Archive for the ‘War Crimes’ Category

Must Read Smackdown of "Dick Cheeny"

This post by David Rees has got to be one of the funniest, most appropriate, reactions to Dick Cheney’s recent speech on national security his own insecurity that I’ve seen anywhere.

My favorite line:

As far as I could tell, his speech was actually some weird kind of mouth-yoga where you keep returning to “9/11” position every thirty seconds



Why Cheney Speaks!

There’s lot’s of discussion and speculation lately over the fact that after spending eight years of secretly running the government from an impenetrable bunker, Dick Cheney is now all over the television defending his torture program.

Many people are scratching their heads and wondering why the most unpopular member of the previous administration wouldn’t just fade off into the sunset and hope to be forgotten as the country looks “forward and not backward” with it’s charismatic new President.

If I had to venture a guess as to why Cheney keeps talking, it’s this:

The only thing standing between Dick Cheney and criminal prosecution is the facade that torture was a policy decision, and that prosecution represents the “criminalization of politics.” In order to maintain that facade, there must be a continuous debate over whether or not it was “good policy” – that is, whether or not it helped to “keep Americans safe.”

To Cheney, it doesn’t matter whether or not people think that argument has merit. What matters is that both sides are continuously being aired, because in his mind, this means that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress have to prioritize it among all of the other policy debates; and with the wide range of stated goals put forward by the Obama administration, investigating and prosecuting torture will never move to the top of the “to do” list.

On the other hand, if public opinion is allowed to crystallize around the idea that the Cheney/Bush torture policies were illegal and immoral, as might happen without Cheney’s constant bleating about how proud he is of those very policies, then it becomes much more feasible to investigate and prosecute without getting in the way of other priorities.

And it becomes more likely that the conversation shifts from the debate about policy, to a discussion and eventual public understanding of what really happened, which increasingly seems to have been something like this:

At the time when Cheney/Bush were in charge and had plenty of warning about an impending terrorist attack, they did not “keep Americans safe.” Instead, they were too preoccupied with the politics of trying to create “a permanent Republican majority!”

After the 9/11 attacks, instead of going after the terrorists who were actually threatening the safety of Americans, they immediately began to line up all the ways they could use fear of terrorists to rationalize and gain acceptance for policies that were criminal! Torture, the war in Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, rushed no-bid contracts to political cronies, were all rolled out immediately, using the pretext of being the only policies the President thought would “keep Americans safe.”

And they did it all with the expectation that they could always avoid prosecution by forcing the debate into being about policy, if ever the debate started to turn toward being about criminality!

So that’s why Cheney feels he has to keep yapping about how torture was good policy. He knows he’s not convincing anybody, but he’s keeping the fire burning on the appearance of a political debate, because that’s the only thing keeping him from being frog marched to prison!

Sometimes Focusing on the Future Starts with Reparation [Updated]

I’ve been thinking about the Obama team’s response whenever questions arise about holding the Bush Administration accountable for potential war crimes. Repeatedly, Obama’s response is always to point out the importance of “focusing on the future” and “looking forward not backward.”

This mantra was highlighted again recently when the top question voted up by citizens using Obama’s website was the following:

Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor (ideally Patrick Fitzgerald) to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?

The Obama team’s response was to point out that this question had already been addressed, and to refer to this previous comment by Joe Biden:

The questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is — is something the Justice Department decides,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he was not ruling prosecution in or out. “Barack Obama and I are — President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We’re focusing on the future.

Obama himself was later asked the same question by George Stephanopoulos, and gave a similar answer:

We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.

But, as Arianna points out, looking forward and looking backward are not mutually exclusive! In fact, one of the widely accepted principals in making positive changes for the future is the act of making amends as a step toward repairing the damage caused by negative past behavior. Every variation of a twelve step program starts with recognition and understanding of the destructive behavior, and positive action to make things right. From Wikipedia:

As summarized by the American Psychological Association, the process involves the following:

• admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion;
• recognizing a greater power that can give strength;
• examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
• making amends for these errors;
• learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
• helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

I’m all for the idea of turning the page on the bad behavior of our government officials. However, this does not mean we should sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. Part of the healing process necessary to look forward and focus on the future will come from examining exactly what happened, and demonstrating that our new code of behavior involves enforcing the laws, no matter who broke them and when.

[Update] Here’s Jonathan Turley on Countdown, saying it even better:

Based on a True (Future) Story!

Look what just moved to the top of my reading list now that my latest book order has arrived!

Of course, the idea has long been at the top of my wish list, but now famed Manson prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, has apparently spelled out what it would take to make it happen.

I suppose Barack Obama’s new centrist persona precludes slotting Bugliosi somewhere on the list of potential Attorney General choices!

John Conyers Wants to Put Yoo on the Hot Seat!

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(Believe me, it was all I could do to resist using my alternate title, “Conyers Wants to F**k Yoo Up!”)

This has the potential to be one of the more compelling Congressional hearings in quite some time. It’s one thing to have to thread the needle of avoiding perjury without embarrassing yourself or causing political problems for your bosses in the Bush administration, but it’s quite another to have to thread the much smaller needle of avoiding statements that can be used against you in a war crimes trial!

Switching gears, it’s obvious that the “Big Game” between Cal and Stanford hasn’t had much riding on it for a few years, just a rare chance for each team to get a win! But forget about that! With Yoo on the faculty at Cal-Berkeley, and with Condi Rice set to return to Stanford at the end of Bush’s second term, the two schools can have a Battle Royale to see which one can be the first to have a faculty member indicted for war crimes (OK, it wasn’t really a different gear!)

Finally, remember when John Conyers was forced by the GOP majority to hold hearings in unusual places like a capitol basement? Well, he’s in the majority now, so he can probably hold hearings anywhere he wants. But for old times’ sake, I think this is a good opportunity to try scheduling something unusual again – like holding the hearings on Yoo’s torture memos somewhere in the Netherlands so that Yoo can be lured across the border. I hear they have some nice basements in The Hague! (Yeah, same gear again! I’m ridin’ a one-speed when it comes to John Yoo!)

[Update] Shit, meet Fan! Or, probably not!

Top Ten List – Not Licensed to Kill Waterboard Edition.

In yet another reminder that there is no IQ requirement for membership in the United States Senate, Missouri’s James Kit Bond apparently thinks waterboarding is like swimming the backstroke!

While it amazes me the lengths Republicans will go to make light of their propensity for illegal, and often violent, behavior, there are still a few excuses they haven’t tried. Yet!

So with that in mind, here’s my:

Top Ten List of Excuses Republicans Haven’t Tried Yet Regarding Waterboarding:

10. It’s just a warmer version of snowboarding!

9. It’s just like dumping Gatorade on a winning football coach!

8. We thought we were using flax seed oil!

7. It’s a little known fact that this Administration wanted to delay waterboarding until after the 2004 elections, but Congress wanted something they could be deceived about!

6. We were just trying to counteract the dehydrating effect of severe beatings!

5. Freedom needs waterboarding, just as waterboarding needs freedom!

4. It’s just like a form of baptism – falling somewhere between sprinkling holy water and total immersion!

3. The American people don’t seem to mind watching the Wicked Witch get doused in The Wizard of Oz . . . because they understand that innocent munchkin lives are at stake!

2. Bill Clinton was known to pour water himself, right in the Oval Office!

And the top excuse Republicans haven’t tried yet regarding waterboarding:

1. We have a wet stance!

The Maid at The Hague is Now Cleaning a Room For George W. Bush.

Some time ago, I wrote a post called Mr Bush, Meet Mr Milosevic. He’s your New Cell Mate. The main point was that under the Bush presidency, the U.S. has lost its moral authority in the world, and increasingly appears to be fighting an uphill battle just to regain moral credibility. Given our past position on war criminals like Slobodan Milosevic, we may eventually need to turn over Mr. Bush for prosecution in the International Criminal Court, in order to undo all that Bush and his cronies have wrought!

Well, it looks like when we do, Mr. Bush will be able to get his own cell, as Milosevic was found dead – under somewhat unusual circumstances. As it seems, Milosevic was arguing (as his own lawyer) that he was not getting appropriate medical treatment at The Hague, and that he needed to go to Moscow for treatment for his heart condition. In what appears to be an enormous tactical over-reaction that was typical of the man, he may have been deliberately taking medications to undo the benefits of his regular treatment – leading him to die of a massive heart attack! Josh Marshall at TPM has more.

As some of our readers know, I have a particular interest and experience with the former Yugoslavia, having traveled extensively in Croatia – including many areas that were affected by a war that was largely fomented by Milosevic using the propaganda of fear and ethnic mistrust to turn neighbor against neighbor. Consequently, I share Josh’s view of the irony of Milosevic’ death. Although by dying in a prison cell, he seems to have come to an appropriate end, I feel some regret that the trial will not reach a historically appropriate conclusion.