Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama: No War Crimes Charges Against the War Criminals

The news just keeps getting worse for those who have been expecting or hoping that Obama would make right that which has been so monstrously wrong. The following story is the latest evidence that what Dr. Philip Zimbardo observed about his famous Stanford Prison Experiment remains true: while not all guards in the experiment were sadistic in their treatment of the prisoners, not a single one of the "good guards" intervened on behalf of a prisoner against the "bad guards."

Failing to prosecute and hold accountable war criminals means that the Bush Regime's actions can be repeated in the future, whether under the Obama administration or by some future president. In other words, any tyrant can do anything he or she wants because the Bush Regime did it and got away with it.

Even if, for the sake of argument, Obama doesn't torture and doesn't spy upon all of us during his term(s), the failure to prosecute Bush et al for what they have done means that the only way to insure that these war crimes, crimes against humanity and breaches of the public trust and of the rule of law can be prevented in the future is by electing individuals who promise to refrain from doing these monstrous things. We can only count on their promise and their self-regulated behavior because the mechanisms - impeachment and prosecution - to ensure that illegal and outrageous behavior doesn't occur have been left to rust by the Democrats and mainstream media as curious historical relics.

The rule of law no longer applies
if Bush et al are allowed to go away without being prosecuted. This is what Obama and his party have given us. Regardless of what they do, good or bad, this one failure to act means a stain and a shame the ramifications from which are impossible to overstate.

How many of us were holding our breath this last election, worried that yet another election might be outright stolen? Do you really want to go through that over and over again? Is that any way to handle crimes against humanity? Yet this is the only thing we can count on within the parameters of official politics.

How do you like the politics we're allowed to believe in now?

If Obama is allowed to do what his people are signaling that they intend to do this also means that horrid injustice and crimes will go unpunished, irrespective of the consequences down the road.

Unfortunately, this news is not surprising. It is entirely consistent with the stance that Obama has been taking since being a US Senator: when he had the chance, the legal and moral responsibility to stop the torture and spying and so on, he demurred.

There's a changing of the guard coming but the new guards are still guards.

Yes, Virginia, this is "change we can believe in."

Obama Advisers Say No Charges Likely Against Those Who Authorized Torture

Monday 17 November 2008

by: Lara Jakes Jordan, The Associated Press

Washington - Barack Obama's incoming administration is unlikely to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush presidency. Obama, who has criticized the use of torture, is being urged by some constitutional scholars and human rights groups to investigate possible war crimes by the Bush administration.

Two Obama advisers said there's little - if any - chance that the incoming president's Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.

The advisers spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans are still tentative. A spokesman for Obama's transition team did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Additionally, the question of whether to prosecute may never become an issue if Bush issues pre-emptive pardons to protect those involved.

Obama has committed to reviewing interrogations on al-Qaida and other terror suspects. After he takes office in January, Obama is expected to create a panel modeled after the 9/11 Commission to study interrogations, including those using waterboarding and other tactics that critics call torture. The panel's findings would be used to ensure that future interrogations are undisputedly legal.

"I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture, and I'm going to make sure that we don't torture," Obama said Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes." "Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world."

Obama's most ardent supporters are split on whether he should prosecute Bush officials.

Asked this weekend during a Vermont Public Radio interview if Bush administration officials would face war crimes, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy flatly said, "In the United States, no."

"These things are not going to happen," said Leahy, D-Vt.

Robert Litt, a former top Clinton administration Justice Department prosecutor, said Obama should focus on moving forward with anti-torture policy instead of looking back.

"Both for policy and political reasons, it would not be beneficial to spend a lot of time hauling people up before Congress or before grand juries and going over what went on," Litt said at a Brookings Institution discussion about Obama's legal policy. "To as great of an extent we can say, the last eight years are over, now we can move forward - that would be beneficial both to the country and the president, politically."

But Michael Ratner, a professor at Columbia Law School and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said prosecuting Bush officials is necessary to set future anti-torture policy.

"The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it," Ratner said. "I don't see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable."

In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the White House authorized U.S. interrogators to use harsh tactics on captured al-Qaida and Taliban suspects. Bush officials relied on a 2002 Justice Department legal memo to assert that its interrogations did not amount to torture - and therefore did not violate U.S. or international laws. That memo has since been rescinded.

At least three top al-Qaida operatives - including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed - were waterboarded in 2002 and 2003 because of intelligence officials' belief that more attacks were imminent. Waterboarding creates the sensation of drowning, and has been traced back hundreds of years and is condemned by nations worldwide.

Bush could take the issue of criminal charges off the table with one stroke of his pardons pen.

Whether Bush will protect his top aides and interrogators with a pre-emptive pardon - before they are ever charged - has become a hot topic of discussion in legal and political circles in the administration's waning days. White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto declined to comment on the issue.

Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled.

Pre-emptive pardons would be highly controversial, but former White House counsel Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr. said it would protect those who were following orders or otherwise trying to protect the nation.

"I know of no one who acted in reckless disregard of U.S. law or international law," said Culvahouse, who served under President Ronald Reagan. "It's just not good for the intelligence community and the defense community to have people in the field, under exigent circumstances, being told these are the rules, to be exposed months and years after the fact to criminal prosecution."

The Federalist Papers discourage presidents from pardoning themselves. It took former President Gerald Ford to clear former President Richard Nixon of wrongdoing in the 1972 Watergate break-in.

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