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March 16, 2009 4:38 PM   Subscribe

Interrogation techniques used by the CIA on al-Qaeda suspects "constituted torture", according to a report by the International Red Cross.
posted by shoesfullofdust (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
podcast here
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:42 PM on March 16, 2009


Macaulay Culkin face here
posted by mannequito at 4:43 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


President Obama, while declaring that "nobody's above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing...people should be prosecuted," has also expressed his strong preference for "looking forward" rather than "looking backwards."

I wonder how such a statement would have been received from a President McCain.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:48 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


No doubt there will be unbridled outrage from the usual talking heads over this vile attempt to sully the US's good name by stating a simple fact.

Boy...George Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour.
posted by yoink at 4:49 PM on March 16, 2009


Hmmmm....on re-reading that's a little odd. "Boy George Orwell"? I don't remember any chameleons in Animal Farm!
posted by yoink at 4:51 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder how such a statement would have been received from a President McCain.

Well, it would be a very different situation, wouldn't it? There are very good reasons for a new political administration to be leery about rounding up leading members of the opposition party and subjecting them to trial. The President certainly should be concerned about the question of justice, but also needs to weigh that against the risk of plunging the nation into such massive political turmoil that the consequences would haunt the polity for decades to come. That is one of the reasons that Presidents are granted veto powers: because they are asked to consider issues greater than the simple ones of adherence to the letter of the law.

It would have been relatively easy for McCain to seek prosecutions against some key players in the implementation of the Bush torture policy, because he would not have had to deal with the suspicion that the main motivation was a settling of scores with the "other side."

That's not to say, though, that there wouldn't have been good reasons even for a President McCain not to pursue criminal trials in these matters. Sometimes it is more important to make sure that something can't happen again than it is to seek vengeance against those who did it in the first place.
posted by yoink at 4:57 PM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would love to see GWB, Rumsfield, and Cheney get the Milosovic treatment in the Hague.
posted by Daddy-O at 4:58 PM on March 16, 2009


I would love to see GWB, Rumsfield, and Cheney get the Milosovic treatment in the Hague.

Three meals a day, a roof over their heads, and acquittals and/or indefinite adjournments?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:06 PM on March 16, 2009


The Hague doesn't have automatic jurisdiction over these crimes. The ICC would have to find that the crimes were committed on the soil of a state party to the Court (which the USA is not), and while it's possible that the Court could find that (for prisoners illegally transferred through the UK, Sweden, Germany, and other European state parties), it's not a slam dunk. The USA could also self-refer the matter to the Court, which would never, ever happen.

Every criminal prosecution is backward-looking. Saying we need to look to the future is saying that we should ignore massive criminality.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:12 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think McCain would probably still have to deal with the suspicion that the main motivation was a settling of scores with the "other side" from the Limbaugh wing of the Republican party, and the thrashing about of the GOP would be more bizarre than it already is. But your main point is still well taken, yoink, even though I'd love to see the bastards prosecuted.
posted by zoinks at 5:14 PM on March 16, 2009


"Boy George Orwell"?

Do You Doubleplus Want to Hurt Me?
posted by Bookhouse at 5:23 PM on March 16, 2009 [19 favorites]


It would be nice to think that this would lead to some public outrage. You know Obama will have a hard time of this on his own without some serious public outcry. Where are the pundits, the congressional leaders, even the bloggers? Sentiment for extreme actions like prosecuting former admin officials for war crimes builds from the ground up. Write to your newspaper and your congress critters if this offends you. Put it on your own blogs. Comment here, there and everywhere. It is extreme to prosecute former government officials because we just can't have a system where prosecution is based purely on politics. I know that hasn't really stopped the Republicans, what with impeaching Clinton and using the US Attorneys for political prosecutions, but they really don't love freedom as much as they say they do. They really love tyranny, as long as it is their own tyranny. GW's comment early in his presidency about how much easier it would be to be a dictator, or some such similar nonsense, now seems eerily foreshadowing his rush there toward.
posted by caddis at 5:44 PM on March 16, 2009


Canada should bar or prosecute Bush. As George W. Bush’s St. Patrick’s Day visit to Calgary draws near, the federal government is facing pressure from activists and human rights lawyers to bar the former U.S. president from the country or prosecute him for war crimes and crimes against humanity once he steps on Canadian soil.
posted by various at 6:27 PM on March 16, 2009


The Hague doesn't have automatic jurisdiction over these crimes. The ICC would have to find that the crimes were committed on the soil of a state party to the Court (which the USA is not)
Is Cuba?
posted by Flunkie at 7:35 PM on March 16, 2009


Flunkie: "
The Hague doesn't have automatic jurisdiction over these crimes. The ICC would have to find that the crimes were committed on the soil of a state party to the Court (which the USA is not)
Is Cuba?
"

Isn't Gitmo technically American soil?
posted by Rhaomi at 7:55 PM on March 16, 2009


W's comment early in his presidency about how much easier it would be to be a dictator, or some such similar nonsense
He actually said things along these lines quite a bit.

"It would be a heck of a lot easier to be a dictator than work in a democracy." -1996, as Governor of Texas

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier." -1998, as Governor of Texas

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." -December 2000, as President Elect

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it." -July 2001 as President

And, I'm betting, a bunch more times. Seems like it was one of his favorite... "jokes".
posted by Flunkie at 7:57 PM on March 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Isn't Gitmo technically American soil?
No, it's Cuban, and is leased to the United States.

Well, that's what the United States says. Cuba says that the agreement under which it was originally leased is null and void, having been made under a now-nonexistant government, and more importantly made under coercion by the United States.

But they both agree it's Cuban.
posted by Flunkie at 7:59 PM on March 16, 2009


Cuba voted against the Rome Statute and therefore is not a state party of the Court. Their main concerns have been a lack of independence and the absence of a clear definition of an act of aggression. Though I believe they may be party to the International Cricket Club.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 9:01 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sometimes it is more important to make sure that something can't happen again than it is to seek vengeance against those who did it in the first place.

I'll try that line with the cop next time I get a traffic ticket.
posted by dibblda at 12:21 AM on March 17, 2009


So remind me when does your truth commission start in America? And you still have these relevations to be confirmed
posted by adamvasco at 1:11 AM on March 17, 2009


Sometimes it is more important to make sure that something can't happen again than it is to seek vengeance against those who did it in the first place.

Establishing a precedent that political figures are above the law and are immune from prosecution for even crimes against humanity is fundamentally inconsistent with the goal of making sure that those crimes can't happen again.
posted by roystgnr at 6:36 AM on March 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Establishing a precedent that political figures are above the law and are immune from prosecution for even crimes against humanity is fundamentally inconsistent with the goal of making sure that those crimes can't happen again.

Failing to bring a prosecution is not the same thing as "establishing" that they are "immune" from prosecution.

I would love to see Bush and Cheney behind bars (along with John Yoo!), and if I were the Great Dictator of the World I'd lock them up. The problem is that Obama can't just wave a magic wand and put them in prison. You envisage a process of perp-walk ignominy, swift prosecution, and imprisonment to universal applause, but that's not one of the options available to Obama. What he would be looking at if he chose to prosecute Bush et al. is a Presidency that would be seen by half the country as having sold itself to the extremist partisans of the left, and as therefore delegitimized, trials that would drag on well beyond his Presidency (even if he gets two terms--which he would be substantially less likely to get in this scenario), a nation quite possibly descending into probably bloody chaos, and in all probability no convictions at the end (do you think the current Supreme Court would vote to convict? Obama is only going to get to replace justices on the "left" of the court--barring unlikely developments).

And at the end of all that, even if he managed to get them into jail for a bit, you'd have a deeply resentful, embittered right who would build their political movement around seizing the chance to rehabilitate their disgraced leaders. Eventually the Republicans would regain the White House, Cheney and Bush would be pardoned, gigantic statues of them get erected on the Washington Mall as "Defenders of our Freedoms!" and the supposed deterrent effect of the prosecution has perversely been turned on its head.

Obviously it might not play out exactly that way, but the risk is sufficiently grave that, were I in Obama's shoes, I think that I'd make the same decision that he has.
posted by yoink at 9:09 AM on March 17, 2009


Why the hell aren't there more comments on this post? Near as I can tell this is the darkest piece of mainstream 'GWOT'-related reportage in some time.
posted by waxbanks at 4:01 PM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regarding the ICC and quibbling over whether Gitmo is US soil or not, this is a good argument for the principle and practice of universal jurisdiction.
posted by Mngo at 5:27 PM on March 17, 2009


"Why the hell aren't there more comments on this post? Near as I can tell this is the darkest piece of mainstream 'GWOT'-related reportage in some time."

Folks were already pretty sure of it already. That and the hangovers.

But I think a lot of folks are satisfied with that. Which is unfortunate. Not the tolerance for ambiguity or shades of grey, but the tolerance for what is known taking the place of what is.
I mean, I supported the Iraq war, initially, because of that. If something is a reality, that dangerous, I presumed that many prominent and trustworthy people (not unnecessarily public figures) wouldn't lie about it. Just like you wouldn't expect George Clooney or someone to stand up at the Oscars and yell "Fire!" and pull the fire alarm and run out if there were no fire. Some people knew otherwise. I'll grant some folks protested and such, there were people doing things, but not in positions of power. I respect any efforts in that direction, but putting that set aside - most folks just 'knew' better and that seemed to be enough. Not to be fooled. To say. But not to act. To seem but not to be.

So too, I presumed there'd be repercussions. Clooney would be on the block for it. Or at the very least, not get anymore work. Also wrong. Folks knew. That seemed to be enough to satisfy most people. They weren't fooled like those other idiots who bought it and kept (and keep!) buying it.

Now we see it from after the fact - thought we still have the reality in our face. Our people, Americans, have committed torture and atrocity in our name, in the name of all Americans. We should not rest until this horrible stain is wiped clean from the body of the American public. And yet...well, we know what really went on so we sort of don't have to - again. And it's expediency we choose - again.

It's funny, looking back at Al Gore. It's a bit of a multi-edged sword. On the one hand he was the man to lead us at that time - certainly in retrospect - but also because he (if we accept his word) stepped back because he didn't want to force a crisis. And Bushco was willing to cause havoc to get what they wanted.
So he was the better man.
And yet - because he didn't force that issue - this was the result. I'm not hanging this on him, that's not my intent, but it's the choice that so many people made along the way.
To do less harm and sacrifice a little principle in the cause of it. For expediency. Even with the noblest of motives.

I was wrong about going into Iraq, but I think the principle stands. When you have to fight, you have to fight. You can't wince and the blood and pain you may cause because the alternative may be far worse.
And, manifestly, it was.
A few dead sheriff's deputies, local police, civilians, et.al. would have been a smaller price to pay overall than the events that followed. Would 9/11 have even happened? I dunno. Again, can't blame Gore for that, he (and I) are not prescient. But over principle? Yeah, I can put that at his feet.

Same deal here. I know the smart thing. We all know the smart play(s) here. And nearly all of us want the Obama administration to drop their heads and charge full bore into this. Because we can all see the reality, which is that this type of thing is self-perpetuating. Hitler (sneering): "Who remembers the Armenians?" and the Turks are still denying it ever happened.
And yet, we 'know' better. We know it happened. We were not fooled. But the right people weren't pushed to act and maybe we didn't want to sacrifice them. I don't know.
Gore apparently has done a lot of good work (by some accounts). Willing to trade all that, go back to 2000 and force him to sacrifice some people and maybe commit political suicide?
I'm not saying it's an easy call here - but it's one that the majority of people don't want to face to begin with. Perhaps because there's nothing worse than being fooled unless it's being wrong.
Well, I was wrong about Iraq. But I'd still make the call here and go after the Bush administration for this if it makes me bleed like the goalie on a dart team. And anyone else who's collateral. I wouldn't like it, but I'd do it on principle.
Not my call though.
And I can see that it's not smart.
And that I could be wrong.
I still think it's worth trying.
But that's being vs. seeming, ain't it? And all politics is seeming.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:21 PM on March 17, 2009


The Woes of a Torture Lawyer
posted by homunculus at 1:30 PM on March 23, 2009


Rachel Maddow Show - Jon Turley - impassioned case for prosecuting alleged torture
posted by homunculus at 9:11 AM on March 24, 2009


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