punishing war crimes

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This AlterNet article looks at some tentative efforts by Democrats toward establishing accountability for the Bush torture regime, including prosecution. Anonymous Liberal asks, "Is it realistic to expect the Obama DOJ to prosecute these folks?" and observes that:

As much as I'd like to see that, it would instantly generate a partisan firestorm. Fair or not, Republicans would portray the prosecutions as a vindictive partisan witch hunt against True Patriots... [...] The most likely end result would be acquittals that would be spun by Republicans (and a pliant media) as vindication of everything the Bush administration did.

[...]

War crimes prosecutions would serve no useful purpose if they result in acquittals which are then spun by the Republicans and the media as vindication for the conduct itself. The goal here should not be maximal punishment, but maximal deterrence.

Last week's WaPo/ABC poll looked at Americans' views on torture, and was most notable for the way this question

Q. Obama has said that under his administration the United States will not use torture as part of the U.S. campaign against terrorism, no matter what the circumstance. Do you support this position not to use torture, or do you think there are cases in which the United States should consider torture against terrorism suspects?

was broken down by party affiliation. The pro-torture contingent looks like this:

Democrats 28%
Independents 43%
Republicans 55%

Although 40% of Americans are willing to overlook these crimes and "move on" to other issues, Cenk Uygur agrees with the rest of us--that a scandal of this magnitude should not be ignored. He takes on the "see no evil" defense, writing that "we're told that in the political context it makes sense:"

I think the exact opposite is true. I think it is even more important that we hold our elected leaders to an even higher standard than the average citizen. They are entrusted with enforcing the laws. If they are the ones who break them, society is in much larger trouble.

This comment by Andrew Sullivan is worth quoting at length:

The men who ordered a man tied to a chair, doused in water, and chilled to hypothermia so intense he had to be rushed to emergency medical care, the men who presided over at least two dozen and at most a hundred prisoners tortured to death, the men who ordered an American servicewoman to smear fake menstrual blood over a Muslim's face in order to win a war against Jihadism, the men who ordered innocents stripped naked, sexually abused, terrified by dogs, or cast into darkness with no possibility of a future, and did all this in the name of the Constitution of the United States, the men who gave the signal in wartime that there were no limits to what could be done to prisoners of war and reaped a whirlwind of abuse and torture that will haunt American servicemembers for decades: these men will earn the judgment of history. It will be brutal.

We will need some formal and comprehensive record of all that happened, and the Congress will surely begin to move on that (and they should not exempt their own members from scrutiny either). And as specific allegations of torture emerge, the Justice Department will have no option but to prosecute. To ignore such charges is itself a dereliction of constitutional duty. [emphases added]

If we turn a blind eye to these abuses, the task may fall to others. John Dean speculates about foreign prosecution of Bush torture, writing that "any effort to protect Bush officials from legal responsibility for war crimes, in the long run, will not work," because "other countries are very likely to take action if the United States fails to do so." Dean interview author Philippe (Torture Team) Sands, who observes

More than 140 countries may potentially exercise jurisdiction over former members of the Bush Administration for violations of the 1984 Torture Convention and the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including the standards reflected in their Common Article 3. Whether they do so, and how they might do so, turns on a range of factors, including their domestic procedural rules.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on January 27, 2009 6:42 PM.

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