Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.With the drip drip of revelations that the decision to torture enemy combatants and other detainees in the so-called War on Terror began not with commanders and interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison in-- JOHN ASHCROFT
Just not tried in the U.S., of course.As if we needed to be reminded that the White House has worked as hard to prevent these insiders from facing the consequences of their dirty deeds as they worked to rationalize the use of Nazi-like torture techniques, there is a provision in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that would immunize them against prosecution.
But only in the U.S., of course.Overseas is another matter, and any Geneva Conventions signatory nation has the right -- indeed, the responsibility -- to detain someone suspected or accused of violating Article 3 of the conventions.
Indeed, courts in Italy and Germany have issued warrants demanding the arrest of CIA operatives for kidnapping and torturing citizens and residents of their nations, although the warrants have not been executed for diplomatic reasons.
And an effort to prosecute former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in France for the torture of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, the flagship accommodation in the Rumsfeld Gulag, has foundered because no court was willing to take on this hot potato.
But with every new revelation comes a flurry of articles suggesting that Bush administration big shots, present and former, might want to think twice before jetting off to Europe this summer for some sightseeing.The insiders in the cross hairs include Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Ashcroft and his successor, Alberto Gonzalez, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his successor, Condoleezza Rice, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Vice Presidential Counsel David Addington and, of course, President George Bush.
To which I would add former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo for good measure. This is because it is now obvious that Yoo was asked to write legal memos justifying the ongoing use of torture, not whether its possible future use was legal.
The New York Times makes a huge point in noting in an editorial that:
"These officials did not have the time or the foresight to plan for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq or the tenacity to complete the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But they managed to squeeze in dozens of meetings in the White House Situation Room to organize and give legal cover to prisoner abuse, including brutal methods that civilized nations consider to be torture."Now comes Jeremy D. Mayer at The Politico, who suggests that the arrest of an administration official abroad could throw an enormous monkey wrench into the presidential campaign. Mayer offers this nightmare scenario:
"It's early October 2008, and Democratic nominee Barack Obama maintains a steady lead in the presidential race, although Republican standard-bearer John McCain, the most dogged campaigner in American politics, remains within striking range.
"Suddenly, something happens overseas that throws the presidential campaigns off the TV screens entirely:
"Rumsfeld, on vacation in Italy, is arrested and brought to The Hague to face war crimes charges.Although a crisis like this might energize the McCain campaign in unforeseen ways, and that is not a good thing, I admit to a certain amount of schadenfreude. This is borne of seven-plus years of frustration over the draconian policies of a presidential administration that has adamantly refused to be held responsible for its actions -- the embrace of torture certainly being the most ghastly.
"Presidential campaigns try to prepare for these 'October surprises,' late-breaking events and crises that can radically alter the race for the White House, such as the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000. But now there’s a new element in the mix, something presidential campaigns have never had to plan for.
"What if the October surprise is the greatest legal conflict between America and Europe since the creation of the Atlantic alliance?"
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE WATERBOARD . . .In other torture related news:
* FBI Director Robert Muller says that the bureau's hands are tied when it comes to torture because it needs a green light from the Justice Department to investigate, and we all know where Justice stands on the matter.
* The CIA concluded that criminal, administrative or civil investigations stemming from its "harsh interrogation tactics" were "virtually inevitable," leading the agency to seek legal support from the Justice Department, and well all know where Justice stands . . .
* It appears that General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2001-2005, may have been hoodwinked by a White House determined to push through those "aggressive interrogation techniques" on Guantánamo detainees.
* There is some breathtaking excuse-making going over the administration's embrace of torture, and a too familiar meme invoked by Megan McArtle, among others, is that those Situation Room insiders were not motivated by the Iraq war. As if that matters.