13 July 2008

The Face of Evil; Updated With the Face of Justice

Do you know who this man is?

He is Stuart Taylor, Jr. and he is yet another hack for Brookings Institution. He also writes for Newsweek Magazine and his latest excrement at Newsweek is among the lowest things I have ever seen in print. Just read the first two paragraphs yourself:

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. (It would be unseemly for Bush to pardon Vice President Dick Cheney or himself, but the next president wouldn't allow them to be prosecuted anyway—galling as that may be to critics.) 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.

Oh such high and mighty pronouncements on what is "seemly", and all this from a person who was there front and center when the pummeling of Bill Clinton over his sex life began. Here's Howard Kurtz on Taylor in the Washington Post in March, 1998:
Friends worry that Taylor, by so constantly and unambiguously assailing Clinton as a liar, may be tarnishing his hard-won reputation as a dispassionate legal analyst. The "NewsHour," concerned about the appearance of bias, has stopped using him to talk about Clinton and Lewinsky.

Says Taylor: "There's hardly anyone in the city of Washington who believes him. I don't see much point in pretending the evidence is in equipoise when it isn't."

Or how about Frank Rich, in April, 1998 on Taylor:

Then there's Stuart Taylor Jr., the writer whose 15,000-word article in 1996 declaring Ms. Jones's evidence ''highly persuasive'' -- and describing her as ''a curvaceous, big-haired, outgoing, eye-catching woman'' -- somehow persuaded the mainstream press to find latent legal merit in a case it had originally dismissed as summarily as Judge Wright later would. Second only to Ms. Carpenter-McMillan and William Ginsburg in forging a TV career out of Sexgate, Mr. Taylor has written a new essay titled ''Why Clinton Will Miss Paula Jones'' -- but who's really going to be missing her now?
So there we have it, one of the chief occupants of the fainting couch over Bill Clinton's private life now tells us it would be unseemly to prosecute Bush, Cheney or any of their accomplices for torture, even though he admits, right up front, that these crimes have occurred.

Just yesterday, Glenn Greenwald presented the perfect counterarguments to the drivel Taylor just put out. First, Glenn takes on the assertion by Taylor that "Any prosecutions would also touch off years of partisan warfare." No sir, we can't have that partisan warfare,that is, if Republicans are the ones in the wrong, even if it encompasses crimes against humanity.
Nope, we can only argue for partisan warfare when a Democrat has done something wrong, even if it is only a sexual dalliance.

Here's Greenwald's response to such claims about prosecuting torture:

There are many political disputes -- probably most -- composed of two or more reasonable sides. Whether the U.S. Government has committed war crimes by torturing detainees -- conduct that is illegal under domestic law and international treaties which are binding law in this country -- isn't an example of a reasonable, two-sided political dispute. Nor is the issue of whether the U.S. Government and the telecom industry engaged in illegal acts for years by spying on Americans without warrants. Nor is the question of whether we should allow Government officials to break our laws at will by claiming that doing so is necessary to keep us Safe.

There just aren't two sides to those matters. That's what the International Red Cross means when it says that what we did to Guantanamo detainees was "categorically torture." It's what the only federal judges to adjudicate the question -- all three -- have concluded when they found that the President clearly broke our laws with no valid excuses by spying on our communications for years with no warrants. It's why the Bush administration has sought -- and repeatedly received -- immunity and amnesty for the people who have implemented these policies. It's because these actions are clearly illegal -- criminal -- and we all know that.

No, this isn't an opportunity for revenge for the punishment of Bill Clinton. Any person with any humanity will want acts that are "categorically torture" to be punished to the full extent of the law.

Finally, the main point of Greenwald's post yesterday was to point out that our country now has arrived at the point where the rule of law is gone and the rule of a few men has been substituted:
This is what a country becomes when it decides that it will not live under the rule of law, when it communicates to its political leaders that they are free to do whatever they want -- including breaking our laws -- and there will be no consequences. There are two choices and only two choices for every country -- live under the rule of law or live under the rule of men. We've collectively decided that our most powerful political leaders are not bound by our laws -- that when they break the law, there will be no consequences. We've thus become a country which lives under the proverbial "rule of men"...
If our country intends to return to the fold of civilization, it is imperative that those responsible for torture are held fully accountable for their crimes. That is the only way that the rest of the world would be able to believe us when, after the trials are completed and sentences delivered, our country stands up as one to say "Never Again!"

Taylor sees the evil that has been perpetrated by the Bush cabal, but he piles even greater evil upon it by calling for pardons. When he looks in the mirror in the morning, he is seeing the face of evil looking back at him.

Update, July 14:

Do you know who this man is?
He is Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Today, he filed charges of genocide against Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan. In an interview with CNN's Nic Robertson, this exchange was particularly enlightening:

Q. Sudan's representative, ambassador to the U.N. has already said on the strength of this -- that you are playing with fire by going after Sudan's president.

A. I have a responsibility to the security council -- the security council referred the case to me and requested me to investigate. After 3 years I have strong evidence that al Bashir is committing a genocide -- I cannot be blackmailed -- I cannot yield. Silence never helped the victims. Silence helped the perpetrators. The prosecutor should not be silent.

What a contrast! Ocampo-Moreno understands that silence in the face of crimes against humanity only further enables the perpetrators. Taylor, on the other hand, not only wants silence, but also wants overt acts to pardon the perpetrators. My only hope for the future, is that when George Bush or Dick Cheney looks in the mirror, they will be looking to see if the face of justice is gaining on them.


Karen M said...

A great post, Jim! Thanks for this.

And in that mirror, "misdeeds are likely more egregious than they at first appear."

Anonymous said...

The ICC has no jurisdiction over us. But Obama, if he's not a total worm, should in his first SOTU address, ask Congress to accede to the rome convention, invoke article 41 of the ICCPR, and declare ICJ jurisdiction. It's clear that America has lost control of it's government, and we need help from the civilized world.

skdadl said...

Thank you, Jim -- terrific post.

I think it's arguable what the ICC can do, even if states have not signed and ratified. I suspect we'll have to see that work out in practice, actually.

Jim White said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. I hope that we can get the message out on as many fronts as possible that Taylor's approach is wrong and tells the world that US exceptionalism makes us above all international norms. The road back to our country being an international leader in human rights will be a long one, but forcing real accountability for torture has to be a major part of that in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

What about the unprovoked, illegal attack against and occupation of another country, the use of napalm and white phosphorus in civilian populated areas, and massacres and torture of women and children? Or don't the Nuremberg Principles mean anything to you? Here's a refresher.

Principles of the
Nuremberg Tribunal, 1950
No. 82
Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal. Adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations, 1950.

Principle I
Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.
Principle II
The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.
Principle III
The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.
Principle IV
The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.
Principle V
Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.
Principle Vl
The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under; international law:

1. Crimes against peace:
1. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
2. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
2. War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or illtreatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
3. Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Principle VII
Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principles VI is a crime under international law.

Jim White said...

Hi folks. Lots of new traffic this morning. Can anyone give me a heads up on where you got the link?

Thanks, and keep the great comments coming. I agree that the war of aggression also is worthy of prosecution by the ICC.

Pakistan Affairs Desk said...

I came here from cursor.org. I recommend them highly

Jim White said...

Thanks, Pakistan Affairs Desk,they certainly generated a lot of traffic.

FAISAL said...


A Pakistani Dr. Afia Siddiqi who was kidnapped(with her little children) by Pakistani and USA agencies in 2003 is in Bagram Jail in Afghanistan.

According to media reports she has faced severe torture and due to constant rape by allied force members she has lost her mind.

Please support the appeal for Dr. Afia :