Sunday, April 19, 2009

What He Said...

Just back from our road trip, and I've yet to catch up on everything that happened while I was away, but I was aware of the impending release (or not) of more Bush "torture memos." As I said the other day, I am believe the memos should be released with the minimum (if any) redaction.

Obama released them in full—withholding only CIA agent's identities—that is to be commended. But, what the memos reveal—still not having had a chance to read them myself—is so abhorrent that their release accompanied by a statement that nothing will be done about it is almost worse than covering the whole thing up...


UPDATE: Dahlia has more.

UPDATE 2: A good, but flawed, piece by Andrew Sullivan. He is too soft on the operatives that performed and oversaw these activities while directing his ire at the Bush higher-ups, and of course he stupidly asserts "everyone" got sucked down the 9/11 wormhole, but his point at the end about an Obama long-term strategy here is worth considering. Yes, it might be grasping, but it does seem logical that the release of these documents is designed specifically to generate the heat to force an investigation. Let's hope.

UPDATE 3: Kevin Drum makes his case for supporting Obama's non-prosecution stance. He makes some good points, but they only go so far: 1. This has always been a top-down concern for me—throwing a couple low-level agents under the bus a la Lynndie England is not what I'm after—it's Yoo, Bybee, Addington and Cheney, etc. I want against a wall. 2. "Following orders" is a fucking cop-out. Nobody involved in this sordid affair was in any doubt about it's legality—these memos are pure after-the-fact CYA documents. Agents need to be fired, supervising "doctors" stripped of medical licenses, lawyers disbarred—all of that at a minimum.

11 comments:

Smitty said...

Here's where I am torn,. and it comes from my own experience as a grunt.

It's this: I am held to a simple post-WWII standard, and that is to "follow all lawful orders." Thus, if I am told to do something and it just smacks of all sorts of unlawfulness (Hey, Smitty, go rape that chick then burn down her house), I can disobey. I will certainly be court-martialled, but will in the end be vindicated and probably restored.

But if I am told to do something, and it seems shady, but I am assured by my superiors that, from the lawyers at the DOJ, this order is perfectly acceptable for me to follow, I probably will. And I will feel as though it was OK for me to do it because my own country, from its own lawyers, said it was ok.

But now we have a change of administration who comes in a says that it's not OK. But I followed a lawful order previously...my own government told me it was lawful. Why should I be prosecuted?

I can see being hauled-in as a witness against the people who designed this sham. That's fine. But to burn me for what was at the time a lawful order? Can't.

That said, if I read the order of some of these documents correctly, some dudes did this stuff, then asked if it was legal. Hey, I held a hot iron to that dude's face, and chained him to a metal box spring juiced with a car battery. Was that ok?

In that case, they should be prosecuted.

Smitty said...

Buuuuuuuuuut....

This was torture. But someone said it was OK. But it was torture.

Rickey Henderson said...

Letting these bastards go, ugh. It's just spineless.

steves said...

Smitty, I am torn, too. It is my understanding that there is long standing policy that acts as you describe. If someone is acting in good faith, then it seems unfair to prosecute them. OTOH, we have to draw the line somewhere. I think some of the higher ups should pay, like Yoo and Bybee...maybe Gonzo.

It is also my understanding that some at the CIA went beyond what even the OLC and DOJ said was ok. Those assholes need to go to prison.

Here is a pragmatic look at why none of this will ever be prosecuted.

Mr Furious said...

Smitty, that's one of Drum's points about the change of Admin, etc. I am sympathetic—to a degree—to your position about following orders in that scenario.

Here's the problem. Most of this occurred without what would be a typical military chain of command order, and much of this legal cover was provided after the fact.

In many of these cases the acts were clear violations of US and international law, and no one was waving a writ from the DOJ or OLC.

I find it hard to believe that acts so morally wrong could be viewed as acceptable just because you now have permission.

steves said...

In many of these cases the acts were clear violations of US and international law,Not so clear to the people that wrote the memos. I, and many others, think they were wrong, but they thought what was being done was a valid use of Executive power. I will be the first to admit that international law and the unitary executive are outside my area of expertise.

Mr Furious said...

I disagree steves.

These memos amount to Get Out of Jail Free cards and it was—to me—a pretty clear case of reinterpreting, stretching and just plain ignoring pretty cut and dried international and U.S. law.

It's why Bybee should be impeached, and Yoo, Addington & Co should all be disbarred. There is no sound legal reasoning in there, it's just like the intel they cooked up to fit their objectives—this was simply inventing ways to circumvent the law so they could torture people.

Mr Furious said...

The Unitary Executive as envisioned by Cheney and Addington is horseshit.

Eric Wilde said...

I have little-to-no sympathy for the grunts in this case. I'm sure there were some individuals who did worse and some who didn't do some of the most horrible crimes. Some leniency for those who shied from the most horrible crimes is probably appropriate. For those who perpetrated sadistic acts like water boarding - no sympathy.

That said, the real culprits and those who get the worst sentences are the ones at the top.

Mr Furious said...

Yeah, Eric, I hear where you're coming from...pretty hard for me to accept that a CIA guy can waterboard a guy 183 times in a month and punch out every evening without questioning what he's involved in...

I won't excuse anyone involved, but some discretion at the bottom in order to fucking hang the assholes at the top sounds okay.

steves said...

These memos amount to Get Out of Jail Free cards and it was—to me—a pretty clear case of reinterpreting, stretching and just plain ignoring pretty cut and dried international and U.S. law.Again, this is out of my area of expertise, but from what I hear and read from Justice Dept. lawyers, a great deal of deference is given to these memos and actions taken in accordance with them. There is obviously nothing to prevent a president from ignoring this and ordering some kind of investigation or prosecution, but it would be a departure from what is the status quo.

In this instance, I wouldn't mind seeing such a departure, but I don't care to see prosecutions based on politics and revenge every time a new president comes into power.