Monday, April 20, 2009

If This is "Looking Forward," Then I Don't Like What I See

The initial statements by Obama regarding the reluctance or refusal to prosecute those parties involved in the Bush Torture Regime seemed to refer specifically only to the CIA officers who, one could argue, were told what they were doing was both necessary and legal. As Hilzoy says...
I'm uneasy about prosecuting people who rely on the OLC, which they ought to be able to rely on. (I think that relying on legal interpretations offered by the people charged with interpreting the law for the executive branch is very different from "just following orders.")

I don't agree with that completely, and think that's far too lenient. I think those officers should be removed from their posts and forced to testify against those who devised this illegal system. They might not go to jail, but they don't get to walk away clean and they will serve some function.

Further consideration, in no small part to Smitty's comment, leads me to make a sort of Faustian bargain to sacrifice the smaller fry for the bigger fish: If fully exposing this whole affair and nailing Bybee, Yoo, Addington, Bradbury—and, yes, Bush and Cheney—means granting immunity down the chain, I can live with that.

What I cannot accept is this [from today's White House press briefing]:
Q: So I understand, you're saying that people in the CIA who followed through in what they were told was legal, they should not be prosecuted. But why not the Bush administration lawyers who, in the eyes of a lot of your supporters on the left, twisted the law -- why are they not being held accountable?

MR. GIBBS: The President is focused on looking forward, that's why.

Fuck that. That is effectively stamping "APPROVED" on what has happened. It is setting precedent, and it is making clear that people in power are above the law. That cannot stand.

I'll let the better writer take it from here...
You know what? I'm focused on looking forward too. And as I gaze into my crystal ball, I see a world in which members of the executive branch take it for granted that they can do whatever they want with impunity. Why not break the law? Why not eavesdrop on Americans? Why not torture people? Why not detain citizens indefinitely without charges? Heck, why not impose martial law and make yourself dictator for life? There is nothing to stop the people who make these decisions. They have nothing to fear. Because once they've made them, their actions are back there, in the past that no one ever wants to look at.

[...] I do not want a world in which members of my government can break the law with impunity. I do not want a world in which some people are above the law. In a perfect world, we would not need to prosecute people to achieve these results. But the past eight years have shown us that we don't live in that world."


Smitty said...

I think those officers should be removed from their posts and forced to testify against those who devised this illegal system. Ultimately, that's probably the best. Like I said before, I could be court-martialled for disobeying an order that I felt was wrong, and could ultimately be vindicated for that disobedience, especially if I was part of a larger case to get after the bigger fish.

I was so hopeful at first when he released the papers. But now? It seems like nobody will pay. This whole "looking forward" thing excuses many, many mistakes that really need to be recognized and handled.

John Howard said...

So, if looking forward is the most important thing, why prosecute any criminals, ever?

Mr Furious said...

John, that's exactly the question Hilzoy asks in the paragraph between the two I excerpted...

I also see a world in which everyone takes it for granted that there are two kinds of people, as far as the law is concerned. If most people tried to make the case that prosecuting their criminal acts was just "looking backwards", or a sign that the prosecutor was motivated by a desire for retribution, they'd be laughed out of court. Imagine the likely reaction if your average crack dealer were to urge the judge not to dwell on the past, or if someone who used accounting fraud to flip houses told offered a prosecutor the chance to be "very Mandelalike in the sense [of] saying let the past be the past and let us move into the future", or if I were pulled over for speeding and, when asked if I knew how fast I was going, replied that "Some things in life need to be mysterious ... Sometimes you need to just keep walking." I don't think any of us would get very far.

And yet, somehow, when people say these things about members of the Bush administration, no one bats an eye. Of course it would be going too far to actually prosecute them if they broke the law. That's just not done.
It's fucking bullshit. While I recognize that Bush and/or Cheney are the least likely of all to be tried or held personally accountible for this—simply because of the political reasoning—in truth, they are the one's most culpable. Even the "legal" team of Yoo, Bybee, etc was operating under the direction of Cheney.