Friday, September 04, 2009

Conyers: Why David Broder Is Wrong.

I gave my reaction yesterday to David Broder's argument as to why - in his opinion - Eric Holder is wrong to want to investigate torture and other abuses which might have taken place under the previous administration.

Today we get the reaction of John Conyers to Broder's argument.

Mr. Broder argues that the Attorney General should have weighed the various political and practical consequences of an investigation against the abstract principle of accountability and decided to stand down. I reject this idea completely.

I understand the Washington habit of reducing all difficult questions to political calculations -- I am a politician myself, after all. But the decision whether to investigate possible crimes connected to our interrogation programs is simply not a political one.

Our nation is obligated by treaty to investigate credible allegations of torture and similar breaches of law. The materials available to the Attorney General manifestly state such credible allegations of such violations -- he really had no choice to go forward, unless we were to breach our legal commitments. Does Mr. Broder have so little respect for the rule of law that he cannot simply commend the strength and dignity of a public servant like Mr. Holder carrying out an unpleasant duty?

Conyers is spot on. Political considerations should have no bearing whatsoever when it comes to matters of law. Either a crime was committed or it was not. What Holder is calling for is an investigation to examine whether or not a crime took place. Considering the fact that millions of people around the planet think that a crime has occurred here, it would not be in America's interest not to examine this matter and clear it up once and for all.

The US is a signatory to international treaties which make investigation of this matter obligatory.

He then turns to Broder's point regarding CIA morale, which Broder claims would be harmed by such an investigation.
Mr. Broder seems to agree when he argues that "if accountability is the standard, then it should apply to the policymakers and not just to the underlings." Yet, he rejects the logical implications of his point, asking "do we want to see Cheney, who backed these actions and still does, standing in the dock?" Without knowing all the facts, that question is impossible to answer. But for Mr. Broder the idea seems to be unthinkable. Why does he believe that? Is it not a basic principle of this country that no person is above the law? I do not know if Mr. Cheney broke the law, but I do know that, in my America, the law applies to him as it does to everyone else.
This was, I thought, Broder's most ludicrous point. In his column he dragged the horse to the well and then insisted it would be unthinkable if it were to drink. Broder, if his argument has to have any validity at all, needs to explain why there are certain people who he thinks the law should not apply to.

He certainly seems to be describing a nation where all citizens are not equal before the law. He should better explain how he thinks such a system would work. After all, by his own admission, he supported the actions taken against President Clinton during the Lewinsky affair, so he needs to explain why any future actions taken against Cheney would be unthinkable. Most of us regard war crimes as much more serious than someone lying about a sexual peccadillo. Broder appears to want to pardon the former whilst condemning the latter. That strikes many of us as simply perverse.

And Conyers does well to address one of the main reasons Broder gave for not pursuing this matter: that it would produce a partisan maelstrom.

But in a world where "conservatives" argue that the President's speech to schoolchildren amounts to brainwashing and that government reimbursement for voluntary end-of-life consultations are "death panels," I question whether it is realistically possible to avoid such partisan conflagrations regardless of the steps we take. It is not as if the right was working shoulder to shoulder with the Administration or Democrats in Congress on the great policy issues confronting us before Attorney General Holder announced the expanded Durham probe.
I mean, seriously; what planet is Broder living on? Does he really think that we are not currently living in a political maelstrom? Republicans and their supporters are arguing that the President is not even an American, that he secretly wants to kill people's grannies, some even argue that he is a racist.

Why do Broder and others continue with the pretence that bipartisan agreement is even possible when dealing with the current Republican party?

I've heard others arguing that the Republicans would go even more crazy than they are at present. That the gun carrying part of that crowd would become too difficult to contain?

If so, it's a very sad observation on the current state of the American union if people are actually arguing that the law cannot be enforced because a certain section of the populace are too unruly to accept it.

If that were to be true, then mob rule really would have come to the US. But, people can't seriously be arguing that, can they?


Glenn Greenwald points out that Broder's supposed horror at what the Bush administration actually did is a reasonably recent phenomenon.
Some of my colleagues in the pundit business have become unhinged by the election results. The always diverting Maureen Dowd of The New York Times wrote the other day that "the forces of darkness" are taking over the country . . . Bush won, but he will have to work within the system for whatever he gets. Checks and balances are still there. The nation does not face "another dark age," unless you consider politics with all its tradeoffs and bargaining a black art.


Obama, to his credit, has ended one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.

At the time when it actually mattered, Broder mocked the very idea that the US was in the middle of a dark chapter, describing those who used such language as "unhinged". Only when Bush was safely out of the way did Broder suddenly, and with no admission that he had ever held a contrary position, start talking of, "one of the darkest chapters of American history".

In the middle of what he now admits was, "one of the darkest chapters of American history", he wasn't investigating, he wasn't asking questions; he was telling everyone to stop being silly and to move on.

Which is exactly what his latest column is also asking people to do.

Click title for full article.

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