So I tried to escape the toxic levels of wingnuttery this evening by flipping through my roommate’s copy of Newsweek. Amazingly, I flipped to page 36 and found this:
To get a full accounting of how U.S. interrogation methods were used, the president should give those accused of ‘war crimes’ a pass.
By Stuart Taylor Jr. | NEWSWEEK
Dark deeds have been conducted in the name of the United States government in recent years: the gruesome, late-night circus at Abu Ghraib, the beating to death of captives in Afghanistan, and the officially sanctioned waterboarding and brutalization of high-value Qaeda prisoners. Now demands are growing for senior administration officials to be held accountable and punished. Congressional liberals, human-rights groups and other activists are urging a criminal investigation into high-level “war crimes,” including the Bush administration’s approval of interrogation methods considered by many to be torture.
It’s a bad idea. In fact, President George W. Bush ought to pardon any official from cabinet secretary on down who might plausibly face prosecution for interrogation methods approved by administration lawyers.
Question: why did we ever develop the Geneva Conventions in the first place? Why does the Constitution ban cruel and unusual punishment? Hell, for that matter, why did we ever sign the goddamn Magna Carta*? Because what Stuart Taylor, Jr. is telling us is that government officials should simply be able to break the fucking law. And not just the laws against lying about blowjobs under oath — we’re talking about laws against goddamn torture. We’re talking about laws that for years have prohibited the government from performing cruel and heinous acts on prisoners. This is important shit. But to Stuart Taylor? Pfffffft, yeah it’s bad, but so what? We’ll only learn the truth about this stuff if we just pardon everyone beforehand. Because fuck it, laws are only meant to be obeyed by the little people.
The reason for pardons is simple: what this country needs most is a full and true accounting of what took place. The incoming president should convene a truth commission, with subpoena power, to explore every possible misdeed and derive lessons from it. But this should not be a criminal investigation, which would only force officials to hire lawyers and batten down the hatches.
Yeah, I’m sure Gonzo, Addington and Yoo will be totally willing to tell you the truth about everything if you just promise them that we’ll throw the whole concept of justice down the shitter just to keep them feeling comfortable.
Pardons would further a truth commission’s most important goals: to uncover all important facts, identify innocent victims to be compensated, foster a serious conversation about what U.S. interrogation rules should be, recommend legal reforms, pave the way for appropriate apologies and restore America’s good name.
If America preemptively pardons people who sanctioned torture, we will never restore our “good name.” We will rightly be seen around the world as a lawless torture state.
The goals should not include wrecking the lives of men and women who made grievous mistakes while doing dirty work—work they had been advised by administration lawyers was legal, and which they believed was necessary to prevent terrorist mass murder.
It’s not like people who engaged in torture ever ruined anyone else’s life, after all.
A criminal investigation would only hinder efforts to determine the truth, and preclude any apologies. It would spur those who know the most to take the Fifth. Any prosecutions would also touch off years of partisan warfare.
And this, my friends, is the absolute nightmare of the Village Mindset: years of partisan warfare. Why do evil people like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney feel they can simply break the law with reckless abandon? Because they know that modern American political culture simply does not believe in accountability for its political class. They know that in the end, they’re part of the same Villager club of Special People who are too powerful and too privileged to ever face any consequences for their actions. Prosecute government officials for state-sanctioned torture?? How uncouth!
The lesson for occupants of the toughest government jobs—if the next administration could find people willing to fill them—would be that saving innocent lives is less important than covering their posteriors. Any hope of a civil conversation about lessons we need to learn would be dead.
Ah yes, another great Village trait: the need for civil discussions about supremely uncivil acts! This is what civility looks like:
And, and, and:
Gee, I’d hate for anyone’s lives to be ruined over sanctioning this shit! How uncomfortably partisan that would be! Instead, let’s all sit down and have a pow-wow and politely ask administration officials to please, super-super-please tell us what torture methods they sanctioned. With sugar on top and shit.
Pardons would not be favors to criminals. One can argue that officials could have or should have resigned rather than implement questionable legal judgments, but there is no evidence that any high-level official acted with criminal intent.
Nope no criminal intent. Torture has been so clearly legal forever.
The officials involved appear to have approved only interrogation methods found legal by administration lawyers, and in particular by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). According to long tradition, the OLC is considered a sort of Supreme Court of the executive branch.
This is amazing. Taylor is saying that the OLC can simply pick and choose which laws it wants the president and his advisers to obey. Why did we ever overthrow fucking King George again? Shit, at least he had the Magna Carta to sorta keep him in check.
Those who have called for criminal investigations will not be easily persuaded otherwise. They include nearly 60 House Democrats and retired Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba, who headed the Army’s investigation into the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to the then Secretary of State Colin Powell, has suggested that administration lawyers could be prosecuted in a foreign court (even though his old boss could find himself vulnerable as well). Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan told ABC News that he now thinks the administration has engaged in torture.
So: people who support war crimes prosecutions include several elected officials, plus retired military men and Bush’s own fucking ex-spokesman. But really, they all can be dismissed as fringe left-wing wackos.
Of course, if he carries out pardons, Bush will be attacked for cronyism and accused of a cover-up. But one of the main beneficiaries would be the next president. Absent pardons, pressure to go after GOP “war criminals” would make it very hard to unite Americans of all stripes behind solutions to the many economic and social challenges facing the country. No new president—especially if he turns out to be Barack Obama, who has made such a point of getting beyond partisan bickering—needs that.
The sad thing is: I know Obama will do exactly as Taylor recommends. Except he won’t even bother to set up the fucking bogus-assed truth commission. Just sweep this shit under the rug and enjoy his newfound powers to issue warrantless wiretaps and torture orders. Oh, and be sure to give special immunity to people like Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockfeller, who should also be tossed in the Hague for being complicit in all this bullshit. This isn’t about partisanship, peeps — it’s about restricting the ability of our political class to behave in the most reckless and lawless ways imagineable. If we don’t want to degenerate into a damn banana republic, we have to demonstrate that we won’t let our most powerful politicians get away with breaking the laws they’ve sworn to uphold. Stuart Taylor, you can bite me.
*My Anglo-Saxon origins betray me — I forget that the vast majority of people in this country are not pure-bred WASPs. So when I say “we” in this instance, I’m referring to my inbred English relatives. Does that sassify the nitpick brigade?