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Holding the Cards
July 11, 2009 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Newsweek has "four knowledgable sources" who claim attorney general Eric Holder is considering appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Bush administration interrogation practices. (h/t Glenn Greenwald).
posted by l33tpolicywonk (134 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Surely this...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:14 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


I hope this is true but in my humble opinion "Eric Holder appoints special prosecutor" is news. "Some sources claim Holder may be considering appointing special prosecutor" is very much not news.
posted by Justinian at 3:15 PM on July 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Come on Patrick J. Fitzgerald!
posted by Pants! at 3:15 PM on July 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


From the piece:
Still, Holder couldn't shake what he had learned in reports about the treatment of prisoners at the CIA's "black sites." If the public knew the details, he and his aides figured, there would be a groundswell of support for an independent probe. He raised with his staff the possibility of appointing a prosecutor. According to three sources familiar with the process, they discussed several potential choices and the criteria for such a sensitive investigation. Holder was looking for someone with "gravitas and grit," according to one of these sources, all of whom declined to be named. At one point, an aide joked that Holder might need to clone Patrick Fitzgerald, the hard-charging, independent-minded U.S. attorney who had prosecuted Scooter Libby in the Plamegate affair. In the end, Holder asked for a list of 10 candidates, five from within the Justice Department and five from outside.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:17 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bet he doesn't do it. I got about a total of $3,000 I can access. If you give me 2 to 1 odds I'll shove all my chips in right now.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:17 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am a bit embarrassed for Greenwald. Forwarding articles using anonymous revelations as news after railing against them again and again seems wrong even when it is possibly good news.
posted by srboisvert at 3:20 PM on July 11, 2009


If Mr. Holder does this over the objections of his increasingly spineless boss, I will be very very impressed. Cabinet of rivals, indeed.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:26 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's be real nice if this turns out to be true, but last time I got excited for Fitzmas, I got a Go-Bot instead of a Transformer.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 3:29 PM on July 11, 2009 [28 favorites]


Obama is starting to put himself in war criminal territory by not investigating allegations, which is required by the convention.
posted by dibblda at 3:30 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Reading the profile gives you the sense that Holder got real pissed off when the less-censored torture memos didn't provoke the outrage from the public and from POTUS he thought they should. This strikes me as a guy who's looking for an opportunity to go there.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:31 PM on July 11, 2009


This is torture we're talking about. Torture. What legitimate 'considerations' can there be about whether to prosecute torture?
posted by grounded at 3:40 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hogtie the motherfuckers. Please, oh, please.
posted by ericb at 3:49 PM on July 11, 2009


This is torture we're talking about. Torture. What legitimate 'considerations' can there be about whether to prosecute torture?

Allow me to play devil's advocate for just a moment.

Politically speaking, it is a very, very risky thing for democratic governments to investigate and bring charges against former governments, even when investigations and prosecutions are called for.

This is because the other side (in our case, Republicans suffering from a hysterical victimization complex) and their followers (in our case again, about 48% of the US population) will inevitably see the prosecutions as little more than political show trials.

The Republicans will retaliate by prosecuting every Democratic office-holder in the country with a litany of crimes the next time they control the Justice Department. Eventually, incoming administrations of any political stripe will investigate and prosecute the previous administration as a matter of course.

At that point, our political system would be a larger, more civilized Zimbabwe, wherein each election becomes a mini-coup where the losers can expect to do some serious jail time until the opposition gets voted out, and the cycle begins again.

That being said, yes if there is evidence that laws were broken, then Bush admin officials need to be prosecuted. I'm not saying that we shouldn't. Just that, from DNC perspective, prosecuting the Repubs for their crimes opens up a can of worms that they would rather not open, even if it means sweeping justice under the rug.
posted by Avenger at 4:02 PM on July 11, 2009 [20 favorites]


for the love of god, let SOMEONE have a fucking spine and a set of fucking principles. Please.
posted by scody at 4:03 PM on July 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Avenger, you made my point. What you described doesn't even come close to being legitimate considerations in my book. But that's the failing of the political class -- they think political posturing is more important than accountability or the rule of law.
posted by grounded at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Recall we executed Japanese who waterboarded US soldiers during World War II. Hung 'em.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:10 PM on July 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


The Republicans will retaliate by prosecuting every Democratic office-holder in the country with a litany of crimes the next time they control the Justice Department.

And this will differ from the last time how?
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:12 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


"The Republicans will retaliate by prosecuting every Democratic office-holder in the country with a litany of crimes the next time they control the Justice Department"

You mean like the way the Democrats retaliated against the Republicans after the Clinton impeachment? Republicans will continue to accuse Democrats of being anti-American traitors and terrorists regardless of anything any Democrat does. The best way to dull the GOP noise machine is to give it more grease, in the form of policies and actions they do not want. Investigations are good for this, but prosecutions are better.

We don't need the Bush administration version of Ollie North again.
posted by hexatron at 4:17 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


and their followers (in our case again, about 48% of the US population)

Yeah, you're going to need to cite some recent surveys to back that number up. I do not believe that anywhere near 48% of the country supports Republicans as a party.

At that point, our political system would be a larger, more civilized Zimbabwe, wherein each election becomes a mini-coup where the losers can expect to do some serious jail time until the opposition gets voted out, and the cycle begins again.

That's assuming that no one in the American public will ever exercise any judgment whatsoever. I know it's fun to bash Americans collectively as incurious, self-absorbed, and therefore pretty malleable in terms of opinion (and much of that is true), but we also show good judgment when things are presented clearly, too.

I don't think it's justified to assume that, if a competent, unbiased, and thorough investigation is actually conducted, the outcome will alienate at least half of the country no matter what. An investigation reveals and presents facts clearly (hopefully) and having a lot of this stuff uncovered and discussed directly and publicly would in fact change a lot of minds.

Perhaps it's that I'm an eternal optimist, but I refuse to believe that anything approaching a critical mass of Americans identify themselves in terms of political party, and fewer still possess the blind devotion to that party that those on the fringes demonstrate (however vocally). What I sense is a growing discontent with how all of government is working, at the federal and state levels, and a consistent lowering of collective opinions about those in houses and senates across the country and their ability to solve problems.

Nobody knows how all of this is going to turn out, facts do in fact change minds and feelings, and we're in the middle of a hugely uncertain time in all sorts of ways. To assume that an investigation and prosecution of something as clearly abhorrent as torture would automatically send the U.S. down the path of Zimbabwe is, to me, a little overblown.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:20 PM on July 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Every crime committed by a government official should be investigated and prosecuted to the the fullest extent of the law. Politicians need to understand what the phrase "SACRED TRUST" means. Drunk on power and corruption, they've forgotten to fear the populace. We should not allow them to make that mistake.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:22 PM on July 11, 2009 [12 favorites]


Well, if this is true, you can pretty-much kiss the rest of Obama's first term goodbye. As much as I really, really want Bush, Cheney and Co. to suffer the dark edge of karma, heading down the prosecution path will prove to be the derailment that torpedoes the Obama administration.

From a Machiavellian perspective, this could be just the thing the Republicans need to resurrect the corpse. I can easily see many of them secretly wishing that the Obama administration does head down this path. It's practically manna from heaven.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:23 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, if this is true, you can pretty-much kiss the rest of Obama's first term goodbye.

Also an unwarranted assumption. I think that until the economy (JOBS) improves, that's pretty much going to be most people's biggest worry. Plus, GWB had a 34% approval rating when he left office, second lowest of modern presidents only surpassed by Nixon. What giant chunk of the populace is inclined to hop up and defend him?
posted by LooseFilter at 4:30 PM on July 11, 2009


The Republicans will retaliate by prosecuting every Democratic office-holder in the country with a litany of crimes the next time they control the Justice Department.

I think that Republicans have shown time and time again that they'll do the same shit no matter what the Democrats do. The president and the congressional majority keep trying to work with the Republicans only to get zero co-operation in return. Obama could do nothing or he could prosecute the Bush administration as hard as he can and the Republican reaction would be the same. They've had frothing freakouts everything he's done so far. He might as well just do what's right and ignore the wackos.
posted by octothorpe at 4:32 PM on July 11, 2009 [21 favorites]


The Republicans will retaliate by prosecuting every Democratic office-holder in the country with a litany of crimes the next time they control the Justice Department.

If the Bush Admin is found guilty of war crimes, the Republican party should be completely disbanded and no conservative to the right of Kucinich elected to office higher than nose picker for 75 years.
posted by DU at 4:42 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Put on the ruthlessly pragmatic hat. Don't do it. Don't. You'll derail everything. Health care reform? Buh-bye.

Wait for second term. Then lower the boom.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:44 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I understand the political objections against an investigation. I know that the Republicans are going to spin it hard as a political vendetta, and I realize that this might be a distraction from other things Obama needs to do right now. And having factored all of that in:

I don't give a damn. Our government tortured and killed people who never had the benefit of a lawyer, or even a trial. I don't want to be part of a country that does that, and I sure as hell don't want to be part of a country that brushes it under the carpet for the sake of political expediency. The very least we can do is have an investigation.

Most people don't know what happened. Even we ultra-informed political junkies have no idea how much information hasn't leaked out yet. I believe that if we can shine some light on this and get the details of the beatings, torture and murder in the public view, the Republicans won't be able to spin it to their advantage. There are still enough people in the US who aren't willing for us to become a country of secret dungeons and professional bone-breakers--or won't be willing, when they are forced to deal with the reality of it.

But maybe I'm wrong about that. Maybe most Americans will just shrug their shoulders and move on. Or accuse Obama of treason. And I still don't give a damn. Sometimes you have to do what is just and let the chips fall where they may. God help us if we can't even summon up enough spine to let someone competent go get the facts.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:45 PM on July 11, 2009 [34 favorites]


What giant chunk of the populace is inclined to hop up and defend him?

Did I say anything about the populace? But, since you mention them, as well as jobs...Heading down the prosecutorial road will stalemate Washington. Every grand plan will grind to a halt. Investigation and potential prosecution of the previous administration will suck all other energy and life from Washington. Nothing will get done. And, when nothing gets done, the shit will hit the fan. No jobs will be created. The hoped-for recovery will wither. One has to wonder how such a move will go down on Wall Street as well.

It's not unwarranted speculation. It's speculation based on how shit works these days in Washington.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 PM on July 11, 2009


Yeah, you're going to need to cite some recent surveys to back that number up. I do not believe that anywhere near 48% of the country supports Republicans as a party.

Would the 45 percent that voted for McCain be close enough to convince you?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:47 PM on July 11, 2009


Fuck 'em.
Im tired of the "reaching out" nonsense.
It does not and can not work on the happily deranged.
What we need to do is be as tack-sharp and well-informed as possible and shut them down at every possible venue.
Ostracize them. Publicly. Every time.
Shine the blinding light on their vile, crooked belief system until it creeps back into the shadows where it belongs.

Modern "conservatism" is in no way related to the conservative movement of the past. Sorry you old skool sensible guys, you are simply going to need to pick a new name and a new party. The yahoos HAVE taken over your party. You arent getting it back.

It's time to stop being polite and accommodating to the congnitive-dissobots that we share a country with. This stuff should make you angry. It should make you incensed. It shouldn't make you cry or weep for mankind or any other such prosaic NPR sad-flute nonsense. Get mad, take action. You probably turned the other cheek a bunch from 2001 to 2008. How'd that work out for you? And no, our winning the presidency doesn't count if we don't use it to uphold the basest levels of justice.

No more coddling the Beck'd up idiot friend or the Limbaugh-powered grumpy uncle.
Sharpen your game and debate their idiocy into the sea.


/release valve
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:55 PM on July 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Would the 45 percent that voted for McCain be close enough to convince you?

No, because there were only two viable candidates for office. That 45% of voters (and that's 45% of the 63% of eligible voters who went to the polls) picked the old white dude instead of the young black dude doesn't come close to translating to an assumption that 45% of Americans would support the Republican party, especially in the face of criminal prosecution for torture.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:55 PM on July 11, 2009


Again, let me reiterate that I'm not defending a decision to not prosecute Bush admin officials. I think there is probably enough evidence in the declassified pages of the NYT to put alot of people away for a long time.

What I'm saying is that, from the perspective of Democratic elites, the prospect of a general court-martial of the previous administration is far more dangerous than the idea of letting torturers and murderers go free. That is a problem, no question about it. The question is, how do we go about convincing democratic leaders that justice for suspected terrorists is in their best interests?

To be perfectly honest, running a re-election campaign on "Justice for the Muslims we hurt!" may play well on Metafilter but probably isn't going to fly in Peoria.
posted by Avenger at 4:56 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is also the not-insignificant concern that portraying the Republican party as being Jack-Bauer tough on Muslims and foreigners may actually help them, rather than hurt.
posted by Avenger at 4:58 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I DO NOT see this as a choice between "kill 'em" and "let 'em go free because what they did wasn't all that bad."

More like, it's either "kill 'em now at great loss" or "kill 'em later." Then it's a cost analysis. And the plate is pretty damn full right now.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:58 PM on July 11, 2009


The question is, how do we go about convincing democratic leaders that justice for suspected terrorists is in their best interests?

An outstanding point, but one I sincerely hope is moot. I hope that the real difficulty those in the Obama administration have been wrestling with is:

More like, it's either "kill 'em now at great loss" or "kill 'em later." Then it's a cost analysis. And the plate is pretty damn full right now.

I agree with CPB that, if it's either/or, I'd rather see health care reform now and investigation/possible prosecution later. And I hate that these things do, at this scale, sometimes force cost/benefit analysis, when doing the right thing should be simple and clear.
posted by LooseFilter at 5:10 PM on July 11, 2009


But I should reiterate that I am unconvinced it's either/or.
posted by LooseFilter at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2009


'If you want peace, work for justice'. I think this trumps any concerns over agenda, fallout, etc.
posted by uni verse at 5:16 PM on July 11, 2009


I don't give a damn. Our government tortured and killed people who never had the benefit of a lawyer, or even a trial. I don't want to be part of a country that does that, and I sure as hell don't want to be part of a country that brushes it under the carpet for the sake of political expediency. The very least we can do is have an investigation.

Screw that. If the real goal is to prevent injustices like this by the government, anything that derails the political future of Obama is working against that. If we go after the GOP, they'll become politically relevant again, and we'll hand them the role of victim they have learned to play so very well. Democrats had better play their cards right and keep approval ratings up to ensure the opposition isn't electorally feasible for a long time.

Wait until the second term, or hell, maybe an election season after that. The history will get out - who cares if the actual avatars of corruption (Bush, Cheney, etc.) are actually punished? They aren't going to be in power again. As for the "leaders fearing punishment" theory - there is no way to do that sort of thing without turning in to Zimbabwe.

Politicians are just avatars for interest groups and ideologies.
posted by phrontist at 5:16 PM on July 11, 2009


I am a bit embarrassed for Greenwald. Forwarding articles using anonymous revelations as news after railing against them again and again seems wrong even when it is possibly good news.

That doesn’t really make sense. The fact that someone is leaking this is news: even if there is just as a trial balloon or to boost Holder's numbers with some demographic or whatever. Being opposed to anonymous sources doesn't mean you can't discuss or forward any articles reliant on them, it should only mean you shouldn't do them yourself. Greenwald's response to the Sotomayor article wasn't not talk about it, it was to bash it. And obviously you can't bash something without talking about it.
The Republicans will retaliate by prosecuting every Democratic office-holder in the country with a litany of crimes the next time they control the Justice Department. Eventually, incoming administrations of any political stripe will investigate and prosecute the previous administration as a matter of course.

At that point, our political system would be a larger, more civilized Zimbabwe, wherein each election becomes a mini-coup where the losers can expect to do some serious jail time until the opposition gets voted out, and the cycle begins again.
The solution is to stop breaking the law. Since the judiciary is (theoretically) impartial they can throw out bogus cases. If the cases are legit, then they should be prosecuted and the criminals should be thrown in jail.

That wouldn't turn us into Zimbabwe, it would turn us into a Civilized, Law Abiding society. I don't think anyone could argue that, in terms of our government, we are now.
Well, if this is true, you can pretty-much kiss the rest of Obama's first term goodbye.
What does that even mean? Obviously you don't mean that time will somehow skip forward like an episode of Star Trek, so what are you talking about? The democrats have 60 senators and control the house. They can pass whatever they want without a single republican vote.

And not only that, republicans are already withholding all their votes. So what exactly do you think they're going to start doing that they're not doing already? I'm honestly curious what you're talking about. I hear this vague argument all the time, but no details about how it would actually happen are actually proffered. Indeed, people making the argument don't even seem to understand how the government actually works.

Would the 45 percent that voted for McCain be close enough to convince you?

You mean the one republican who was (at least nominally) opposed to torture?
More like, it's either "kill 'em now at great loss" or "kill 'em later." Then it's a cost analysis. And the plate is pretty damn full right now.
I don't mind the "let 'em sweat" attitude. But how long do you think Cheney is going to be alive? But the whole "political capital" argument is just tired. Political capital isn't like some fuel that you burn and then it's gone. It's just a metaphor, and like I said, the republicans are lock-step opposed to Obama right now, so what is it you think they could start doing that they're not doing now?
posted by delmoi at 5:19 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


At that point, our political system would be a larger, more civilized Zimbabwe, wherein each election becomes a mini-coup where the losers can expect to do some serious jail time until the opposition gets voted out, and the cycle begins again.

You're going to need a complicit courts system to get away with that, and that's one thing you don't fully have yet.

In fact, rather than giving you Zimbabwe, a tradition of prosecuting your politicians for breaking the law might end up giving you politicians that don't break the law. Which might be worth the risk, no?
posted by fightorflight at 5:21 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease
posted by kldickson at 5:22 PM on July 11, 2009


We don't need the Bush administration version of Ollie North again.

No, we sure as hell don't. Remember Ollie North? We had him bang to fuckin' rights. He was guilty. Guilty as fuckin' sin. He was even found guilty in a court of law.

So how did that play out? Well, the sentence was vacated (partially--how's this for irony--the work of the ACLU). Ollie North became--and remains--a hero to the right, and nobody ever, EVER mentions Iran-Contra when they talk about Saint Ronnie and how he singlehandedly brought morality back to Washington and ended the Cold War.

Putting people on trial isn't the same thing as getting them convicted, getting the convictions to stick on appeal (and appeal, and appeal, and appeal--how do any of you think the Supreme Court is going to vote on this stuff?), and getting society at large to agree that impartial justice has been done.

If Holder does go down this road I won't be able to say that he's definitely doing the wrong thing. He'll certainly have justice on his side. But there's every probability that the consequences will be the ruin of the Obama presidency, a Republican president in 2012, the immediate end to the trials, and widely accepted narrative that will put far more stress on Democratic party "vendettas" than Bush administration "crimes."
posted by yoink at 5:24 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


All of these posts and not a single mention of the current media environment and what it'll likely do with this? I'm (sincerely) surprised no one's brought it up.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:27 PM on July 11, 2009


(excepting what I presume to be an implicit part of yoink's more explicit observations)
posted by joe lisboa at 5:32 PM on July 11, 2009


This has to come from the bottom up. People should be picketing in Washington, in front of the White House, demanding investigations. Pick two weekends a month and make it "We Demand Investigations" Protest Weekends®, one week it's in DC, in fronts of the White House. Other weekend it's in various cities across the nation.

Many have demanded that Obama do this or that, with the attitude that he can essentially snap his fingers and get stuff. Coming on the heels of such a massive campaign to get him elected, that's silly. Getting him in office was the first step, perhaps the easiest one. We still have to push, if we want things done. We have not arrived, we've just managed to get our car in the parking lot. There's more work to be done.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:32 PM on July 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


We're forgetting that part of being the President (or any other elected office holder) is supposed to be doing the right thing, regardless of the political consequences.

Bring up charges as they are warranted. Try them and let justice play out. Don't worry about some future Ollie North character. Remember, hand in hand with the Ollie North style resurgence of the GOP is their trend toward the ridiculous. The more they unflappingly support "their guy right or wrong", the sillier they look. It will be purifying for everyone involved.
posted by gjc at 5:33 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


My secret hope is that this is a trial balloon. Why this article, now? I like to read this in the context of Cheney. Cheney going on the offensive a few months ago, speaking out strongly in defense of his administration's torture policy. Because he smelled the fire being lit under his torturing ass and tried to run ahead of it. Then more info leaks out, including the news that Kaleid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded hundreds of times. But not much outrage, and now Holder isn't sure he's got the popular support he's going to need and so he goes to Newsweek to write this story. And the case keeps building, and yesterday the news gets out that the CIA lied to Congress about other stuff, concealed it, and now Cheney is being isolated and linked to this mysterious new revelation. And it may not be directly torture related, but you can bet it's evil and Cheney is involved.

I'd love think this overarching narrative is happening and that it leads to us finally investigating our war crimes. And cleansing the stain of being a nation of torturers. I'd love to believe it's this neat and simple and leading to justice. It probably isn't.
posted by Nelson at 5:35 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


From a Machiavellian perspective, this could be just the thing the Republicans need to resurrect the corpse. I can easily see many of them secretly wishing that the Obama administration does head down this path. It's practically manna from heaven.

This is why we need President Obama to release all the information to the public for everyone to see and decide on its own merits.

Everything.

That means all the video, audio and image footage of our government officials torturing human beings under the direct instruction of our former commander-in-chief and his accomplices.

If a majority of Americans are for torturing people, then you're correct and this will reinvigorate the Republican Party, and we'll have 4, 8 or more, indefinite years of Republican gangsters running our government.

Then we'll know for certain that the United States as an experiment has failed. So be it. At least we know our country is evil, we'll know where it stands. Those of us who have had enough can leave with a clean conscience, knowing we did what we could to fix things.

If, hopefully, a majority of Americans turn away from our previous actions in disgust, if not abject horror, then Obama can't suffer too much political damage. If anything, a truth and reconciliation committee would help us come to grips with our country's criminal past and we can all move on, we can finally rebuild our economy, our health care system, and our civil rights that Republicans have worked so hard to destroy these last 30 years.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:36 PM on July 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher is right, by the way, that the only way this works is if it's clear that the Obama administration is responding to a vast outcry for justice on the part of huge swaths of the American People. If it looks like all the impetus is coming from Greenwald readers (and Metafilter posters) and the great bulk of the American people just don't care, then it's political suicide to go down this road. It will simply be the greatest gift to Fox News imaginable.

If there are 500,000 strong marches on Washington, however, that changes the political equation enormously.
posted by yoink at 5:41 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


where the losers can expect to do some serious jail time

There is a cure for that.

Open and honest government.
Non corrupt courts.
Functioning juries.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:56 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This isn't going to happen. But something else is on the horizon. Relatively soon.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:04 PM on July 11, 2009


Grand Juries are typically supposed to look into crimes of the elected officials.

Why are not citizens taking what HAS been leaked to their local Grand Juries if they are so offended with what was done?

Well? What's stopping you?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:05 PM on July 11, 2009


Holder isn't sure he's got the popular support he's going to need

So why doesn't Holder remind the citizens about how they can take the local evidence to the county grand jury? Would not the 100's of counties all requesting evidence be 'proof' enough of support? Would not some counties someplace taking the matter into their court allow Holder and company deniability?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:09 PM on July 11, 2009


Well? What's stopping you?
Presumably, no one has given Dick Cheney a Ham Sandwich.
posted by Richard Daly at 6:13 PM on July 11, 2009


If there are 500,000 strong marches on Washington, however, that changes the political equation enormously.

B-b-b-but I made a snarky comment on Metafilter from the comfort of my cubicle -- surely that discharges my civic duty and offsets political reality?!
posted by joe lisboa at 6:17 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Screw that. If the real goal is to prevent injustices like this by the government, anything that derails the political future of Obama is working against that.
That's completely idiotic. You're basically arguing that the only way to prevent government criminality is for the government to engage in crimes and cover-ups so that "the other side" doesn't win elections. And furthermore, you seem to think that someone who has said that the government has the right to detain people without trial, or even if they are acquitted is an opponent of injustice. If Obama isn't saying he's going to fight injustice, and if he's not doing anything about injustice that exists and that he's responsible for, why should we think he is going to?. It's just an idiotic sentiment.

there is no way to do that sort of thing without turning in to Zimbabwe.

Bullshit. No one is being punished for anything in Zimbabwe. Are you saying that Mugabe shouldn't be punished for what he's been doing there? How does that comparison even begin to make sense?

The third world shitholes are the places where leaders are not punished for crimes they commit. The nice countries are the ones where they are.
If there are 500,000 strong marches on Washington, however, that changes the political equation enormously.
Right, because politics is just like trigonometry. You've just got to know the equations and you can predict the future!
posted by delmoi at 6:17 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


We fucked up bad- epically bad as a country when Ford pardoned Nixon. He set the standard: no consequences.

What we need is a political class that is scared to death to pull this shit, one that knows good and goddamn well that their position and political power won't save them from the consequences of their actions. As long as people are concerned with not alienating the fucking jackasses who'd vote Republican even if the Democrats abolished all taxes and instituted a policy of genocide against homosexuals, this kind of shit will continue, and politicians will not be fearful.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:21 PM on July 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Wait for second term.

What second term?

Speaking as an independent who voted for Obama in the (very close Texas) primary:

The only thing more disgusting than the Republican leaders' policy of "torture is great!" is Obama's policy of "torture is awful when I'm a candidate talking about it, but not a problem when I have the chance to do anything about it". "Change" worked as a campaign slogan when it was still plausible that change was actually going to occur. For me that plausibility ended when Obama's promise to filibuster telecom immunity turned out to be a lie. Others (53% of the electorate, anyway) might be willing to suspend disbelief for longer, but nobody can ignore lies forever. If America is given the chance to vote in 2012 for a Republican who supports violations of the Bill of Rights and can give impassioned arguments as to why, and the only alternative is a Democrat who effectively supports those same violations but whose speeches undermine his own actions, don't be too confident that the Democrat will be reelected. Americans want to be lead by leaders, not by reluctant followers.

One might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, right? If we're going to be supporting Republican policies no matter what we do (and don't kid yourselves, allowing war criminals to get away with murder counts as "support") then we might as well vote for the Republicans who believe in them.

Obama's got 3 years. If he can't at least start moving everything in the right direction in that time, he shouldn't count on the subsequent 4.
posted by roystgnr at 6:22 PM on July 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


Right, because politics is just like trigonometry. You've just got to know the equations and you can predict the future!

That's the weirdest piece of complete point-missing I've ever seen.
posted by yoink at 6:24 PM on July 11, 2009


Many have demanded that Obama do this or that, with the attitude that he can essentially snap his fingers and get stuff.

This is strawman nonsense. Obama hasn't just been avoiding opportunities to "get stuff", he has been actively working to prevent justice. If he'd merely stopped actively working to support Bush policies, I think everyone here would have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on how long it takes to reverse them.
posted by roystgnr at 6:27 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


If America is given the chance to vote in 2012 for a Republican who supports violations of the Bill of Rights and can give impassioned arguments as to why..

Oh yeah, that'll happen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:36 PM on July 11, 2009


Hey, has the government clapped itself in chains and sent itself off to jail yet? I've been waiting for a long time.

How much longer do you think it'll be?
posted by Maximian at 6:41 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


But in late June Holder asked an aide for a copy of the CIA inspector general's thick classified report on interrogation abuses. He cleared his schedule and, over two days, holed up alone in his Justice Depart ment office, immersed himself in what Dick Cheney once referred to as "the dark side." He read the report twice, the first time as a lawyer, looking for evidence and instances of transgressions that might call for prosecution. The second time, he started to absorb what he was reading at a more emotional level. He was "shocked and saddened," he told a friend, by what government servants were alleged to have done in America's name. When he was done he stood at his window for a long time, staring at Constitution Avenue.


I'm starting to like this Eric Holder fellow.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:54 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


...Bet he doesn't do it. I got about a total of $3,000 I can access. If you give me 2 to 1 odds I'll shove all my chips in right now.

...My secret hope is that this is a trial balloon. Why this article, now? I like to read this in the context of Cheney.

Now, "sources" are saying that Cheney gave the order to keep Congress in the dark about so-called .

It looks very much to me like there is actually a campaign to agitate and raise awareness in advance of an investigation. But I've been let down enough times in this very short administration to know better than to get my hopes up.
posted by univac at 7:01 PM on July 11, 2009


Politically speaking, it is a very, very risky thing for democratic governments to investigate and bring charges against former governments, even when investigations and prosecutions are called for.

Really?
posted by oaf at 7:05 PM on July 11, 2009


What second term?

What he said.

THE primary job of the executive is to enforce the laws. If Obama refuses to do so, the right answer is to throw his ass out of office and keep doing that until we get a president who enforces the laws.

Or we can keep on glossing over the crimes of the executive.

See, your little plan worked so well after Nixon and Reagan. Thank god *none* of those bastards was ever allowed to work in the executive again. Could you imagine what would happen if they'd let Rumsfield, or Saxbe, or jesus fucking god, Cheney, back into the executive office building?

Wait, what?

We let Nixon walk, and look what happened -- they all came back and fucked us in Reagan/Bush
We let Reagan/Bush walk, and look what happened -- they all came back and fucked us in Bush II.

And you are now advocating we wait to prosecute them now?

How many more crimes must we let them commit? How many more have to die before you realize that the right answer is to nail these people to the tree, set fire to the tree, douse the tree with about eight billion gallons of gas, then take off and nuke the site from orbit?

Because, otherwise? They will be back in 2012-16. They will do this again. They know they can, because you *keep letting them.*
posted by eriko at 7:09 PM on July 11, 2009 [20 favorites]



Most people don't know what happened. Even we ultra-informed political junkies have no idea how much information hasn't leaked out yet. I believe that if we can shine some light on this and get the details of the beatings, torture and murder in the public view, the Republicans won't be able to spin it to their advantage. There are still enough people in the US who aren't willing for us to become a country of secret dungeons and professional bone-breakers--or won't be willing, when they are forced to deal with the reality of it...

posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:45 PM on July 11 [11 favorites +] [!]

I wish I agreed with you Pater, but I think there were a lot of people who didn't much care when all those photos from Guantanamo surfaced. I cared, and I know a lot of us did (and are still filled with rage), but so many Americans figure that they're just "terrorists," and deserved it.
posted by diocletian at 7:13 PM on July 11, 2009


This isn't going to happen. But something else is on the horizon. Relatively soon.
posted by Ironmouth


/picks up Ironmouth, shakes him, turns him over and reads result: "Ask again later."
posted by rokusan at 7:24 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This isn't going to happen. But something else is on the horizon. Relatively soon.

Yep, I can play this too.

A famous person is going to die. Relatively soon. Something is also going to happen which affects the economy. Relatively soon! This is fun!
posted by Justinian at 7:27 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This isn't going to happen. But something else is on the horizon. Relatively soon.

Perhaps Ironmouth has some very serious intelligence. The kind that deserves very serious debate. But apparently he doesn't feel like sharing with the class.
posted by delmoi at 7:33 PM on July 11, 2009


Jesus, some of you are such pansies. You overthink everything, echoing the inside-the-Beltway bullshit excuse for political "wisdom" about retaliation and political expediency and so-called realities, blah blah blah.

Dudes, dudes, dudes- just shut the fuck up. Okay? Bad things were done. Crimes were committed- important, Constitution-violating, horrific-precedent setting reinforcing crimes, by the highest level of the Executive branch. If you don't prosecute this swiftly, strongly, and fairly then what the fuck is the point of having a government anymore?

This shit isn't rocket surgery, but like every other bunch of dumb-as-rocks overthinking twatwafflers, you brickheads are making something very simple sound like it's some complicated multi-faceted game into which you of course have some jaded, seen-it-all wisdom and insight. Bullshit. The smartest people recognize the simple out of the complex- and this is simple. Crimes were committed, crimes that in spirit and letter are bad for our country, and must be prosecuted. What more is there to say?! Why wait? The Attorney General for one is not involved with healthcare reform, and it's a false dichotomy to suggest that prosecuting this will prevent or even delay the other goals of the Obama administration. The Republicans don't have leverage: they've already stymied where they can, they lack even filibuster power in the Senate, and the idea that prosecuting real crimes would derail the administration is moronic.

And quite frankly, it sounds like smart-guy Obama is pretty dumb where it counts as well- or just corrupt and/or useless. Maybe the Republican talking heads were right: maybe he really is just a celebrity president, all talk and show and image, but no substance, no meaning.
posted by hincandenza at 7:38 PM on July 11, 2009 [20 favorites]


There is no cabal.
posted by cavalier at 7:44 PM on July 11, 2009


What second term?

Looking forward to seeing how you all vote in 2012.

Flop the party references, and you end up with this, from the movie Nixon.

JACK
Now, Dick ... Mr. President ... aren't you forgetting who put you where you are?

NIXON
The American people put me where I am, Jack.

JACK
Really? Well, that can be changed. In a heartbeat.

NIXON
Jack, I've learned politics is the art of compromise. I learned it the hard way. I don't know if you have. Well, let me tell you this, Jack. If you don't like it, there's an election in November. And you can take your money out in the open and give it to Wallace. How about it, Jack? Willing to do that? Hand this country over to some pansy poet socialist like George McGovern?

JACK
Goddamn, Dick. You're not threatening me, are ya?

NIXON
Presidents don't threaten, Jack. They don't have to.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:53 PM on July 11, 2009


Ah, to be like hincandenza: either born before Watergate and/or Iran-Contra or to be "politically" born after said dates. Either way, your innocence is worth what it cost: nothing.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:58 PM on July 11, 2009


My innocence is worth your world-weary realpolitik. They both accomplish zilch, apparently. My "innocence" is no less likely to result in criminals facing the music than your cosmopolitan experience, bucko.
posted by hincandenza at 8:04 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


My "innocence" is no less likely to result in criminals facing the music than your cosmopolitan experience, bucko.

Except, I agree with this statement. Which leaves what, exactly, for you to feel superior about?
posted by joe lisboa at 8:11 PM on July 11, 2009


I understand the argument that the Obama administration doesn't want prosecutions to suck all the air out of Washington at a time when he's trying to pass a major reform of health care, among other worthwhile initiatives. But I don't understand why prosecutions aren't a golden opportunity to do so: If the media is all-prosecutions-all-day, it sounds like a golden opportunity to for the Democrats to pass the bills they want to without fighting weird pitched battles in the media. They wouldn't have to counter bogus Sunday talk show talking points if the Sunday talk shows are all about war crimes. And while the Republican base will be predictably energized by attacks on the mothership, the constant background noise for the undecided center that swung decidedly behind Obama will be the ongoing perfidy of Republicans while they were in power. Congressional Rebublicans can be trapped in "what did they know and when did they know it?" questions; they can spend their time trotting out 9/11 and scary Muslims at a time when the electorate has soured on the worn-out GWOT cliches. And now and then, the news that Democrats passed another major bill that fixes the problems of the Bush Administration. Politically, it doesn't seem like a bad play.

Imagine the frustration of conservative lobbyists and media figures trying to rile the base against health care reform, only to find that everyone just wants to talk about prosecutions.

I'm still in favor of truth commissions because I honestly don't believe that prosecutions will be effective--bit players will go to jail, but Cheney won't. But I'm no longer convinced that they're politically disastrous for Obama.

On the other hand, even if only bit players go to jail, that's not necessarily a bad thing--perhaps the next time a president orders torture, the bit players will think twice about carrying out his orders.
posted by fatbird at 8:19 PM on July 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


Except, I agree with this statement. Which leaves what, exactly, for you to feel superior about?

...

Ah, that's what I thought.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:19 PM on July 11, 2009


If you do not prosecute war crimes, you are guilty of war crimes. This is not just morality, it's the law of the land.

All of you who feel that the literal murderers should be allowed to get away with it are craven cowards; you share the responsibility for the countless deaths.

Nixon; Reagan; Bush II; each criminal upped the stakes; each committed worse crimes; each of them got away with it. The lesson is clear, you can do whatever you like in the office of President and get away with it.

If we do not wish the United States of America to continue committing war crimes, the only way is to enforce the law. As long as these psychopaths are aware that they can do anything they want with no consequences whatsoever, they will continue to do so. The next time will be worse, in the same way that Bush II was worse than Reagan.

If a psychopath killed a single child, you'd be screaming for his head. A psychopathic President committed war crimes that were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands - and it's too inconvenient for you to prosecute him.

My contempt for you is inexpressible. I wonder how you can look yourselves in the mirror.

[Not referring to the other people here who also support prosecution, of course...]
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:25 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


hincandenza: i'm unilaterally stopping this faux-feud now, if you don't mind. I have to assume we're on the same side here and that I opted to vent in a counter-productive manner. I'll just say I wish we lived in a world wherein what you counsel was possible, because FSM knows I'd be first in line. It's a tough lesson to learn, but I'm beginning to see the merits of avoiding circular firing squads wherever possible. I'm sorry, sir/ma'am. Let's try this again.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:26 PM on July 11, 2009


Investigate and prosecute.
posted by Xoebe at 8:27 PM on July 11, 2009


Plus, GWB had a 34% approval rating when he left office, second lowest of modern presidents only surpassed by Nixon. What giant chunk of the populace is inclined to hop up and defend him?

I dimly recall James Carville, years ago, saying "when you see your opponent drowning, throw the son of a bitch an anchor". Where's that voice now when we need it?
posted by gimonca at 8:33 PM on July 11, 2009


Oh, and I think that successfully prosecuting war crimes, and financial crimes, would completely guarantee Obama a second term. Americans love winners, they love leaders who crush their enemies.

On the other hand, the spineless kowtowing to the Republicans and the rich, and the backstabbing of his supporters and of the vast majority of Americans that is the hallmark of Obama's term so far is going to pretty well guarantee Obama a defeat in 2012.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:34 PM on July 11, 2009


They want power because they get a fatter paycheck.
posted by kldickson at 8:48 PM on July 11, 2009


If a majority of Americans are for torturing people, then you're correct and this will reinvigorate the Republican Party, and we'll have 4, 8 or more, indefinite years of Republican gangsters running our government.

Then we'll know for certain that the United States as an experiment has failed. So be it. At least we know our country is evil, we'll know where it stands. Those of us who have had enough can leave with a clean conscience, knowing we did what we could to fix things.


If I'd read this before Bush was elected a second time, I would agree completely.

I cared, and I know a lot of us did (and are still filled with rage), but so many Americans figure that they're just "terrorists," and deserved it.

The U.S. seems more and more to me like an individual with a split personality, writ large. For the sake of some national healing, as well as restoration of global reputation, these investigations desperately need to go forward, and the results made public. I agree with lupus_yonderboy that it might even go well.

A lot of that would depend on your attitude as a nation going into such investigations - if it's taken as simply Vietnam 2: Feel Bad About Yourself, people will get their backs up and resist the whole thing. The core reasons for these crimes have to be examined for such investigations to have lasting value beyond simple arrests and verdicts.

Naysayers remind me of someone who doesn't want to tear off a band-aid because they're afraid it's really going to hurt.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:11 PM on July 11, 2009


This whole situation is a case of Sorkin-ism. Let me illustrate:
People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand. -- The American President
If the Republicans are the only ones out there doing the shouting, which they generally are, then progressive politicians will always be the bad guys. No matter what atrocities the conservatives commit.

What I'm saying is that hincandenza is totally, one hundred percent right. President Obama is yet another American president who -- if he stays his course for the next three years -- could plausibly say, "I was too busy keeping my job to do my job."

The crimes of the Bush II era were historic. They were shocking. They will probably continue to shock us as we learn new details. And America deserves to know. They deserve to know, and they deserve to act accordingly.

The attorney general is not some political puppet who only investigates things that won't explode in his face. His job is pretty clear-cut here, and I would be very disappointed if Holder did not appoint a special prosecutor -- and soon.

And yet again I'm glad for checks and balances, if they work as they are designed to. Because Holder is supposed to be above the partisan politics that obsess everyone else in Washington, he should be made of strong enough stuff that he can say, "We don't have a choice. Laws were broken, and we have to ensure these crimes don't go unpunished."
posted by brina at 9:15 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I dimly recall James Carville, years ago, saying "when you see your opponent drowning, throw the son of a bitch an anchor". Where's that voice now when we need it?

At the moment, that voice's owner is probably in bed (literally, it's late back east) with his wife, former Cheney advisor and White House Iraq Group member Mary Matalin. This is pretty much why I'm a Green Party member.
posted by the_bone at 9:16 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Touché!
posted by gimonca at 9:21 PM on July 11, 2009


I know that this may appear very naive, and perhaps ignorant, and certainly unpopular, but I am going to trust President Obama's judgment on this one.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:44 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


But can't you he's bad for the country?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:01 PM on July 11, 2009


The history will get out - who cares if the actual avatars of corruption (Bush, Cheney, etc.) are actually punished? They aren't going to be in power again. As for the "leaders fearing punishment" theory - there is no way to do that sort of thing without turning in to Zimbabwe.

First of all, several of the key architects of the Bush administration policies were in Nixon's administration, and he resigned lest he face impeachment. So, did they go away forever? Apparently not. Although Nixon didn't go to prison, some of his cronies did. So, did we turn into Zimbabwe as a result of the prosecution of Spiro Agnew? Apparently not.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:23 PM on July 11, 2009


I know that this may appear very naive, and perhaps ignorant, and certainly unpopular, but I am going to trust President Obama's judgment on this one.

Naïve, ignorant, and irresponsible. Obama's shown zero signs of having respect for the rule of law; he's allowed Wall Street take take trillions out of the Treasury without any conditions and without a single person being charged (while simultaneously screwing over retired auto workers); he's backing "indefinite preventative detainment" and the torture camps (he doesn't want the CIA "looking over their shoulder").

Have you no moral compass that allows you to make such decisions yourself?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:29 PM on July 11, 2009


Putting people on trial isn't the same thing as getting them convicted

Ollie North was convicted. The charges were later vacated, with the ACLU working on his side.

Anyway, North's conviction was a lot like G Gordon Liddy's. Both were scapegoats, and going after the scapegoats is easy but not very effective. He's only a minor figure to the Republicans, and he only appeals to the hardcore base. They never trot out Ollie North or Liddy when they're trying to win national campaigns, though they both have jobs as propagandists now.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:36 PM on July 11, 2009


The third world shitholes are the places where leaders are not punished for crimes they commit. The nice countries are the ones where they are.

We like to think so, but no.

But we should always be working towards the ideal.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:45 PM on July 11, 2009


when he's trying to pass a major reform of health care,

Reform?

The system now:
layers of government rules for the health care providers coming from the fed/state/local level.
the various paper pushers at the hospital and insurance firms.
Doctors who fear the lawsuits so they are willing to send you for expensive tests
Hospitals who buy really expensive test gear that has to be paid for so therefore you are sent to the test eq so it gets used and thus paid for
money spent by the bucketloads at end of life

VS
layers of government rules for the health care providers coming from the fed/state/local level.
the various paper pushers at the hospital and insurance firms.
Doctors who fear the lawsuits so they are willing to send you for expensive tests
Hospitals who buy really expensive test gear that has to be paid for so therefore you are sent to the test eq so it gets used and thus paid for
money spent by the bucketloads at end of life
Mandatory insurance + new levels of paper pushing

Exactly HOW is the new idea 'reform'?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:18 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The U.S. seems more and more to me like an individual with a split personality, writ large. For the sake of some national healing, as well as restoration of global reputation, these investigations desperately need to go forward, and the results made public. I agree with lupus_yonderboy that it might even go well.

As long as we are dreaming - why not a truth commission?

EVERYONE can get a pardon for whatever they have done that they have not been charged for. Ya all got 14 days to confess in full to the "truth and stay outta jail free" commission. All confessions will be made public at "realchange?.gov"'

posted by rough ashlar at 5:24 AM on July 12, 2009


Holder should go forward with investigations - but make the committee one with a bunch of decent republican politicians headed by John McCain.
posted by jb at 5:49 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


this isn't and shouldn't be up to president obama - or congress for that matter - this is the justice system's job and it needs to be done without obama or congress being seen as the principal motivators - the republicans have already politicized this - if the democrats follow suit then no matter what the outcome, it will have been by a government of people, not laws, and that's a bad thing

prosecutors and our court system must perform any investigation into this - many of the comments here are a reflection of the political corruption that our justice system is falling prey to - so far, the republicans are mostly responsible for that, but i see a real danger that the democrats could join in

no, let them conduct the nation's business, and let the justice system conduct the nation's prosecutions

that is why we have a three-fold division of power in our government

by the way, that's a genuinely conservative argument, not a faux news kind of one

one more thing - i'm not saying this should be done - but there's a 3rd option on the table and it's called pardoning people - it's clearly within the president's power to do and there are three positive aspects to this

1 - anyone brought before a truth and reconciliation commission would not be able to take the 5th

2 - no one pardoned by obama will ever be able to convincingly claim they were innocent, and the public perception will be, for the most part, that they had to have done something wrong, otherwise they wouldn't have been pardoned for it

3 - no one pardoned by obama will ever be able to convincingly claim that the justice system is politically persecuting them

still, i don't know that those three factors would outweigh the negatives - and i don't know how to weigh the idea that passing on the responsibility to a foreign court system might be a way of doing it
posted by pyramid termite at 5:57 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of the truly bizarre things about this conversation is the utter certainty of most of the people here that convictions could be won and made to stick. A DA shouldn't take a case to trial unless they think they've got a reasonable chance of winning that case. This isn't simply because it's a waste of the people's resources to prosecute hopeless cases, it's also because it actually undermines the rule of law if you start to make prosecution look like a crap-shoot ("hey, let's just prosecute everyone and see what sticks!").

If you think that future Bushes and Cheneys are going to be encouraged by seeing that nobody got sent to jail this time around, think how much more those future Bushes and Cheneys will be encouraged by seeing a bunch of people taken to court and not getting convicted.

Holder has a decent chance, I would guess, of getting convictions for the people who actually committed acts of torture (and it could well be worth getting those convictions). He has almost zero chance of getting a conviction of the lawyers who authorized those acts. He has no chance at all--none, nada, zilch--of getting a conviction of the politicians who sought the authorizations. I know many of you are getting all moist at the idea of putting Bush and Cheney on trial (someone upthread wrote "A psychopathic President committed war crimes that were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands"; the "thought" being, apparently, that Holder is going to prosecute Bush for choosing to invade Iraq!) I don't imagine that Holder has ever even given a passing thought to the idea.

As I say, there may be some value in prosecuting a few CIA agents. It's conceivable that in similar circumstances in the future that might make other agents more likely to refuse to carry out illegal orders. I think there would be far more value in a "truth commission" that traded immunity from prosecution for those agents' testimony. If a handful of CIA agents go to jail for following illegal orders, but the issuers of those orders remain untouched, it allows the real villains of the piece to blame "bad apples" for being "overzealous" in interrogations.
posted by yoink at 8:02 AM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


...how much more those future Bushes and Cheneys will be encouraged by seeing a bunch of people taken to court and not getting convicted...

Because going to trial and not being found guilty is so much more fun than not being arrested, indicted, and tried in the first place!
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:04 AM on July 12, 2009


What I don't understand is why Obama is spineless, incompetent, criminal, when the people he chose and hired are obviously moving in the right direction? Is no one going to be happy with him until there are super-cute photos of Obama personally kicking Cheney's ass?
posted by kathrineg at 10:28 AM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Admittedly, that would brighten my day life.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have you no moral compass that allows you to make such decisions yourself?

None, lupus_yonderboy. None at all. I let the Obama administration make all of my moral decisions. Also, I eat babies.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:36 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


If we don't prosecute anyone for torturing prisoners and if we detain people indefinitely without trial, what is the basis for the rule of law in America? Can the government do these things in our name, and what's to stop future government officials from doing them, if the precedent is set and no one is held accountable? Have the terrorists won?

If you torture a person, s/he will tell you anything you want to hear. Things like, Al Qaeda cooperated with Saddam Hussein, which might help justify the invasion of Iraq. If a future administration wants to invade a country, perhaps we can detain and torture more people to produce "intelligence" supporting the rush to war.
posted by citron at 2:19 PM on July 12, 2009


Is no one going to be happy with him until there are super-cute photos of Obama personally kicking Cheney's ass?

Criticizing Obama on one side of a given issue - though I don't agree that prosecuting people for torture is a left-right issue - gives him more space to move in that direction. If the people who think torturing prisoners (I guess they call it "enhanced interrogation techniques" to gloss it over, right) are the only ones involved in the public debate, it's going to seem that the entire spectrum of thought on the issue of torture ranges from "let's sweep this under the rug" to "Jack Bauer f*** yeah!"

Good grief I don't know why anyone should ever just be happy with what any political leader in this country is doing.. This is how democracy works.
posted by citron at 2:24 PM on July 12, 2009


Because going to trial and not being found guilty is so much more fun than not being arrested, indicted, and tried in the first place!

No, because then there'll be a nice, clear legal precedent that will make it quite certain that no one will ever bother trying to bring them to justice if they repeat those actions.

Seriously, if the reason you want to see Bush and Cheney brought to trial is simply because it'll be temporarily unpleasant for them to go through the process, then you're not approaching this with the slightest degree of moral seriousness.
posted by yoink at 2:44 PM on July 12, 2009


Is no one going to be happy with him until there are super-cute photos of Obama personally kicking Cheney's ass?

The photos don't necessarily have to be cute.
posted by the_bone at 3:34 PM on July 12, 2009


I wouldn't start with the war crimes. I'd go after Cheney for telling the CIA to lie to congress. Cheney's is even less popular than Bush. Everyone assumes that he's guilty of something and there's probably plenty of evidence of that particular crime. I don't know if the American people care very much about the rule of law but I do know that they don't care at all about suspected terrorists being tortured or killed.
posted by rdr at 3:41 PM on July 12, 2009


you're not approaching this with the slightest degree of moral seriousness.

Well, one might say the same of someone who proposes to not even prosecute because they might not get convicted.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:53 PM on July 12, 2009


Well, one might say the same of someone who proposes to not even prosecute because they might not get convicted.

Not "might not," "would not." If you disagree, name an actual crime (note, technically, "I really really really really hate them" isn't a crime) that you think Bush or Cheney would be convicted of in a US court. If you'd cite the relevant statute, that would be a big help.
posted by yoink at 3:57 PM on July 12, 2009


Have you no moral compass that allows you to make such decisions yourself?

None, lupus_yonderboy. None at all. I let the Obama administration make all of my moral decisions. Also, I eat babies.


Ha, ha. But that's what you claimed seriously before - that you simply trusted Obama's judgement, the end.

It appalls me that all my friends who voted for Obama have simply entirely checked out from politics - that they all say, "I'm sure Obama is doing the right thing, even though I don't pay any attention to the news any more."

Have you not noticed that he's turned 180 degrees on nearly every issue of importance since he was elected?

Have you learned nothing from being fucked over by every President for the last 30 years or so?

It is your responsibility as a member of the body politic to be an informed critic of the government.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:46 PM on July 12, 2009


Have you not noticed that he's turned 180 degrees on nearly every issue of importance since he was elected?

List all examples please, with links to his before and after stances.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:48 PM on July 12, 2009


Have you not noticed that he's turned 180 degrees on nearly every issue of importance since he was elected?

I stand with Brandon Blatcher. Can you please give us examples to support your contention?
posted by ericb at 5:35 PM on July 12, 2009


It is your responsibility as a member of the body politic to be an informed critic of the government.

Mr. Spock, set irony deflector arrary to "Illogically high."
posted by yoink at 5:37 PM on July 12, 2009


Well, here's a quick list of issues he's turned around on since I became aware of him....

Single payer health care.
Guantanamo Bay (unless you believe that he promised us "indefinitely preventative detainment")
All the promises about "people over big business".
The rule of law.
Government spying on the people.

Frankly, I'm hard-pressed to name any issue that he hasn't turned around on, except Afghanistan (and it sounded a lot better when he was running, before we discovered he committed us to war till at least 2019) and global warming (where you will note that he has done nothing so far except promise that the US will do something in the fairly distant future - mostly after he has left office...)

I was a huge supporter of his when he ran. I realize that the so-called left in America was left with absolutely nothing within a few months of the election.

Let's reverse the question: what has he delivered to us?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:57 PM on July 12, 2009


Well, here's a quick list of issues he's turned around on since I became aware of him....

How about those links?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:17 PM on July 12, 2009


Well, here's a quick list of issues he's turned around on since I became aware of him....

i think you were hearing what you wanted to hear, not what he said
posted by pyramid termite at 6:47 PM on July 12, 2009


Let's reverse the question: what has he delivered to us?

just off the top of my head, a major stimulus plan and a smooth processing of gm and chrysler's bankruptcy - he may have also stopped or at least slowed the slide of the economy downwards - oh, and our troops are now out of urban areas in iraq

he has also attempted dialogue with iran - and he's significantly reduced tensions with russia and several latin american countries

he also is working on more stuff with congress

he has also refrained from doing anything mind-numbingly stupid or careless, which automatically makes him better than the last guy
posted by pyramid termite at 6:52 PM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Single payer health care.

When did Obama say he would implement single-payer health care?
posted by oaf at 8:36 PM on July 12, 2009


When did Obama say he would implement single-payer health care?

In every single one of the imaginary conversations that lupus_yonderboy had with him. The complete absence of any reference to such a plan in all his public statements was just their special code.

Guantanamo Bay (unless you believe that he promised us "indefinitely preventative detainment")

So far, on Guantanamo Bay, Obama has done everything he promised to do. At no point in his campaign did he say that he pledged to try every single person in Guantanamo in an American court of law. Most people agree that the Bush administrations actions have rendered that (ideal) goal impracticable in a number of cases. Obama clearly wants to try as many detainees as possible, but he also recognizes the fact that he is not a sovereign, and that he has almost zero political support on this issue in Congress (i.e., no Republican at all and no Democrat who can even conceive of a serious Republican challenge will expose themselves to an ad campaign focused on their willingness to go easy on "terrorists"). The proof of this particular pudding will be in the eating. IF Obama manages to make the military tribunals into fair trials that can be seen to be fair; IF he manages to keep those cases where people are condemned to "preventive detention" without a completely public trial to a minimum, then I think it will be fair to say that he has managed to untangle the clusterfuck that Bush left behind as well as it was humanly and legally possible to do.

All the promises about "people over big business".

"And I don't believe he even DOES like apple pie!"

The rule of law.

Want to name an example of him abrogating it?

Government spying on the people.

Maybe you were too busy with your imaginary conversations with Obama to notice this during the campaign.

You never paid the slightest attention to Obama's actual policy statements, did you?
posted by yoink at 9:22 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey guys, he might be right. lupus_yonderboy / Kucinich 2012!

Do I agree with all of Obama's judgment calls in the first 1/8th of his presidency? Maybe, maybe not. Unfortunately, as it turns out, the Presidency doesn't come with a magic wand. You'd think it did, considering everything Bush got away with.

I helped vote Obama into office, though, so I think I'll wait until he's 5/16ths of his way in before I start to really criticize him. In the meantime, regarding the issue of whether and what he'll do about the Torture Administration, I'll trust his judgment.

As it turns out, I wholly agree with lupus_yonderboy that criticism is essential right now, and will be necessary throughout Obama's presidency. I believe that Obama needs it to properly calibrate his judgment. If the far-left is silent on issues like torture prosecution and health care reform, it's just as deadly as the far-right's unchecked loudmouth criticism of the same. Let me rephrase that: liberal silence is just as bad as the conservative bullhorn.

Then again, false accusations, misconstruing the facts, and personal attacks, whether from the left or the right are also equally dangerous.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:18 AM on July 13, 2009


It occurs to me that if Holder launches an investigation, it means Obama can shrug his shoulders and say that while he doesn't want prosecutions, the independent judgment of the Justice Department is important, and he's not going to interfere. It lets him avoid the appearance of partisan tit-for-tat, and lends legitimacy to the final outcome, whatever that turns out to be. I don't know if that's the game they're playing, but it wouldn't surprise me.
posted by EarBucket at 10:41 AM on July 13, 2009




I don't know if that's the game they're playing, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Or perhaps, Obama recognizes that the Justice Department is supposed to be independent, hired a guy who would run it that way, and is actually letting him be independent.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:03 PM on July 13, 2009


Or perhaps, Obama recognizes that the Justice Department is supposed to be independent, hired a guy who would run it that way, and is actually letting him be independent.

Maybe. I'd like to think so, but I have a hard time thinking Holder would really open this particular can of worms without at least Obama's tacit approval. Hard to say.
posted by EarBucket at 1:17 PM on July 13, 2009


Um, better read homunculus's link.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:37 PM on July 13, 2009


Eh, Greenwald's kind of excitable about this sort of thing. Reports are very conflicting right now as to exactly what breadth of investigation Holder's considering, if any. I'll be pleasantly surprised if we get any kind of accountability on torture at all, but this certainly sounds like they're sticking their fingers in the wind.
posted by EarBucket at 1:44 PM on July 13, 2009


name an actual crime (note, technically, "I really really really really hate them" isn't a crime) that you think Bush or Cheney would be convicted of in a US court. If you'd cite the relevant statute, that would be a big help.

Would this one work? Seems pretty straightforward.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:44 PM on July 13, 2009


Would this one work? Seems pretty straightforward.

From your link: a hole big enough to drive a truck with Bush and Cheney drinking margaritas in it through:
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
And of course, that's just for starters. There's the whole problem that there isn't, in fact, any statutory definition of what, exactly, constitutes torture (hence John Yoo's hijinks). There's also the fact that you almost certainly won't find Bush and Cheney actually signing off on any specific action in such a way that it would meet the standard of "conspiracy to commit torture."

Look, I'm not arguing that they're not guilty as sin. I'm not arguing that in a perfect world they wouldn't be rotting in jail. I'm saying that any attempt to try Bush or Cheney will make the OJ trial look like swift, impartial and infallible justice. The procedural issues alone would be getting fought out in the Supreme Court long before the actual case came to trial. And if it ever did come to trial, they'd walk.
posted by yoink at 2:04 PM on July 13, 2009


Oh crap, on "having posted it"-view, I see I misread that excerpt. Sorry. Scrub that part of my comment, but the rest stands.
posted by yoink at 2:06 PM on July 13, 2009


The Eighth Amendment is a starting poing for defining legal wrongdoings, but violation of the prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment" is not a criminal act per se.

And, under the U.S. Military Code, it is illegal and punishable to commit war crimes, including torture, so there's that, too.

It is also entirely possible (but not bloodey likely) to design new laws to criminally penalize such wrongdoers, as was done in the wake of WWII.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:58 PM on July 13, 2009




Could Dick Cheney Go to Prison?
posted by homunculus at 1:36 PM on July 19, 2009






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