Friday, April 17, 2009

Criminal Since the Time of Cain

When the complete history of the Bush administration is written, it will reveal a criminal enterprise engaged in brutality every bit as revolting as --
  • Japanese interrogators during W.W. II, whom we prosecuted for "waterboarding" and illegal torture";
  • "Indonesia" and "Iran", which for years we have publicly condemned for engaging in "psychological torture" and "food and sleep deprivation" of prisoners;
  • "Egypt" whose torture of prisoners we have condemned because it involved "stripping and blindfolding victims, suspending victims from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor, beating victims... and dousing victims with cold water"; and
  • "Algeria" for using the "chiffon method" of "placing a rag drenched in dirty water in someone's mouth."
The examples, above, come from "legal memoranda" written by high-ranking Bush administration lawyers which explicitly approved torturing prisoners.

Four of those memos were publicly released yesterday:
The four legal opinions, released in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the A.C.L.U., were written in 2002 and 2005 by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the highest authority in interpreting the law in the executive branch.
To be sure, President Obama revoked these very memos on his "second day in office" and "condemned what he called a "dark and painful chapter in our history." He's also promised "the interrogation techniques would never be used again."

Until the next time, that is. Because even as he released the evidence of war crimes, Obama also promised "that C.I.A. officers who were acting on the Justice Department’s legal advice would not be prosecuted."

It simply is not enough to leave each new presidential administration to decide which laws of humanity it will follow and which it will discard. In a democracy committed by Constitution and Treaty to being a republic governed by laws, crimes against humanity should not be treated like mere agency regulations or presidential signing statements, to be issued and revoked at will.

As our own nation argued successfully at the Nuremburg trials, "civilization cannot tolerate" acts which have been regarded as criminal "since the time of Cain." Those ultimately responsible for approving this must be prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished. Even if -- no, especially if -- some of them like Jay Bybee, now sit as federal judges, judging others.

At Nuremberg, we prosecuted the lawyers and judges who were complicit in the Nazi depravities. We owe it to ourselves to do no less when those depraved lawyers and judges are our own.

Dept. of Further Amplification
4-17 pm
Scott Lemieux properly points a finger at Senate Democrats who, in 2003, lay down on the job of 'advising and consenting' to give Torture Memo author-in-chief Jay Bybee a lifetime federal judgeship.

How can this be permitted to stand? Imagine the hundreds, even thousands, of lawyers who over the coming years will have to appear, in this or that case, before "the honorable" Jay Bybee, now unmasked, himself, as a key figure in the Bush cabal of war criminals. It would be like enduring proctology exams by Dr. Josef Mengele, year after year, until the criminal is, at last, hustled off to his eternal reward.

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