Monday, April 27, 2009

Trying to put a stop to legalized torture

I've been somewhat hesitant to support the prosecution of Bush administration officials and government operatives for ordering and carrying out the torture of suspected terrorists. Sure, Bush and his minions were pretty bad, assaulting civil liberties and maliciously meddling in the affairs of other countries. But that's what the US government usually does, under Democratic presidents as well as Republicans. I don't want to support the polite fiction that the US usually acts for good in the world, and that W. was some kind of abberration.

On the other hand, over at happening-here? (one of my favorite blogs, by the way),  janinsanfran argues persuausively that if we don't prosecute the misdeeds of Bush admininistration officials, we are helping to condone this behavior by officials in future administrations. She points out that Richard Nixon's pardon by Gerald Ford set the stage for much of the evil done by the George W. Bush administration:
So what happened? Nixon, personally, aged out of most action, rather bitterly. But the thugs (yes, they are thugs) who learned executive abuse of the power under his administration came right back.

Donald Rumsfeld: functionary under Nixon; White House chief of staff, then Secretary of Defense under Ford; diplomatic envoy for Reagan, including taking the old boy's greetings to Saddam Hussein during the Iraqi dictator's war on Iran; Secretary of Defense under Bush II, architect of the Iraq war, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Dick Cheney: assistant to Rumsfeld in the Ford White House, then Chief of Staff; a Congressman under Reagan working for such causes as blocking sanctions on South African apartheid; Secretary of Defense under Bush I; exponent of the monarchical executive; finally a Veep who claimed to be a previously unheard of fourth branch of government.

Those two old wannabe dictators aren't likely to be back -- it's their intellectual heirs who must face legal jeopardy if Obama's verbal repudiation of torture is to amount to anything. Addington, Feith, Bybee, Bradbury, and Yoo, minimally, need to explain to a court their conspiracy to violate American and international law. If they are allowed to waltz off to live on right wing welfare (and a federal judge's salary in the case of Bybee), Obama hasn't restored the rule of law. He's just postponed the country's next leap into the abyss.
 The whole post is well worth reading. See also this post on the possibility that the CIA might "go rogue" in response to Obama's release of the the torture memos, and this post about Senator Joe Lieberman's response to the situation.

If you want to read the torture memos for yourself, and sign an ACLU petition calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor, you can do so here.

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