly points out, almost every person who commits war crimes does so because they fear their enemy. The argument Smerconish and others put forward is that those of us who want prosecutions seem to yearn for some Utopian time.

They are missing the point.

These crimes aren't called Peace Crimes and it's okay to commit them at a time of war when the rules all change and the gloves come off. They are called War Crimes because it is precisely at a time of war that leaders might be tempted to commit such atrocities.

And that is exactly what Cheney has so brazenly just confessed to.

You can read his whole post here.

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