I wish you the best on this holiday and trust you are enjoying the festivities. If you can, rescue a turkey. If you have not tasted a tofurky, note that it is delicious. I will be cooking mine later today.
Unfortunately, though, there is much hunger and strife in the world. The Pledge of Resistance will hold its annual Black Friday demonstration, from 5:30 to 6:30 PM, at
Published on Wednesday, November 26, 2008 by Inter Press Service
No Amnesty for Cheney, et al, Say Torture Opponents
WASHINGTON - Judging by the rare leaks from President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, investigations and prosecutions of high-level George W. Bush administration officials for torture and war crimes are a distant prospect. But likely or not, that won't stop pundits from debating the question of whether those officials responsible should be held accountable.
President Bush, former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Vice-President Cheney in this file photo. Those pursued would include high-ranking administration officials such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, and former Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet, as well as the legal team that drummed up what is now regarded as a sloppy legal justification for torture. (File)
Irrespective of whether Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld or others are dragged before juries, one glaring change seems absolutely certain: Obama stands unequivocally against torture, and the practice is likely to come to an end under his administration.
'Even though I've been disappointed in other presidents in the past, I do listen and I do believe Obama when he says we won't torture. I think that's crucial,' said
But foreswearing controversial and harsh interrogation methods may not be enough to permanently reestablish the moral high ground that the Obama administration has promised to bring back to the
If Obama doesn't take on torture that occurred, as opposed to simply discontinuing the practice, the door may be left open for future administrations to resurrect the harshest of interrogation techniques, said Ratner at a recent forum at
'If Obama really wants to make sure we don't torture, he has to launch a criminal investigation,' said Ratner, the author of 'The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution in Book .'
He said that the targets of such an investigation would be the easily identifiable 'key players' and 'principals' in the Bush administration who hatched plans to allow and legally justify harsh interrogation methods that critics allege are torture, including the controversial 'waterboarding' simulated drowning technique.
Those pursued, said Ratner, would include high-ranking administration officials such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, and former Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet, as well as the legal team that drummed up what is now regarded as a sloppy legal justification for torture.
Key Bush administration lawyers involved in providing legal cover to harsh practices, including the roundly criticised 'torture memo' from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), include former attorney general and earlier White House counsel Alberto Gonzales; Cheney's chief of staff and former legal counsel to the vice president's office David Addington; and the University of California, Berkeley law professor and former OLC lawyer John Yoo.
If the characters behind the questionable techniques are not held accountable for violating U.S. and international laws, said Ratner, presidents after Obama may simply say, 'well, in the name of national security I can just redo what Obama just put in place. I can go torture again.'
Ratner also spoke to the concern that, from the view of the rest of the world, 'to not do an investigation and prosecution gives the impression of impunity.'
But opposing Ratner on the dais, Stewart Taylor, Jr. argued that an investigation and prosecution were not appropriate.
'The people who are called 'war criminals by [Ratner] and others do not think they acted with impunity,' said Taylor, a Brookings Institution fellow and frequent contributor to Newsweek and the National Journal.
In the Jul. 21 edition of Newsweek,
Furthermore, at the
That may be the thinking of Obama, who, in addition to hints he wouldn't investigate Bush administration malfeasance, declared his intention to govern as a political reconciliation president in his election victory speech.
In Grant Park in
But Ratner said that the country was already divided, and that divide is exactly what a future administration could politically exploit to reinstate torture. He said that Obama must close the divide and doing so is not rehashing the past.
'You're making sure that in the future, we don't torture again,' Ratner said. 'This is not looking backwards.'
Another potential problem with investigation and prosecution, says Taylor, is that the Bush administration officials ostensibly had sought to find out whether the methods they were about to approve were justified, and, indeed, they were told they were in the legal clear.
'There is no that high ranking officials acted with criminal intent,' he said. 'They were relying in good faith on the advice of legal counsel.'
Taylor said that since the legal advice originated from the Department of Justice, it would be wrong for the same Justice Department to 'turn around' and prosecute people for actions that its previous incarnation had explicitly told were legal.
Despite referring to John Yoo as a 'gonzo executive imperialist',
Ratner insists that the officials, part of a 'group, cabal or conspiracy', may be culpable because they were 'aiders and abetters'.
'[OLC] was not giving independent counsel,' insisted Ratner. 'They were shaping memos to fit a policy that had already been determined.'
And while Taylor was quick to point out that many U.S. administrations had been accused of war crimes by various sources, Ratner replied that it was the first time that any administration had actually 'assaulted the prohibition on torture'.
That could be one reason why, if the
In international courts, said Ratner, those officials will not be able to hide behind the legal shields of internal government memos or executive decrees.
'They have no defence in international law,' he said. 'They're finished.'
© 2008 Inter Press Service
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs