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April 20, 2009

“Trust me, Mr. President. I can take it.”
Posted by Patrick at 10:34 PM *

It’s been far too long since this blog ran a quote from the great Charles P. Pierce. Here he is, last Friday, on Eric Alterman’s blog, now hosted by the Nation:

I have now lived through three major episodes in my life where the political elite have told me quite plainly that neither I nor my fellow citizens are sufficiently mature to suffer the public prosecution of major crimes committed within my government. The first was when Gerry Ford told me I wasn’t strong enough to handle the sight of Richard Nixon in the dock. Dick Cheney looked at this episode and determined that the only thing Nixon did wrong was get caught. The second time was when the entire government went into spasm over the crimes of the Iran-Contra gang and I was told that I wasn’t strong enough to see Ronald Reagan impeached or his men packed off to Danbury. Dick Cheney looked at this and determined that the only thing Reagan and his men did wrong was get caught and, by then, Cheney had decided that even that wasn’t really so very wrong and everybody should shut up. Now, Barack Obama, who won election by telling the country and its people that they were great because of all they’d done for him, has told me that I am not strong enough to handle the prosecution of pale and vicious bureaucrats, many of them acting at the behest of Dick Cheney, who decided that the only thing he was doing wrong was nothing at all, who have broken the law, disgraced their oaths, and manifestly belong in a one-room suite at the Hague. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m sick and goddamn tired of being told that, as a citizen, I am too fragile to bear the horrible burden of watching public criminals pay for their crimes and that, as a political entity, my fellow citizens and I are delicate flowers encased in candy-glass who must be kept away from the sight of men in fine suits weeping as they are ripped from the arms of their families and sent off to penal institutions manifestly more kind than those in which they arranged to get their rocks off vicariously while driving other men mad.

Hey, Mr. President. Put these barbarians on trial and watch me. I’ll be the guy out in front of the courtroom with a lawn chair, some sandwiches, and a cooler of fine beer. I’ll be the guy who hires the brass band to serenade these criminal bastards on their way off to the big house. I’ll be the one who shows up at every one of their probation hearings with a copy of the Constitution, the way crime victims show up at the parole board when their attacker comes up for release. I’ll declare a national holiday—Victory Over Torture Day—and lead the parade right up whatever gated street it is that Cheney lives on these days. Trust me, Mr. President. I can take it.

Comments on "Trust me, Mr. President. I can take it.":
#1 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:10 PM:

Is this man susceptible at all to well-rounded redheads of A Certain Age?

Because if he is, I need to go find him and invite him to a nearby flat surface, rightdamnednow.

#2 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:13 PM:

That man... is so right. I would so be there, asking him to pass the mustard, and the bottle opener.

#3 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:31 PM:

Marna, I'm with you. And Terry, I'll bring some picnic yummies...

I am so done with the bullsh!t. Their toes need to be held on the fire until they 'fess up to all their evilness. And it won't happen soon enough for me.

#4 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:34 PM:

Sandwiches? For THIS? Somebody bring a Weber grill and we can do steaks, grilled portobello mushrooms, all that good stuff.

#5 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:39 PM:

I want a bonfire. We can do steaks, and potatoes, and roast chickend and burn effigies.

#6 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:41 PM:

I hereby declare myself in charge of the celebratory cupcakes.

#7 ::: Hank Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:47 PM:

I worry about all these court cases and congressional committees that look into and describe in detail all the bad things that have been done, successfully, by our government.

Anyone remember the Church Committee reports?

I winced seeing Chavez handing Obama that book titled "Opening the Veins of South America ..." thinking it cautionary rather than instructive.

"It's a cookbook!"

#8 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:53 PM:

I'll bring the s'mores!

#9 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 12:06 AM:

Grilled corn, kabobs, salad, and marshmallows for dessert.
Maybe some lambic, although it's way too good for the trial - maybe the party after the sentencing?

#10 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 12:08 AM:

Beer, chips, salsa...

I think -- I know this is a minority view -- that Obama is playing somewhat of a political game here. I think he'll be quite happy for Congress to investigate and prosecute, and will cooperate with whatever congressional committees are set up to deal with this. But if Congress doesn't act, he won't. I can understand why he doesn't want to take it on. I'd be very much happier if he would.

I'm calling my Senators (Boxer, Feinstein) tomorrow to push congressional action, and also to let them know that I support the impeachment of Jay Bybee.

#11 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 12:16 AM:

Lizzy, #10: contact your representative, too--the House impeaches, the Senate judges.

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 12:18 AM:

I'd bring jugs of tranya. And a few of segir.

#13 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 01:28 AM:

I'd bake a pie. A dozen pies.

#14 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 02:06 AM:

I don't think I'd cheer, or celebrate, because it is -- or I think it ought to be -- a somber occasion. I'd probably even grieve that it had come about. (Not that people were punished, but that they had done what they did.)

Meanwhile, I have to wonder if there are extensive investigations being undertaken to ascertain how many people we're still holding in both acknowledged and secret prisons, indefinitely, without a trial, merely because they have been accused of belonging to some nefarious organization. That kind of imprisonment might not be as serious as torturing them, but it's equally contrary to what I consider the traditional American concept of Rule of Law.

#16 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 02:25 AM:

Don, I'll disagree with you. If it happened, it would be worth celebrating, because it would mean that law had prevailed over men.

#17 ::: James Chen ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 02:44 AM:

As a dissenting voice, I'd rather not see our government get in the habit of criminalizing people who, just a few years earlier, were basically listening to the government for cues on the legality of a particular issue.

Fire them, yes - criminalize them... no. Criminalize the rats that gave the order, sure, as they knew full well that, at the end of the day, it was their order and their position of power that dictates national policy at all levels. But we know the effects of authority on people. While there should be consequences, the gross weight of it sits... higher up.

That said, if we're roasting Cheney, I'll bring extra microbrews.

#19 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 03:18 AM:

As a dissenting voice, I'd rather not see our government get in the habit of criminalizing people who, just a few years earlier, were basically listening to the government for cues on the legality of a particular issue.

Fire them, yes - criminalize them... no. Criminalize the rats that gave the order, sure, as they knew full well that, at the end of the day, it was their order and their position of power that dictates national policy at all levels. But we know the effects of authority on people. While there should be consequences, the gross weight of it sits... higher up.

Um.... no. The things being discussed were illegal. They were plainly so (in the case of the torture, the wiretapping, the e-mail snooping, and (IMO) things like the detetion, without charge of Padilla and a few others). The laws were plain. In some cases (wiretapping) the president admitted they were against the law, and said he didn't care. In other cases when new laws were written he claimed the right to ignore them.

If the President told me it was legal to shoot the leader of the other party, and showed me a pretty piece of legal sophistry to defend the position, I don't think I should have a get out of jail free card.

Because what that does is make it true that the president gets to make the laws. Maybe he goes to jail, when he leaves office, but what does that matter to the people who were wronged by his lackeys?

They committed crimes, even if it was because they followed bad advice. I still get to go to jail if my lawyer tells me something is legal which isn't.

What makes them different?

#20 ::: Teka Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 03:40 AM:

The only Charles Pierce I'm familiar with is the late great drag artist, so I boggled at this at first ("Isn't he dead?"). That said, right on, Mr. Pierce. And thank you.

#21 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 06:26 AM:

I think there's a point being missed here.

I too long to see Bush and Cheney and everyone who did or authorised the doing of these things arrested, tried, convicted, and locked up. But I also remember that before the election I was terrified that with the power these people had (and still have in large measure, let's not forget that) they would upturn the entire country rather than allow Obama to take office.

They have supporters, and some of those supporters are not susceptible to reason, and they have guns and money. I don't for one moment believe Obama is concerned for his own personal safety, or he would never have put himself up there, but I believe he is concerned for domestic order and the safety of his citizens. I think prosecuting Bush and his administration, while it would make us all cheer for truth and justice and what they used to call the American Way, would be a disastrous move in practical terms, and that that is why he isn't doing it.

We're strong enough to see our foes brought to justice and be told that we were right all along. Hooray for us. Are we strong enough to survive the assault on law and order that might result therefrom?

So justice and law are subordinate to wealth and power. That's how it is, how it always has been (read Juvenal, or Swift) and in order to make any difference at all to that, Obama needs to be in charge of a country at peace for a bit longer than a few months. If that means letting the architects of evil go free for now, well, I don't like it, but I can deal with it.

(Of course, I'm several thousand miles away, which helps...but what happens in America affects the world, as we've seen, and the trouble caused by the economic collapse would be nothing to the fallout from a general collapse of government in your country. And I think that would be a real possibility if Obama antagonises the right too much.)

The buck is with him. Can we sort of trust him for a little longer maybe?

#23 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 07:02 AM:

I agree with Zander.

#24 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 07:20 AM:

James Chen @ 17: "Fire them, yes - criminalize them... no. Criminalize the rats that gave the order, sure, as they knew full well that, at the end of the day, it was their order and their position of power that dictates national policy at all levels. But we know the effects of authority on people. While there should be consequences, the gross weight of it sits... higher up."

Yes, we know the effects of authority have on people's sense of culpability--we just don't accept that effect as an unalterable given. Yes, people tend to surrender their own moral compass in the face of the right stamps and seals. That is a tendency we should be doing our best to change, not tacitly condoning.

Imagine this situation: Twenty years from now, some poor private is given an order to do some horribly unspeakable war crime against an enemy she hates passionately. How will she decide whether to follow it? If right now we let all those underlings off, the message she learns from history is that she will not be held accountable, and so she'll have one less reason to disobey that illegal order. If we prosecute, then she learns that no matter what her monkey brain is telling her, she is still legally accountable for her actions, and that will make it easier for her to remember that she's morally accountable too.

To put it another way: humanity functions at its best when every mind is engaged and making its own judgements, not when the many surrender their volition to the few. We should encourage people to think for themselves, to take responsibility for their own actions as much as possible.

Which brings me to:

Zander @ 21: "The buck is with him. Can we sort of trust him for a little longer maybe?"

Uh, well, no. Obama has his priorities, and I have mine. While I rejoice at how many more of those priorities are in common than with the last commander-in-chief, they are not identical. The explanation that Obama gave for not pursuing prosecutions doesn't convince me, and I am not going to subordinate my own judgment to his on the basis of secret information that he may or may not have. The risks of prosecution do not, in my humble, outweigh the benefits and I do no one any favors by pretending otherwise. By voicing my dissent I am not undercutting him; I am strengthening us both. It is in the roil of dissent that the strongest ideas are formed.

#25 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 07:49 AM:

Zander @21:
I also remember that before the election I was terrified that with the power these people had (and still have in large measure, let's not forget that) they would upturn the entire country rather than allow Obama to take office.

I also remember that before the election of 2000, some far-right Republicans were saying that they feared that Bill Clinton would do exactly the same thing if Gore didn't win the election.

I think that it was a wingnut idea coming from the right, and it's a wingnut idea coming from the left.

#26 ::: Brad Hicks ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 07:50 AM:

I can't believe I campaigned for this guy. Between this, and his enthusiastically allowing the regulatory capture of his economic team, I'm ready to begin impeachment hearings, not just on Jay Bybee, but on Barack Hoover Obama.

The first sitting Presidential administration of my lifetime to be convicted of war crimes was the Reagan administration, over the mining of the Managua harbor during our overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. Now it looks like I'm going to see the second sitting Presidential administration of my lifetime be convicted of war crimes, for the sheltering of torturers.

While we're Kipling: "Whosoever for any cause / Seeketh to take or give / Power above and beyond the laws / Suffer it not to live!"

#27 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 07:56 AM:

Anyone whose congresscritter's e-mail page is run under the official US House of Represenatives web domain is in for a hassle. You are required to know your zip +4 to find your rep's submission page, and even then I got an error thanks to their lovely security protocols.

Fuck it. Pick up the phone and call the bastards.

#28 ::: ADM ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 08:16 AM:

Apparently, my CA anti-virus software thinks the site is a hate site. Great.

I might be wrong here, but I thought the government had already promised immunity to the CIA agents who performed the torture. Immunity from prosecution, at least. Not from firing. But I'm all for prosecutions of the administration and its lawyers.

Does it strike anybody else as being a little weird that USians, who are generally accorded super-strength and moral courage in the national political rhetoric, are supposedly too weak to deal with this? Because we've got no problems asking the citizens of other countries to do this. Funny how moral superiority is fungible.

#29 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 08:19 AM:

As a dissenting voice, I'd rather not see our government get in the habit of criminalizing people who, just a few years earlier, were basically listening to the government for cues on the legality of a particular issue.

Who said anything about "criminalizing"? We're talking about prosecuting for crimes committed that were crimes at the time they were committed. "Criminalizing" would imply an ex post facto law, and hence would be unconstitutional.

The courts interpret laws, not the government.

#30 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 08:35 AM:

ADM @28, Apparently, my CA anti-virus software thinks the site is a hate site. Great.

It is mostly written from a far right militia crowd point of view, with support for various "creative" legal theories (some originating from scams discussed here) that claim to prove that the US government has been illegitimate for most of the last hundred years.

#31 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 08:48 AM:

Here's the document Fragano Ledgister linked to @22 from a more "respectable" source.

(For the record, I agree with Obama on not prosecuting the perpetrators right now. The downsides would probably be bigger than the benefits. There's already enough anger brewing without TV footage of people on trial who talk tearjerking nonsense about how they did it all for America and are now being victimised by an apple pie hating Administration to the nodding approval of at least a fair share of politically interested people in the US, and you probably couldn't find a jury without at least one juror who'd agree with them anyway.)

#32 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 09:09 AM:

Paula@3: Wait, we should hold their toes to the fire until they confess? To the hideous crime of torture? My cognitive dissonance is getting out of hand here.

#33 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 09:11 AM:

If we can't prosecute criminals because of fear of the political results, we've ALREADY LOST the rule of law.

#34 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 09:16 AM:

If we can't prosecute criminals because of fear of the political results, we've ALREADY LOST the rule of law.

Then you never had it to start with. Do you think there's ever been a time in US history when political considerations didn't play a role in decisions about prosecutions?

#35 ::: Bill Altreuter ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 09:21 AM:

I love Charley Pierce, and I would be delighted to see some prosecutions-- or a lot of them. I think it is sickening that the scumbags that conjured up rationalizations for obvious criminal acts get a pass, but low level dopes like Lynde England are put through elaborate show trials. That said, however, I think Mr. Pierce is being just a tad disingenuous when he says that the rational for the Obama DOJ's decision to decline prosecution is that the American people don't want to see such prosecutions. I don't know that anyone knows whether that is true or not, but for sure Congress would be unable to function properly if it were decided to go forward with a full-blown criminal investigation-- or even a Congressional investigation, at least at this point. (Yea gods, it would probably fall to Joe Lieberman to chair the committee-- can you imagine?) Deciding to prosecute would turn the prosecutions into the main business of the country, and there is quite a bit more business in front of us that should take priority. It is to Obama's credit that he is pushing as much as he is on as many things as he is-- something that he said he would do, and something that is systemically so difficult that during the campaign he was criticized for promising to undertake. The fact is that we need health care reform, and education reform, and to restructure the national defense, and to restore the US leadership posture abroad-- and oh, yeah, we have these two catastrophic wars, and am I leaving anything out? Oh, right, the tanking national and international economy. I'm all for hounding John Woo in the streets, but he's small potatoes relative to the work that desperately needs to get done.

#36 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 09:35 AM:

I am thinking of the prosecutions towards the end of First Lensman of the Morgan-Towne-Isaacstein gang, and Samms' insistence on a government of law, not of men.

But I think that it's a pointer towards the fact that, for all the fact that that sort of thing has often been put forward as an ideal, nothing like it has taken place except in the context of older politics of "faction" -- where the aim has not been one of even-handed justice -- or where some external power has demanded the prosecutions, as in the case of war crimes trials.

I think it would be very good for prosecutions of that sort to take place (but then I would; I have the ground-in respect for the rule of law of an Anglo-Canadian ex-law student); but I would also bear in mind that smaller-scale prosecutions of misuse of power, usually against police, frequently end up with hung juries or "nullification" because there is sufficient support for the misuse of power by the authorities to gum up the system even when evidence is clear and decisive. And the downstream effects of that might be not so very good.

While I'm at it, I would like the US to accept the jurisdiction of the Word Court in The Hague, as well as allowing the extradition of the Bush 6 to Spain ... which I expect to see about when flying boars are sighted over BWI.

#37 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 09:37 AM:

Jimcat #25: I know, and I'm glad I was wrong, but the fear remains. I don't know if anyone on the left was actually talking about e.g. seceding from the Union if Bush got in in 2000. I'm just not sure that the left and the right are equivalent in this area. I'd love to be wrong again, though. I really would.

David #33: the rule of law has always been, to a greater or lesser extent, at the pleasure of the wealthy and powerful. Kipling's "old king" never went away, because it wasn't him they got rid of, just some guy in a funny hat. Sad but true.

#38 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 09:58 AM:

To my way of thinking, the whole torture thing is small beer.

The real issue is this: George W. Bush and Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and allies (including one Anthony Blair) waged aggressive war without even the legal fig-leaf of a UN security council resolution.

That's the Nuremburg Offense, for which quite a few senior members of the NSDAP went to the gallows. With the death toll in Iraq somewhere in the 100,000 to 1 million range, barbaric acts of torture against a few thousand prisoners held in an illegal black concentration camp system pale into insignificance.

Start at the top with Bush, Blair, Cheney and Rumsfeld, for the capital offense. Then start working down the totem pole to remind the officer corps that "I was only obeying orders" is not a sufficient justification (again: see also, Nuremberg), and that if they've got the legal authority to refuse an illegal order they should damn well remember to use it.

#39 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 10:00 AM:

Incidentally: yes, I am anti-capital punishment. I'd be satisfied to see Bush, Cheney, et al given live without parole instead. But it seems to me that the magnitude of their crimes so dwarfs the usual run-of-the-mill offense that reconsidering the deterrence value of hanging the odd war criminal is a worthwhile idea.

#40 ::: filkertom ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 10:27 AM:

Pretty damn frickin much. I want all of them to stand trial, from Dubya to the kid who made the coffee.

#41 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 10:47 AM:

Feh. I find myself making excuses for Obama. I speculate about why he'd do what he's doing and then slip from there to defending it. Must guard against that.

Prosecuting the torturers would be messy and divisive and maybe even a little bloody.

I think a Lincoln would do it.

I'm awed by the decision Lincoln faced. It's easy in hindsight to say he did the right thing, but how difficult must it have been at the time?

Why not just let the South secede? They go their way, we go ours. When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them and all that.

I'm supposed to raise an Army, send it to attack people who were our countrymen just the day before, setting cousin against cousin? There'll be riots and assassination attempts. Partisans on each side will murder the others. The war will most likely leave hundreds of thousands dead before the question is settled, and it's not at all certain that we'll win.

Or I could give a pretty speech and just let it slide. Nobody dies. The terrible injustice of slavery will continue in the CSA, but the blood won't be on our hands anymore.

No President ever faced a more terrible dilemma, and he made the right call.

This business with prosecuting the torturers seems, by contrast, to be pretty easy. Prosecute the bastards, haul every shabby detail into the light, and let the chips fall where they may. Lincoln would have done it, and if he's somewhere watching, he's wondering why we think this is such a difficult decision.

The rule of law is important. It's more important than rescuing the economy, fixing health care, getting us out of Iraq, and whatever else is on Obama's agenda. If Obama restores the principle that no man, not even the President and those operating at his whim, are above the law--if he drives a stake through the heart of Bush's Imperial Presidency, cuts off its' head, and buries it with garlic stuffed in it's mouth--and achieves absolutely nothing else, I'll count his administration a huge success.

#42 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:02 AM:

Laertes #41: so if the economy continues to tumble into complete chaos, people continue to get ill and die and not go to doctors because they can't afford it, the war goes on indefinitely--you'll count his administration a success if he just locks up the last guy and his friends?

Well, gee, I'm sure we can find one worthwhile thing Bush did in his time (wasn't there something about aid to Africa?), so maybe his presidency was a success as well. Or maybe a president has to keep all the plates spinning at once, and some are more immediate (let's not say important) than others.

Something that's occurred to me: there are still troops over in Iraq fighting this war, aren't there? Maybe Obama thinks it would be better to wait till he's managed to end the war before he prosecutes people for starting it. I don't know. Just a thought.

#43 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:16 AM:

#42 Zander: you'll count his administration a success if he just locks up the last guy and his friends?

The point isn't to lock up "the last guy." I'd have been just as happy had Bush's own justice department done the job, and in that case it wouldn't have been a case of locking up "the last guy" at all.

"before he prosecutes people for starting it"

Just to be clear: When I repeatedly and clearly said that I wanted to see "the torturers" prosecuted, what I meant was that I wanted to see torturers prosecuted for the crime of ordering and committing acts of torture. If you want to critique that point of view, it's more honest to do so without fundamentally altering it first.

And of course you're right that Bush did some worthwhile things. I'd be embarrassed if I had, as you appear to suggest, put forward the idea that any worthwhile accomplishment redeems an otherwise-entirely-evil presidency.

Instead, of course, I wrote that restoring the rule of law is so important that I'd forgive a lack of any other achievement if a president were to pull it off.

Have we met, sir? Usually I don't get this kind of dismissive and uncharitable treatment from people until they know me better.

#44 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:19 AM:

#16 Linkmeister:

I'd not disapprove vigorously of other people Celebrating, just probably wouldn't do it myself. (The cheering part that is. If the contents of the picnic hamper were sufficiently interesting, and it's a keg of Real Ale, I'd probably accept an invitation to join that part, but my demeanor would be somber and more fit for a post-funeral collation.)

I think it boils down to a feeling on my part that there's something basically Wrong about singling-out for celebration something that should be happening every day, as a matter of course. I would be, as always, pleased to see that Law prevails over Men, but if an example of this is sufficiently unusual that it provokes special celebration, our situation may be even worse than I think (and I don't think it's especially good).

#45 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:19 AM:

I'm inclined to agree with Bill at #35:

Deciding to prosecute would turn the prosecutions into the main business of the country, and there is quite a bit more business in front of us that should take priority.

We are constantly required to weigh practicality against principle, and to decide whether we think one evil is worse than another. It's hard to imagine a good health care reform package being passed anytime soon if the country is whipped into a frenzy by hearings and trials on the last administration.

Also, I think Cheney is the evil R. Daneel Olivaw - he'll still be alive and kicking even if it takes 100 years to get to prosecuting him.

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:22 AM:

Jon Sobel @ 45... If Dick Cheney is Daneel, who is Karl Rove?

#47 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:42 AM:

The Mule.

#48 ::: Chris Eagle ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:42 AM:

@35: Sidestepping slightly (following Charlie @38) from prosecuting torturers to prosecuting war criminals, I'm not convinced that there is anything else that should take priority. How is a US domestic problem like healthcare or education reform more important than setting a precedent which would deter future leaders from ripping other countries apart in wars of illegal aggression?

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:44 AM:

Chris 48: Hear, hear.

#50 ::: Ingrid ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:53 AM:

Zander @21:

I agree that a President needs to look to the health of the entire country, and its stability, but in a way, isn't that what trials are for, to sort out the guilty from the not-so-guilty, to find the truth and set the matter to rest so that stability might be regained in the hearts and minds of the people? Okay, it would also provide a platform for a lot of idiotic hate-mongering, but it would also provide a structure for rebuttal.

I get that Obama has other priorities - economy rescue, health care reform, foreign wars - those are my priorites too, but I wonder if Congress wouldn't negotiate these things a little more quickly and cleanly if there was a nice big example of the people's payback going on at the same time.

In any case, there's a red velvet cake with raspberry filling waiting for Mr. Pierce right over here.

#51 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:59 AM:

Chris Eagle @48, through its effects on the likelyhood that a leader who is likely to tear other countries apart in wars of illegal aggression gets elected in the near future.

As far as I'm concerned, the most important mission in US politics is to keep the crazies out of power by all legal means (and to get them out of power in times when they're in power). Everything else comes after that.

#52 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 12:03 PM:

Another bit of interesting input on this whole debate here. An interesting question is whether he's trying to play chicken ("if you want to have this out, we will demand that everything be made public") or honestly trying to argue the position that torture *should* be made legal, because it is an essential tool for national security.

#53 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 12:04 PM:

A glimmer of hope -

On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said on the ABC News program “This Week” that “those who devised policy” also “should not be prosecuted.” But administration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale.

NY Times

#54 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 12:27 PM:

Breaking News at MSNBC:

Obama leaves door open to prosecution over Bush-era interrogations.

And has everyone seen Cheney gasping his way through an interview with Faux Noise yesterday?

#55 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 01:44 PM:

@Jimcat Kasprzak
I also remember that before the election of 2000, some far-right Republicans were saying that they feared that Bill Clinton would do exactly the same thing if Gore didn't win the election.

I think that it was a wingnut idea coming from the right, and it's a wingnut idea coming from the left.

The difference is that in 2004, Bush Administration officials actually explored the idea of whether the election could be "postponed" for security reasons:

Newsweek said DeForest Soaries, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, wants Ridge to ask Congress to pass legislation giving the government power to cancel or reschedule a federal election. Soaries said New York suspended primary elections on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks, but the federal government does not appear to have that authority.

The public response was negative, and the idea never went anywhere, but to suggest that it's equally paranoid on the right and the left is a false equivalence.

#56 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 02:03 PM:

My optimistic take is this:

1. The Obama team has shown themselves capable of thinking several moves ahead (in many cases, though not all.)

2. One of the other disgraces of the Bush Administration that must be reversed is the idea that the AG serves the president, when in fact he serves the law.

3. If they actually carry through on that (which I believe they will), then it's arguably (politically) better if the president doesn't want to prosecute former administration officials. Instead, he releases damning memos, lets Congress investigate to bring out more damning information, and it's up to the Attorney General (not the president) to decide to prosecute or appoint a special prosecutor.

All of this will take a while. I'm all for keeping up the pressure, because none of this will happen unless we do, but I'm not particularly inclined to get upset at Obama yet.

(btw, I think the various petitions to impeach torture memo author Jay Bybee from the Court of Appeals are a good place to start.)

#57 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 02:38 PM:

@53: I read that too.

"Mr. Obama said once again that he does not favor prosecuting C.I.A. operatives who used interrogation techniques that he has since banned. But as for lawyers or others who drew up the former policies allowing such techniques, he said it would be up to his attorney general to decide what to do, adding, “I don’t want to prejudge that.”

On Monday, aides to Mr. Obama said they were not ruling out legal sanctions against the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques."

That was from the article. Seems to me they are focusing on the ones in charge perhaps. The fact he is pushing Congress to do something is interesting. Maybe this is a way to make them use the power they were given unlike the last eight years? Maybe this will go deeper and deeper but I think it's interesting he is leaving up to the AG and Congress and not acting directly.

I think impeaching is very much on the table with that last quote.

#58 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 02:47 PM:

Zander: It's because of that sort of threat I wish to see prosecutions. The worry that the nutjobs will revolt is not a terrible worry (the way the "conservatives" have self identified as "right-wing extremists" is scary. One of the reasons the similar report about the left-wing extremists didn't get so much play is, the talking heads on the left don't seem to identify with ELF the way the ones on the right do with VDare, but I digress).

I refuse to let the sycophants of the thugs hold law and order hostage. That's caving in to a protection racket. If they want to revolt... fine. It will suck. I don't think it will suck as badly as the last time. But if no stand it made, they will be emboldened. That's the the thing about Cheney learning that Nixon/Reagan, etc.'s mistake was to get caught is all about.

They got away with it, so he decided he could get away with it. Enough.

If we aren't strong enough to survive the assault on law and order, then there was no point in voting the bastards out, because they will be back.

Laertes: Lincoln connived at that call. There was a moderate amount of sentiment in the North to let them go (and recall they started the seceding the day the results were in. Buchanan pretty much gave them a wink and a nod... which is why he'd been holding a solid lead in the, "Worst US President of All Time" category). By provoking them to attack Ft. Sumter he got his casus belli for free. If the folks in Charleston had held off, the war might have fizzled out before it started.

Zander: I think this is healthcare. It's treatment of a cancer on the nation. I'd hate to see personal healthcare bought at the price of gov't accountability to the law. I'll put the former off to keep the latter.

In a general way... I refuse to ease up on the topic, because silence equals assent. If he's pulling an FDR (make me pass it), I'm right for him. Loud, proud and willing to ride it out.

#59 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 02:48 PM:

Oh yeah... there is nothing preventing the present congress from impeaching the last holders of office. It would strip them of pensions, benefits and any right to hold future office.

It's also not pardonable.

#60 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 03:06 PM:

I just learned something interesting:

IF the CIA interrogators actions can be deemed to have gone beyond the limits and/or techniques as laid out in the memos, then they can be charged and prosecuted.

So the CIA isn't out of the woods, and I'm guessing the contractors may be on the hook as well...

#61 ::: D Turner ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 03:46 PM:

You know why you don't prosecute the previous holders of office for the crimes they undeniably committed? Because if you do, the next time power changes hands, you're going to jail yourself.

#62 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 04:02 PM:

Gee, D, then the Rethuglicans really should have thought of that before they prosecuted Bill Clinton, shouldn't they? And before all those politically-motivated prosecutions done after Gonzalez cleared out all the scrupuluous US Attorneys?

#63 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 04:10 PM:

Remember the youthful joy we had whenever we anticipated Fitzmas?

Isn't it time we felt like that again?

That the happy-happy dance seeing a perpwalk of management should be more a part of our lives than that being witnessed on an L&O show?

Don't we deserve to be if not happy, then purged of our war criminals enough that we don't slink around like the Turks, still in denial all this time?

#64 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 04:10 PM:

D Turner: Only if you commit such grave breaches of the law. Is is possible that by being absolutist in the application of the law that anyone who hol office is at risk?

Maybe (there is a qualified immunity for legislators... we gave one a pass on cold-blooded murder, because it happened in the offices of the Capitol Building). But you know what... it won't happen.

We let Reagan get away with flouting the law. We let Nixon get away with it. We ignored Bush Pere being flagrantly ass covering in his pardons (a vigorous congress could have used those pardons to get to him. Cap Wienberger, et al, lost there right to the 5th amendment when they were pardoned (no risk of incrimination), and they could have been compelled to testify, or held in contempt).

We didn't do it.

So the bar is already pretty high (too high IMO). And you know what. I'll bet, if you were right, we'd get either saner laws, more well-behaved politicians, or both.

But saying, "they are all so crooked we can't afford to get their guys for it, because they'll get our guys," (which is how it reads) is more cynical than I can be.

Sunshine the best disinfectant.

#65 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 04:22 PM:

If our guys are that crooked, nail them. I want better guys.

#66 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 05:24 PM:

D Turner @61;

Re: risk of prosecuting prior office holder to result in a 'tit-for-tat' situation,

a) Bring it on. I would say that the politicians on the liberal side of this are less of a legal risk in this game of chicken.

b) If any are dirty enough to convict, then it is best to let them be convicted and get a better politician. Or at least one that knows criminal activities are actionable. And

c) For the most part that ship has already sailed. President Clinton was still pursued for his indiscretions a couple years after leaving office. It is amazing how 'the public demands this politician be punished' when the politician is Democratic changes to 'the public is tired of all these legal actions' when the politician is Republican. And vice versa.

#67 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 05:35 PM:

Interesting legal sidetrack: Do we have any Californians in the Fluorosphere who follow legal proceedings, who can tell us whether the torture memos have been used in a request to recuse Jay Bybee from hearing a criminal appeal?

Because if I were practicing out there? Man, I'd be all OVER that. Coerced confession case? Recuse Bybee. State intimidating a witness in questioning? Recuse Bybee. Unlawful search and seizure? Recuse Bybee. Habeas corpus based on inhumane prison conditions? Say it with me, class: RECUSE BYBEE.

After a term of that he'll WISH he'd been impeached.

#68 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 05:54 PM:

Um.... Bybee isn't sitting on a California bench. He's on the 9th circuit court of appeals, so he gets federal cases, which have been granted appeals in the 9th Circuit.

So it covers, California, Alasaka, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Hawaii, Guam, and the Marianas Islands.

Lots of room for lots of lawyers to file such motions.

#69 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 06:25 PM:

Too right, Terry, which is why I threw the habeas creepus in there - I referred specifically to California court-watchers because that's where the 9th C. actually sits.

#70 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 06:34 PM:

Dave @ 18:
That was wonderful. Thank you. I have a collection of his poetry, (including this poem, I see) sitting in my to-read pile. Thank you for pointing it out.

#71 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 08:32 PM:

I can't believe I campaigned for this guy. Between this, and his enthusiastically allowing the regulatory capture of his economic team, I'm ready to begin impeachment hearings, not just on Jay Bybee, but on Barack Hoover Obama.

3 months in and we're already hearing talk of impeachment, this time form Democrats. Swallow any Wingnut talking points much?

Let the man do his job a wee bit longer before we decide to tar and feather him. As has been pointed out, the senate can still investigate these matters and pursue crimes. Not everything has to come from the Oval Office and it's best if Congress does something, lest we hear talk of Barack the Imperial President, decreeing all matters from on high.

#72 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 08:45 PM:

One can't help but be reminded that in Ancient Greece, former officeholders were usually prosecuted, generally for violations of the fig laws - from which we derive sycophant.
Count me as on the side of letting go in favor of pragmatism. But, I'd have preferred a "Truth & Reconciliation" approach - confession as a condition of amnesty. That said, one of the things that amazed me was the number of those in South Africa who wouldn't take the amnesty.

#73 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 09:09 PM:

Keith #71: 3 months in and we're already hearing talk of impeachment, this time form Democrats. Swallow any Wingnut talking points much?

At this point I think that there are two plausible counts to justify President Obama's impeachment, both of which can be resolved satisfactorily by executive policy changes.

1. Violation of the presidential oath of office to defend the Constitution by providing immunity from prosecution to criminals guilty of illegally wiretapping American citizens.

2. Violation of the international treaty of the UN Convention Against Torture, by refusing to investigate and prosecute torturers.

#74 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 10:56 PM:

Ummm, I hope my wingnut emulator didn't scare everyone off....

#75 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 10:58 PM:

Earl, the wingnuts don't recognize those as impeachable offenses. Shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, on the other hand ....

#76 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:25 PM:

Yes yes... we have the stomach to watch them go on trial. No argument there.

But do we have the stomach to watch them all be acquitted on some dumbass technicality or prosecutorial ineptitude? I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd come to the BBQ with a healthy stash of anxiolytics in my backpack for when the show turned into a real nail-biter.

#77 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2009, 11:51 PM:

Teka Lynn @ 20:

The only Charles Pierce I'm familiar with is the late great drag artist,

Well, there's also Charles Sanders Peirce, the philosopher/logician.

#78 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 12:03 AM:

On literary analogues . . .


Flannery, honey, you should be with us now:
America could use you. It's a mess
Of brackish water: church and state and press,
The promised birth of freedom, people's power,
We've given up for rainmakers' showers
Of borrowed dollars, suddenly worthless;
Oh! call us out, make us feel that we're less
Than good, help us repent in this last hour.
Your soul was like a gun that kept us good:
You had a voice that sounded just like truth;
Pure and caustic, holy, free and ruthless,
That's how you came up through a hard life's trials,
With cheer and care but giving your heart's blood
To draw large, startling figures for weak eyes.

Best I could do.
And, this

#79 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 12:08 AM:

PJ @ 75, while I'm glad to know that Earl was kidding, remember that the wingnuts will, in fact, consider those as great offenses when committed by a Democrat.

I mean, we're being told that past presidents never shook a bad guy's hand before, and there are photographs to show otherwise. It's not like it has to make sense.

#80 ::: D Turner ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 06:20 AM:

My comment was indeed cynical, more so than usual. And perhaps I am wrong, since so many of the new administration's actions have been perhaps more on the naive side (to my relief).

#81 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 08:25 AM:


The Limbaugh wing of the party never has to preach to anyone but the choir. That means they can make comments that don't make much sense, and trust their listeners to map them into something that looks sorta sensible internally. The Limbaugh wing of the party cannot, however, actually win national elections. Having them driving the Republican agenda is terrible for Republican prospects in the next few elections. But it's self-sustaining. Lots of moderates have fled the party, and those who remain are largely part of the choir that Limbaugh is preaching to. That means that Limbaugh can have a lot of influence on who wins nominations and who gets party positions, even if he can't do much to help them win elections.

#82 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 11:56 AM:

More breaking news - The whole repeat waterboardings wasn't done to save lies from an imminent threat, it was to create evidence of tie between Al-qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

We tortured people to create propaganda we could use to justify a war. This is exactly what the Vietnamese did to John McCain. If we had a real media, someone would get him in front of a video camera explain to him what we did, and ask him point blank if there's a moral difference between what was done to him and what we did, and if there isn't, how we can let this slide without criminal charges.

Because if *we* get to get away with torture, *everyone* gets to get away with torture.

#83 ::: Chris Eagle ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 12:10 PM:

@82: So it was done to save lies from an imminent threat, then?

#84 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Jesus Christ.

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 02:05 PM:

I take exception, albatross. You may not be a Christian, and neither am I, but I think to characterize Jesus Christ as an imminent threat is a little on the excessive side!

(Yes, I'm kidding.)

#86 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 02:27 PM:

Er. lives from an eminent threat. I blame the keyboard on the macbook.

Good unintentional irony, I guess.

#87 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 03:20 PM:


Just doing the stream-of-consciousness thing. A more appropriate post would be something like #@$%^&!. Anyway, if Jesus Christ had walked the Earth in 2003, Dick Cheney would probably have had Him waterboarded as a dangerous religious radical[1].

There just honest-to-God aren't words to describe this latest revelation. We tortured people to produce confessions to justify an unnecessary war, in which we killed somewhere in the neighborhood of a million people. During that war, we also tortured a number of captives, some to death. This is the sort of shit you expect to see (or at least I expect to see) from countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia or North Korea. We just can't accept this, without destroying our country's soul. Either we're the kind of country that accepts this, or we're not, and there's just not going to be a workable middle ground. We no longer have the excuse of ignorance, though in truth, ignorance has been possible for the last few years only by doing your best to ignore or explain away the horrible news coming out.

[1] FWIW, I am a Christian.

#88 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 05:19 PM:

If this form of torture is acceptable, why not the kind of torture that John Yoo said would have been over the line for us? What possible justification could there ever be for indicting *anyone* for torture?

What happens the next time a cop beats a confession out of someone and uses this as a defense? Because if I were an attorney defending a cop from abuse charges during an interrogation I know I'd claim that the POTUS said it was good enough for the CIA, so by god it's good enough for the cops.

#89 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 05:25 PM:

Only about a week ago, I heard Tom Paxton's "We Didn't Know", I think for the first time. It's as unpleasantly relevant today as it was when he wrote it a few decades ago.

Is there anything that non-USAans can do to nudge things along? Considering that my government isn't paying a great deal of attention to demonstrations involving tens of thousands of Tamils, and especially considering that my MP is an ass, I don't think that writing to my own officials will help much.

#90 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 06:25 PM:

This is the sort of shit you expect to see (or at least I expect to see) from countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia or North Korea.

But not us, because we're better than them?

Tell that to the slaves, or the people who died at Wounded Knee or Hiroshima.

Has there ever really been any other kind of country, or have we just been fooling ourselves with American exceptionalism? (Even our exceptionalism isn't exceptional - other countries do that too, and always have.)

There's only one sort of shit, and ours stinks too.

This isn't a justification, or an excuse - hell, no. But we shouldn't be as surprised by this as we are, I think. We had too high an opinion of ourselves as a country, and I wonder how many others were laughing at the pride that went before our fall.

#91 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 06:39 PM:

Chris @90, coming fresh off of teaching slave narratives, I think it's a true statement that the only enduringly effective answer the slaves came up with was to treat American exceptionalism as an unfulfilled promise, or what King later called the blank check, or Hughes the demand to "let America be America again." Revolution, acquiescence, unorganized moral persuasion, not so effective.

I know you know this, just saying that while you are totally right, it's also probably necessary to say "this is not America," even if it's true that "America never was America."

Because I'm pretty sick of "the same old stupid plan." No permanent solutions, sure, but there damn well better be some temporary improvement.

#92 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 09:32 PM:

albatross @87: Anyway, if Jesus Christ had walked the Earth in 2003, Dick Cheney would probably have had Him waterboarded as a dangerous religious radical.

Hadn't read it, but a friend once told me of a Tolstoy short story that had Jesus return to earth in Spain during the Spainish Inquisition. He is picked up, of course. They do recognize him as Christ — but they berate him for interfering with the state of affairs.

#93 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 09:40 PM:

I don't think we'd be enjoying the trial, so much as enjoying the sight of the various people on trial trying to get off by throwing their fellow culprits under the legal bus. And they (as individuals) would, if it meant they'd be able to go free and keep whatever they've got stashed away for their retirements.

#94 ::: Shane ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 09:42 PM:

chris @ 90:
Laughing at you? No one. Not a one in the entire world. Horrified, at what you were doing. Terrified, of what you might yet do. Deeply saddened at the reputation and potential you were burning to do it. Yes, those.

I'm not meaning to be hyperbolic, really. Pride did go before your fall, but I don't think you were being laught at. No one had the distance for schadenfreude.

Ok, perhaps one guy in the back hills of Central Asia, who said this was his goal all along.

#95 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 10:21 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 92: I suspect the story your friend is thinking of is "The Grand Inquisitor". It's a chapter in the novel The Brothers Karamazov but it's also been published on its own. If you follow the link on my name, you can search either for the novel or that specific story.

In the novel, the story follows another chapter, "Rebellion", which gives stark accounts of evil-- and questions of the morality of torture. The narrator of that story asks:

"Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature--that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance--and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."

It's a rather unsettling pair of chapters, but well worth reading (even if you don't read anything else from the novel).

#96 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 10:25 PM:

Dire congressional hearings gave Barbara Jordan national exposure; I hope that public hearings may provide the spark that enables a new strong voice such as hers to emerge for the good of the nation.

#97 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 10:34 PM:

Holy Toledo! I look away from the news for a blessed day or two, and the drip-drip-drip just keeps right on dripping!

Excuse me, I think I need to order some popcorn.

#98 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 10:57 PM:

rm @91, chris @90, albatross @87, et al, yes, there's all the "unAmerican" – now also we hear "unAustralian" – accusations, when nowhere (nobody) actually fully lives up to its (their) ideals & full expectations. Some do try, & some succeed, more than others.

Reminds me of Gandhi's answer about the merits of Christianity, from memory, “it would be a good idea, if someone actually tried it”.

See also bellatrys on Collective Failures of Memory, for instance,, &, at a bit of a tangent, but other places had a different image of themselves before than what we do now, despite early evidence: We Never Knew, mentioned in Making Light, also on a sombre anniversary.

#99 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 11:00 PM:

Epacris, Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilization. He responded "That it would be a good idea."

#100 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 11:24 PM:

chris, #90: Have we ever fully lived up to our ideals? No; that's part of the reason we call them "ideals" rather than "goals". Should we take that failure as cause to stop trying to improve, trying to move a little further in the direction of those ideals? HELL, NO.

Some of us are less surprised than others by our history -- we've heard about the things they clean up in the textbooks. And that cleaning-up is in itself a lot of the problem; secrecy breeds bugs and filth.

John, #95: Echoed in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"...

#101 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 11:26 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @95, ooh. That quote is a real Omelas moment.

#102 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 11:34 PM:

Xopher @99, thanks.
Lee @100, snap - feeling kinda Xeno, here, asymptotically approaching the sweeping front of the conversation from behind. Need to leave now, tho' so I'll have to catch up again later.

#103 ::: Chris Eagle ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 11:35 PM:

@101: "[… People ask me] 'Where do you get your ideas from, Ms. Le Guin?' From forgetting Dostoyevsky and reading road signs backwards, naturally. Where else?"

#104 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 11:55 PM:

I've heard the "sounds like a good idea" quip put in the mouth of Mother Theresa, Ghandi, and the Dalai Llama. The person who asks the question ranges from New York City's old Cardinal (1960s vintage) to Reagan.

Fah. Name a culture, nation, or creed that does live up to all its ideals and boasts.

#105 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 12:39 AM:

Condi Rice belongs in prison. A really deep prison where she never sees the light of day.

#106 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 01:58 AM:

chris @ 90: I feel the way America defines itself by what it wants to become, rather than by what it has been, is a feature not a bug.

#107 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 03:10 AM:

Stefan Jones #104: Fah. Name a culture, nation, or creed that does live up to all its ideals and boasts.

I would say the Shakers, although they are not, as far as I know, particularly inclined to boasting.

#108 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 08:56 AM:

I don't know why this is all hitting me so hard now. I've known or suspected most of what's come out, and in some cases have suspected (maybe still suspect) even worse. But damn, it's hard to see all this coming out into the open, and then go to work and buy groceries and drop my kid off at school like nothing has changed.

#109 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 11:18 AM:

Over at Fox News, Shepard Smith appears to be having much the same reaction that we're having here. Sadly, the apologists just talk right over him.

#110 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 12:47 PM:

Earl 107: I would say the Shakers, although they are not, as far as I know, particularly inclined to boasting.

Hmm. Since the Shakers have died out, not an example that instructs in the direction we want to go here.

#111 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 12:48 PM:

Or perhaps that was your point and I am DUH.

#112 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 04:37 PM:

Xopher #110: Since the Shakers have died out

Who told you that?

#113 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 05:02 PM:

The US Government needs massive fumigation, includes vetting every general officer/admiral promoted in 2001-2008, digging out every "burrowed in" 2001-2008 political appointee apparatchik turned permanent civil service, vetting of Congressional staffers, digging out proselytizers violating separation of church and state and putting the home of various Colorado Springs retiree proselytizing bigots officially offlimits to anyone on active duty or in a military academy, removing all federal funding from the co-called Center for Military Readiness and every other propaganda mill claiming it's a research institution....

It's time to purge the US Government of violators of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and to indict the ones who presided over the debacle of malice, incompetence, greed, corruption, bigotry, intolerance, abuse, torture, criminal negligence (Katrina being but one example), and national interest and prestige disaster, of 200 - 2008..
And I'd live to see Lt Gen. Boykin BUSTED down no higher than chicken colonel--he makes Custer look good...

#114 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Earl Cooley: While there seems to be one Shaker Community left, Sabbathday Lake, I think it actually has but a few members, and they in their eighties and nineties (I don't know how many "attenders" it has) it would be hard to point to a group which preached absitinence, and stopped adopting large groups of children decades ago be not, at least, dying out, if the thing being praised was their strict adherence to their stated ideals.

#115 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2009, 08:57 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @95: Thanks for the lead!

#116 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2009, 09:38 AM:

I saw an article yesterday - similar to this one - that said that the request to torture Abu Zubaydah was made in April 2002 and granted in August. This made the whole argument about "imminent" operations moot, since there'd been four months to replan and avoid anything that could be compromised by a "confession".

Same old, same old, but it still makes me angry.

#117 ::: jsgbs ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2009, 01:57 AM:

Fears of retaliatory prosecutions by Republican administrations are misplaced. Modern Republicans not believe Democrats have a legitimate right to hold office and that political liberties are limited to Republicans only. The next Democratic president to hold office while at least one chamber of Congress is in Republican hands will be persecuted/prosecuted regardless of what Obama does now. No amount of appeasement now will make the GOP act in good faith in the future.

Republican abuses of power have been getting progressively worse since Nixon. If the line is not drawn at using torture to invent reasons to launch an offensive war, then there is no line which future Republican administrations will be dissuaded from crossing. Given that the GOP will persecute Democrats at every opportunity, the gate towards lawless administration power is a gate to hell that must be closed at all costs. The survival of American democracy depends on it.

#118 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2009, 11:40 PM:

I am curious about the overlap between people who:

a. Tell us today that prosecutions on the torture issue would be politically divisive and counterproductive.


b. Told us several years ago that impeaching Bill Clinton on charges of f--king the help and lying about it was a requirement of the rule of law.

I have a feeling that a great many very entertaining quotes are around to be mined from folks like Rush Limbaugh.

#119 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2009, 12:05 AM:

albatross: The better measure for hypocrisy is those who were baying for blood about Marc Rich, and the "trashing of the White House", since those people were asking for prosecutions of the departed president.

#120 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2009, 07:03 PM:

albatross @ 108

Anyone who's studied US history beyond the clapped-out crap in the high school textbooks knows that the government and private citizens have done worse in the past than anything that's been released so far in the torture memo revelations. Not just in our grandparents time, but in our own (well, my own) lifetimes. Atrocities in wartime, check. Police brutality, check. Lynchings, check. Rape and beating used as a way to keep minority populations cowed, check. Forced relocation of native populations in order to take their land, check.

As depressing as that list is, consider that the times have changed enough that most of those acts can no longer be committed in the open; they have to be done in secret, lest there be a public outcry. Well, the secret about the torturing is out now, out enough that it can't be denied anymore. And a lot of people aren't accepting the justifications and rationalizations; there's at least a chance that we'll have some sort of Truth Commission that hangs these acts around the necks of the people who ordered them, not just the "few bad apples".

But it's not a quick process, and even if we have the best outcome, the one we all fantasize about, where Bush and Cheney end up in the dock at the Hague, it won't end the problem completely. So we need to go about our business, keeping ourselves strong and our lives in order, so that when we need to resist the next batch of villains who want to break the law and the bounds of human decency in our name, we will be there to raise our voices against them.

#121 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 12:16 PM:

re 113: It's easy enough for you to say that, Paula, but there's nobody out there who is actually qualified to do it. Certainly your personal involvement, for example, would be fatal to the enterprise, because of your oft-expressed animosity to the former administration and to the Republican Party in general. If you can come up with a way to get this presented as a bipartisan issue with bipartisan/apolitical participation in whatever review is performed, then it could go forward; otherwise, it presents as a politically-motivated purge. At the very least they would have to review all officers, not just those promoted in the last administration.

#122 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 01:14 PM:

I think we need a bipartisan Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Well, maybe not so heavily on the Reconciliation; South Africa was trying to figure out a way for the perps and victims to live together. The victims of our country's shame aren't free, even the ones who are innocent of any crime, even the imaginary "crime" of opposing the US.

No, we need to punish those who have brought our nation into disrepute. But I still think a non-partisan commission is the way to do it (can't be bipartisan as such, since the Republicans won't participate in good faith).

#123 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 01:31 PM:

I am comfortable with the idea of partisan witch hunts to bring justice to torturers. To paraphrase former Dear Leader Dubya, "You're either with us or against us in the fight against torture."

#124 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 01:47 PM:

re 122: Not to put too fine a point on it, Xopher, but saying that the Republicans won't participate in good faith isn't in good faith either.

and re 123: Justice cannot be produced in that manner, as the outcome of WW I so aptly demonstrated.

#125 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 01:48 PM:

Partisan trials (or trials widely perceived as partisan) have three unwanted effects:

a. They let those responsible change the subject from torture to the Democratic purge/witch hunt.

b. If it's all Democrats doing the investigation, then it's almost a given that some will use the whole investigation for directly partisan things, like trying to dig up dirt on particularly annoying Republicans, or avoiding digging up too much dirt on Democrats with any involvement in this stuff. This will have bad effects.

c. It has the potential to harden the Republicans' position on torture. Since we're likely to have them back in office someday, we might prefer *not* to make this a defining issue, complete with the "we was robbed" story to go with it.

A much better outcome, if possible, would be to have guys like McCain involved in the commission or whatever that did the investigation. They would spin things to protect their party, but they would also offer a strong anti-torture story for Republicans to tell themselves, which might actually lead the party toward a more decent set of positions.

#126 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 02:06 PM:

albatross at 118: but-but-but: George Bush was "keeping us safe" when he agreed that torturing helpless captives was the "right" thing to do. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, was only lying about a blowjob. The "Keeping Us Safe" meme is the fallback position. Unfortunately the media seems incapable of challenging or even examining this assertion, and a significant (though shrinking) percentage of the American population seems to believe it. It is, of course, a Big Lie. Torturing people (and lying about it to the whole world) does not keep us safe. Sending our troops overseas to occupy a country that did not attack us does not keep us safe.

I'm not going to go on because all I do is make myself angry.

#127 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 02:26 PM:

You know, I wonder if the wingnuts realize that if we don't investigate and should it be necessary prosecute the perps, that our co-signers on the anti-torture treaties are obligated by those same treaties to do so?

I think that there should be both a non-partisan commission and an independant prosecutor (maybe Iglesias, former US Atty?) and the House should begin impeachment proceedings on Bybee.

#128 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 02:36 PM:

C. Wingate @ 124: Not to put too fine a point on this, but I'm calling bullshit. False equivalency, five yard penalty.

Unless of course, as I suspect, you are unable to cite to one national-level Republican official who has called for a full investigation with prosecution wherever crimes are found. Such inability would make it intentional false equivalency, ten yards and loss of down.

#129 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 02:45 PM:

C.Wingate 124: Not to put too fine a point on it, Xopher, but saying that the Republicans won't participate in good faith isn't in good faith either.

Nonsense. Are you claiming that the GOP as currently constituted can produce four people with the integrity to follow the truth into the dark places, even if it means prominent Republicans go to prison for life?

If you are, you're living in a somewhat different universe than I am.

Mind you, I'm not sure the Democrats could, either, but the targets of the proposed investigation (at least at first) are Republicans and Republican appointees. All the people who wrote those memos, for example. CIA General Counsel (and Bush appointee) John Rizzo, the requestor and recipient of all three legal opinions.

This investigation is going to open by looking into the actions of some pretty prominent Republicans. I don't think the GOP will participate at all, frankly, and if they do it will be to keep the investigation from goring the party's ox.

You may think I'm wrong; that's fine: argue against me. But don't accuse me of bad faith, please. It's rude, to say the least. And yes, I do see a difference between me accusing the GOP of bad faith and you accusing me: the GOP is not a party (¬π) to this discussion.

#130 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 03:19 PM:

OK, "bad faith" was, I admit, the wrong word. So how about hopelessly partisan instead? After all, is "Rethuglican" less rude than "Democrat Party"? How about "Republicrap" (which I realize is Paula's word, not yours, but still....)?

I believe it would be possible to put together some sort of bipartisan/apolitical commission/witchhunt together. As long as the point is to attack the last, Rethuglican administration, however, it is going to be effortlessly easy to depict the effort as Democratic political positioning. To be able to get at the problem, it seems to me that you'll have to give up your apparent goal of crushing the "Rethuglican" party.

#131 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 03:36 PM:

Re: #130

Would you rather this get aired in an international court? Because I tell you if we don't take the necessary steps to get to the bottom of the torture barrel, there are other countries who will.

Just today a Spanish judge has opened a wider inquiry into this, and instead of the original six named in the prior inquiry, it is looking into those who produced the "legal" opinions endorsing torture.

Frankly, I would rather see a commission headed by Sandra Day-O'Connor, with a panel of former military, lawyers, and human rights experts take this on. I'd rather the US face and clean its' own dirty laundry.

C. Wingate, I'm not interested in witch hunts -- I want an honest to Goddess investigation, and let the chips fall where they may.

#132 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 03:52 PM:

C Wingate #130:

And the problem here is that any inquiry into this scandal, which took place in a Republican administration, is guaranteed to target a lot more Republicans than Democrats. In particular, from what has come out in the media, it appears that a whole bunch of top-tier Republicans were involved in drafting and approving and supporting this kind of policy--Cheney, Rice, Gonzales, Ashcroft, and maybe Rumsfeld and Powell and Bush himself, as well. (This ignores the lower-ranking guys, still quite high up, who are more directly responsible.) If we prosecute this policy as a massive conspiracy to commit the crime of torture, ISTM that we end up putting a bunch of those guys in prison. Even if there's no prison, there will be public shaming, and an almost certain end to any future political/government career for all of them.

I just can't see how that's going to get a lot of Republicans to go along. Which means it's likely to look like a political prosecution. I don't know how to get around that.

#133 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 03:59 PM:

Lori, #131: Yes, I'd rather see this dealt with in an international court. That short-circuits the entire "partisan witch-hunt" argument very nicely. Of course, it also underlines to the rest of the world that America isn't willing to clean up its own messes, but that much is already obvious to anyone with eyes.

#134 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 04:01 PM:

Albatross, I think some Dems are going to end up in the net as well. I don't see how those who were briefed on the program can say they're not complicit. And, you know, I'm fine with that. If Congress had been doing its' job things would never had gotten this far.

I will cry no tears if Nancy Pelosi is proved to be the accessory to the crime I deem her to be -- at this point it looks like she took impeachment off the table to save her own skin.

#135 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 04:06 PM:

Lee, #133: I understand your viewpoint, I was just hoping my county had enough honor left to do the right thing.

I'm not holding my breath.

#136 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 04:09 PM:

C., when the GOP purges itself of the Rethuglicans, I'll stop calling them that. Unfortunately it looks like the reverse is happening; the non-thug Republicans are abandoning the party, since it seems clear that a) the thugs are going to keep driving the bus for a while yet, and b) they're driving it over a cliff.

And no, I don't think it's that partisan. I'm not that happy with the Democrats either; it's just that they're as far left as I can find to vote in this country, if my vote is going to mean anything at all.

But it's not rude to call me me hopelessly partisan, even though I disagree. Certainly it's not in the category of accusing me of arguing in bad faith. Thank you.

Lori, I agree with you as far as having a real investigation and let it get whoever the perps turn out to be, but don't you think an international tribunal might be better for this purpose? The Hague Tribunal could be accused of being biased, but not partisan (as such). Not that that would stop the pro-torture contingent from whining about them.

In fact, if it came to war-crimes and human-rights indictments, and the Obama Administration handed the indicted over, the wingers would scream about "handing American citizens over to be judged by foreigners," and if he didn't they would smugly claim that this refusal was equivalent to eight years of Bush Administration fuck-you attitude toward every bit of international law they could find to give the finger to. The right will never give up on false equivalence as a tactic until a substantial portion of the American people begin to see through it, which doesn't look like happening any time soon.

#137 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 04:18 PM:

Xopher, I'm really conflicted on this -- I can see the advantages of an international court, and agree that the Hague may be as close to impartial* as we're going to get.

I still think the US should have its' own investigation though, even if it never results in a trial.

*I'm dubious about this, as some of the treaty co-signers could have axes to grind as well. Sigh.

#138 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 04:36 PM:

It hurts me to have called on the very wrath of God to punish fellow citizens of the United States on this issue, as I generally strive to keep my blood pressure level.


I haven't (on a quick google) been able to find the statute of limitations on torture under the U.S. Code, and I am given the impression (IMNAL) that, if there is such a limit under the Geneva Conventions, that we are not close to any such deadlines yet.

What I have experienced, as a longtime citizen of the largest metropolitan area in the nation, the greater Los Angeles metroplex*, I have experienced four trials of two crimes**; the outcomes of which have had devastating effects on the nation and our confidence in Justice as a concept and in the humans who make decisions within the justice system. Not surprisingly, all four of these trials were politically motivated. What many outside L.A. may not understand is how closely the politics of the two cases -- and their outcomes -- were intertwined.

Too many books and articles have been written about the firestorms that erupted around both events for me to reference any definitive works, but I have come to the considered opinion that too much politics in the kitchen (to butcher a metaphor) tends to ruin any chances for justice. In both situations, the phrase "the rush to judgment" tends to come up too frequently for me to want Obama to focus on clamping irons on... well, I have a long, long list of future defendants in mind... for a while. Let the documents be released. Let the A.C.L.U., the Justice Department, military commissions, Congress, and the International Criminal Court gather evidence.

Then, when the prosecutors hot heads have cooled, may the bstrds rot in hell.

*Saying that you live in L.A. tends to involve a lot of hand waving. People from all over five counties tend to describe themselves as "living in L.A." because it's easier than describing the geographical boundaries that only mapmakers and tax collectors really understand. Suffice it to say that an area the size of many countries, containing a population larger than most countries, tends to share common traumas while being separated into distinctly different regions with separate historical, cultural, and commercial drivers.

**In case you were living on the moon, not born yet, or had powerful mojo against being contaminated by the media's earliest stages of being overrun by rumor and innuendo, these cases involved the Rodney King beating and the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman (otherwise known as the O.J. Simpson case)

#139 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 05:05 PM:

LLA @138:

The problem with delay is that it dulls the edge, not just of anger, but of interest. Enough delay and then something else more urgent but less important comes along and buries it.

The miscreants and their defenders will sigh tiredly, "Why are you digging all that up again?" The papers will call it Old News and go after the latest celebrity sensation. It will become the mumbling of the discontented, and be written off as such.

I say follow the evidence now, and follow it everywhere it leads, regardless of party affiliation. Let justice be done, and be seen to be done, while public attention is on the matter.

Because otherwise the next set of barbarians will do even worse.

#140 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 05:21 PM:

Abi @ 139:

I didn't mean to imply that there should be any delay in investigation: only in prosecution.

A steady drip of memos and grand jury leaks from interviews of minor participants will do more to keep the public pot simmering without boiling over (the goal if you truly desire justice) than any amount of rhetoric from the top.

In Simpson's case, the whole world knew he was guilty (the ex-husband is always your best suspect, particularly if the murder is brutal) -- but, for political reasons, the cops lied, saying he wasn't even a suspect when they started collecting their evidence. Those lies cost the state any chance of a conviction. I don't want that to happen here.

I want convictions that are so soundly based on evidence that political stool-pigeons (also known as Federal Appellate Judges) will have no grounds to overturn the cases that will doom the higher-ups.

I want Justice that even Republicans can't refute (at least not in public).

#141 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 05:21 PM:

My memory of the International Criminal Court's jurisdictional rules is that the Court may not take up alleged crimes unless its judgment (expressed by a vote of some kind) is that the country whose citizens perpetrated the alleged crimes is incapable of prosecuting them.

That's why I always thought the Bushies' antipathy toward it was misplaced; whatever else you could say about American justice, its systems were in place.

That was before I knew about the politicization of DOJ by Rove which led to the firing of 8 US Attorneys.

#142 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 06:06 PM:

From the Report of the American Society of International Law's Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the International Criminal Court (March, 2009):

Against this backdrop, the Task Force concludes that the United States should continue greater engagement with the Court. It is still too early for a comprehensive assessment of the Court, and how some issues of concern to the United States will be addressed remains in question. Thus the Task Force is not recommending that the United States now join as a State Party to the Rome Statute. At the same time, the Task Force finds that many U.S. concerns about the Court have not been borne out in practice. Moreover, the Court is engaged in investigation and prosecution of cases in which the United States has a keen interest, and the Court would benefit from additional U.S. support as it pursues cases in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Uganda. Finally, issues of vital interest to the United States are being addressed in the Assembly of States Parties as it prepares for the 2010 Review Conference, and it is in the United States interest to openly and effectively present its views in that forum. For all of these reasons, the Task Force recommends a policy of increasingly positive engagement with the Court.

It appears that Obama is sympathetic to the ICCourt. I wonder if Obama is perhaps working towards a deal: let the torturers go free in exchange for US ratification of the Rome Statute which enables the ICCourt. Might that be worth it?

#143 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 06:22 PM:

NO, Randolph, it wouldn't. Letting the torturers go unpunished and even untried is a death-blow to what America stands for.

#144 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 06:40 PM:

Xopher @ 143:

I agree. A deal is not an option.

What I hope is on the table is intelligence from foreign sources that our government shunned or ignored in pursuit of our former president's long-term agenda.

For instance, how much intelligence does the French government have that we could have used but for the "freedom fries" incident? How many other countries had actionable intelligence that would have saved the lives of U.S. citizens, but our policies of extraordinary rendition and torture kept those countries from engaging in joint operations because it would have dried up the information pipelines that were necessary to the lives of their own citizens?

If enough of that information can be revealed through diplomatic channels, who knows -- we might finally find Osama bin Laden.

Imagine what that would do for the remaining Rethuglican agenda.

And I bet your (hopefully Democratic Party member?) congressional representatives would love to support such a resolution.

#145 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 06:50 PM:

Linkmeister @141, I think the threshold for the ICC and other universal jurisdiction is "unable or unwilling". There's an Amnesty factsheet that supports this, but I couldn't find more specific cites. It's pretty clear that the US is in the position of being unwilling to investigate credible allegations of torture.

The argument's not about avoiding partisanship, it's about avoiding justice. There's a reason why the Bush administration spent time and effort sabotaging and discrediting the ICC - that reason is Pinochet. Many of these guys want to be able to go on European vacations without fear of arrest.

#146 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 07:10 PM:

Lori Coulson #127: You know, I wonder if the wingnuts realize that if we don't investigate and should it be necessary prosecute the perps, that our co-signers on the anti-torture treaties are obligated by those same treaties to do so?

Yes, that's a viable fallback position, since some of those same countries specifically express universal jurisdiction over war crimes. I don't know what, if any, specific time pressure the treaty obligations exert, though. It would be a serious blow to our nation's moldering credibility to be perceived as ubiquitously harboring convicted war criminals, even if the US doesn't acknowledge the jurisdiction under which the trials are actually held (especially if some of the trials are held by our allies).

Lori Coulson, ibid.: I think that there should be both a non-partisan commission and an independent prosecutor (maybe Iglesias, former US Atty?) and the House should begin impeachment proceedings on Bybee.

That would be a nicely ironic way for the egregious error made against the DOJ 8 to come back and haunt them.

#147 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2009, 11:51 PM:

FFY 146: Many of these guys want to be able to go on European vacations without fear of arrest.

If we can't get them put in prison in the US, it would be a nice consolation if they daren't so much as go shopping in Windsor on a visit to Detroit for fear of getting grabbed and "renditioned" to the Hague. I'd much rather they spent their days in gray coveralls, but we take what we can get.

#148 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 12:06 AM:

LLA: As I argued once at a seder, Justice delayed is worse than justice denied. When one delays justice one knows a wrong has been done, but chooses not to redress it.

As to OJ (to derail things a bit). The whole world may have thought he did it, they didn't know. I listened to the trial, some, on the radio. I had my doubts. A few years ago I had reason to look into it in more detail. My conclusion... if he was involved it was just that, he was involved. The physical evidence requires not less than two persons (and three seems more likely) at the scene.

The Jury came to the only conclusion they could, based on the evidence they had. I find it interesting the forewoman had been on a murder trial before, and pulled a "Twelve Angry Men" reversal in deliberations, convincing the other 11 that the accused was guilty.

The real problem was the press spending so much time telling the world it was a certainty he would be convicted.

Randolph: letting the torturers, the people who built the framework which rationalised it, and those who issued the orders and directives to implement that framework go free, is not worth it. Better to be seen as filthy hypocrites, and let the rest of the world scheme for a day in court, than to connive to let them off the hook.

#149 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 12:49 AM:

Terry Karney @148:

I'm not asking for a long delay. I'm asking for time to gather evidence, rebuild enough of the Justice Department (etc.) that they can muster enough professional prosecutors who will not have visible axes to grind, and for them to have access to solid intelligence and the experience of people (like you -- not to apply too much pressure to you, personally :/) who know where the bodies are buried.

As far as your comment on my digression goes, I agree. Simpson was involved but probably didn't act alone. A few hours delay (time to get a proper search warrant, time to check the whereabouts of his friends and question them while they awaited his return to L.A.) would probably have been enough to gather reliable evidence and convict Simpson and any accomplices. One of the reasons I gave him as an example of the danger of a "rush to judgment" is that basic evidence gathering was neglected, potential witnesses weren't interviewed until they'd had a chance to get their stories straight, and the prosecutors (led by personal morning briefings from the D.A.) shaped a story that became increasingly ridiculous, given a defendant with the resources to fight back.

My concern is that the big fish in our current quandary have even stronger resources than Simpson did, and that they've been working to get their story straight -- and their message out -- for a very long time. Swift justice would have had Cheney's rotten skull stuck on a pole a very long time ago. So, having past the point where we can use swift justice to right our democracy, I'll settle for slow, steady, solid work by experienced, ethical people who care more about maintaining law and order than they care about winning individual battles.

I love my country -- and its devotion to Liberty and Justice -- too much to believe the next few years will be easy. I love my country too much to think that liberty -- or justice -- has ever been easy.

#150 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 01:22 AM:

I'm pleased that Obama came out solidly against torture in his press conference, but I wish he'd frame it in terms of universal human values rather than American values.

I'm not sure what to make of the idea that torture is un-American. On the one side, there's merely truth. On the other, there's that at least we didn't support it publicly, and it looks as though a number of the anti-torture people are motivated by the idea that Americans don't torture.

For extra credit, who recognizes "For man alone of animals plays the ape to his dreams" from memory?

I'm still poking at the ideas behind the popular portrayal of torture by good guys, and aside from the mere revolting idea that good (or at least guys who go outside the rules heroically) guys torture, and there will be little or nothing in the way of natural consequences, there's an underlying premise that interrogation doesn't require any skills. All it takes is being motivated and justifiably angry, and you'll get it right. I think there's more than one epistimological error here-- it's not just the excessive trust in intuition/inspiration/being the good guy, there's something off about the idea that it's so easy to be right about what's going on in someone else's head.

#151 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 01:45 AM:

For extra credit, who recognizes "For man alone of animals plays the ape to his dreams" from memory?

James Branch Cabell, I think, although I'm not sure which book.

#152 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 01:45 AM:

Nancy @ #150, I cheated, using the new shiny Hyperwords add-in pointed to in the Open Thread. That makes it a breeze to look up things unrecognized.

#153 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 02:21 AM:

Nancy @150:

I (would hope) that the reason Obama referred to torture as being "un-American" is the Constitutional guarantee against "cruel and unusual punishment." In other words, long before the Geneva Convention, our founding fathers determined that people who had already been found guilty must not be tortured.

If those convicted of a crime must not be tortured, then surely torture must not be used to obtain a conviction (I'm not even going to get into lapses in the former regime's adherence to the Constitutional requirement that those accused of a crime be granted a fair and speedy trial!).

I'm posting too much. It's not good for my blood pressure -- but I care about the Constitution and would like to live in a country that follows it again.

#154 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 02:42 AM:

By the way and for the record, my desire for an investigation that does not stop at party lines does not imply, and should not be taken to support, any "equivalence" argument about this matter.

I hear a lot of talk on the web trying to draw a parallel between opposition legislators being (allegedly) briefed on classified matters and executive branch officials (allegedly) giving the orders. I deny that they are the same in intent or magnitude.

The heart and center of the matter now coming to light rests squarely with one party. That's not partisan, except to the extent that the reality of this situation is partisan.

#155 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 08:35 AM:

The administration's position, as pronounced by Obama yesterday, is that torture is unnecessary and un-American. IIRC, Obama did not use words like "wrong" or "evil". He hinted that it was unethical without saying it. But, since, torture is wrong and "un-American" there is no cost in abandoning it. He never said that torture does not work. He never said that the torture made its victims lie to the political benefit of the Bush/Cheney adminstration. He never criticized the previous administration for its acts, though he did call the acts un-American.

Walking a tightrope, there, Obama.

#156 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 09:15 AM:

LLA and others--the other provision against torture is the Fifth Amendment--
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

The bolded section of the amendment has historically been applied not just to "accidental" incrimination (think the Miranda case, among others), but also to confessions and other evidence extracted by coercion, including torture. The Wikipedia article is not useless on this topic.

So not only does the Eighth Amendment rule out torture as punishment, but the Fifth rules it out for questioning. IANAL, but I believe there is not a small body of judicial work based on those principles in the Fifth Amendment (and not just the famous Miranda findings) as well as the Eighth.

#157 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 10:20 AM:

fidelio @156, The bolded section of the amendment has historically been applied not just to "accidental" incrimination (think the Miranda case, among others), but also to confessions and other evidence extracted by coercion, including torture.

That sounds like a rather odd way of putting the emphasis to me. Isn't the main point of that section to outlaw torture, with accidental incrimination being a minor addition?

One other point: I'd say whenever a state agent or employee does something that's not explicitly authorized by some law, it's legally the same as if a privat citizen would do it. So, unless there's a law authorizing waterboarding, an interrogator who waterboards someone is legally in the same situation as I would be if I'd kidnap and waterboard some random dude.

#158 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 01:17 PM:

Randolph, thanks for the information about the fine line Obama was walking.

What annoys me about only framing torture as inconsistent with American values is that, unless you like America, there's no obvious reason to care what America thinks. Bringing up universal values means that the argument can make sense to people regardless of what they think or know about America.

Steve Barnes on torture-- this is a solid compendium of arguments against torture, and comes down harder on the "it could happen to you or to someone you love" aspects than most.

#159 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Raphael, not only am I not a lawyer, I am not an expert in US Constitutional Law. However, the reason I wrote that the way I did is that nowadays, we in the US think of the Fifth Amendment as something that is there to keep us from being forced to say things that will get us in trouble, typically by being questioned by the police when we don't realize we are under suspicion, or when under oath in front of a Congressional committee or the like. I am positive that the framers of the US Constitution were thinking of torture, just based on the historical record of trials, testimony, and questioning practices under English common law, which is what they were most familiar with. Because of the vehement defense of the Fifth Amendment in the courts here, most Americans are most familiar with the notion of "Taking the Fifth" in the context of someone saying "On the advice of my lawyer, I must decline to answer that question on the grounds that it might incriminate me." Oliver North's conviction was overturned on the grounds that he was forced to testify under oath to a Congressional committee prior to his trial. We just aren't in the habit of thinking that we might be tortured into making a confession, and we forget that our Founders were not so sanguine about this.

Of course, that's not to say law enforcement officials have never crossed the line in this country. In fact, the line was crossed as recently as the 1980s, and was prosecuted, with convictions obtained. (You will note that Bybee, Yoo, et al. managed to ignore that case when they were busy scribbling their memos.) This case would be news to most Americans, though--and the reason the notion "They can make you talk" is unthinkable here is because of the success of the Fifth Amendment overall. We associate it, in our naivete, with clever-dick police interrogators playing god-cop/bad-cop and prosecutors tripping us up in our own words, and not with rubber hoses, electrodes cunningly applied, and waterboards.

#160 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 02:18 PM:


Yeah, here as on most other inflamatory issues, Steve is irritatingly calm and sane.

#161 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 05:11 PM:

Fidelio @ 159: "Because of the vehement defense of the Fifth Amendment in the courts here, most Americans are most familiar with the notion of "Taking the Fifth" in the context of someone saying "On the advice of my lawyer, I must decline to answer that question on the grounds that it might incriminate me.""

You've nailed one of the reasons I didn't mention the 5th Amendment in my argument -- there are too many people who think it only protects the guilty (although I agree that the Framers were specifically intent on preventing Star Chamber interrogations and other, similar horrors). I wanted to point out the idea that, even when we "know" someone is guilty (just as everyone "knows" Rodney King's attackers, O.J. Simpson, Osama bin Laden, and Dick Cheney are guilty), the Constitution mandates that we set aside the desire for revenge and pursue Justice instead.

So much of the Constitution has been forgotten in recent years. It's really well written -- and worth reading again and again.

So, Randolph @155: having lived through the Rodney King riots, and seen the chasm they created, which pales in comparison to the civic devastation the Bush presidency engendered, I'm glad to have a president who's willing to string a line and try to cross, even if it requires him to walk a tightrope.

That doesn't mean I'm giving Obama a free pass. It only means I intend to lobby to rebuild the framework our Founders built at the Congressional, Judicial, and Executive levels so the nation doesn't have to climb out on that tightrope too.

#162 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 11:53 PM:

Nancy, #158: thanks for the Barnes link. Barnes, of course, has been on the other side of "it could happen to you or to someone you love"--I don't think it was possible to grow up black in LA when he did & not know someone who was abused by the police. When Obama is talking about American values, he's talking to the conservatives, who believe that American values are the best values. Progressives, after all, don't usually need to be reminded to oppose torture.

LLA, #161: I suspect that part of the reason that Obama is talking about letting bygones be bygones--perhaps all of it--is that he's facing a hostile Senate, and has to choose his battles. The Senate conservatives are enough trouble, without a cause to rally around.

#163 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 02:22 AM:

Randolph @ 162:

I haven't actually heard him say that we should let bygones be bygones. I may be more naive than I thought, but I would like to believe that means prosecutions are still on the table. Since I agree with the title of this post, I actually hope they are. But having lived through bad effects that followed failed prosecutions (and there are so many ways these prosecutions could fail), I'd expect any responsible leader to approach the subject cautiously.

I keep stressing the importance of vigilance in restoring the Constitution because I have a fear that the unconstitutional "unitary executive" policies of the former regime have crept into even this discussion. Congress and the courts should have checked these abuses, under the framework I believe our Founders built. They didn't. They still have a role to play -- and I am convinced that they must reassert their constitutionally mandated powers or we are all sunk.

One of the reasons I'm willing to sit back and watch Obama walk the tightrope is that he seems to be stepping back from taking leadership on this issue. He seems to be stepping away from some of the power Bush usurped by asking Congress to send him laws, rather than doing the opposite; by deferring to legally constituted agencies rather than announcing their policies and expecting them to follow.

I know it seems contradictory to applaud presidential inaction, but this is a very special case.

My recollection is that our founding fathers were very much afraid of the power of the presidency -- and of the possibility that a sitting president would want to hunt down enemies from prior administrations.

If anyone has a solution that resolves these concerns easily, I'd love to hear it -- and hope Obama will jump at the chance.

#164 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 07:14 PM:

I do not have the burning desire for jail time. I am quite certain that "publicly confessing to a crime", even without incarceration, is punishment enough for people this public.

So, count me in for a Truth (if not necessarily Reconciliation) Committee. Come in, say what you did, admit that it was wrong, be complete, and candid; we will immunize you from prosecution. Don't come in, or play games, or whatever; then we'll prosecute you.

Now, how to do that without turning it into the House Committee on Un-American Activities, part II (even if I agree with President Obama that these activities were Un-American. Internet history will show that I have been using that as an argument in response to "but they do it" for years - "and they're evil. America claims to be better than that. Prove it, and prove that not evil is stronger.")

#165 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 01:34 AM:

LLA: To continue the digression a bit more: I am not certain OJ was involved. No matter the answer to that the evdence is pretty strong that more than one person was involved. If I had to make a call, my honest answer would be, he wasn't involved.

Back to torture: I was talking with my dad about this. Looking at what Obama has been doing, I think the case for another country to assert jurisdiction is growing, whether that is his subtle intent or not. The more we have a gov't admitting we tortured, and had officials (in both parties) who condoned it, while we refuse to so much as investigate it. (one of the things I saw on the plane yesterday was an op/ed piece (I wish I could not start reading before I saw what I was looking at. The Wall Street Journal op/ed pages are a swamp), with a Bush era official (who declaimed he was never in the torture loop, and torture is EEEVILLL) explaining why even looking into it would be bad. He made strained (and strange) comparisons to Northern Ireland. I think he was trying to draw a comparison between raking over the coals of a long simmering civil war, with people shooting each other, and a strange sort of military occupation going on, to partisan bickering in the states, but I digress).

That refusal gives places like Spain, a foot in the door, because the removal jurisdiction is based on, "unable, or unwilling." If I believed in the myth of the supercompentent Obama (which I think is a reaction to the apparent unstoppability of the Republican Machine. They were so good no mere mortal could bring them down), I'd argue that is what he is angling to have happen.

On a number of levels that might be the best outcome. I'd like to see us clean our own mess, but I can't see a way to do that which doesn't make for martyrs (or worse, a cover-up, or absolution). It's a real problem that I can't see any way the people who set this up aren't guilty. I suspect I am not competent to sit on that jury. The argument to be made in defense are so specious to me (only by making the "pain" an end in itself, and by inflicting "lasting" damage, both physical and mental, can it rise to torture. Everyone knows the US won't torture, so anyone who thinks they are being tortured is being unreasonable, and therefore his subjective conclusions from being waterboaded, bounced off walls, sleep-deprived, half-frozen, semi-starved, and force fed, slapped, punched, etc., aren't valid.

To which I say... How can we know what a "reasonable" person thinks. To me it seems pretty reasonable that someone who has declared me an enemy, so loathesome I can never be released, might decide torturing, or killing me, was a pefectly acceptable thing to do.

Esp. because much (if not most) of the world still allows/accepts/encourages torture.

Nancy Lebovitz: thanks for pointing that out (my reading has slipped). I needed to make some comment, and wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

#166 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 03:23 AM:

Terry Karney @ 165:

I'm sorry if I misrepresented your understanding of the Simpson case. I was trying, rather ham-handedly, to allude to the fact that, in both the Rodney King beating trials and in the O.J. Simpson trials, different juries came to different conclusions -- and that forum shopping was one of the evils that led citizens who had heard the news (but had not been jurors privy to all of the evidence and responsibility jurors must bear) to decide that their own opinions mattered more than the outcome of a mere trial.

These were not the first cases of mob rule overwhelming a relatively functional justice system, but they have scarred my memory. I use the term relatively functional because the current justice system, as you suggest, is terribly broken. If we are so incapable of handling even the cases of Guantanamo prisoners quickly and resolutely, then I very much doubt we are in any shape to prosecute individuals with as much wealth and power as Bush, Cheney, and Co. looted from the national treasury.

I would rather not have Obama surrender sovereignty over these cases, but I would also rather have had Congress impeach at the first signs of trouble, or have had members of the Federal Bench issue rulings that would have invalidated the worst abuses. If it will bring evil-doers to justice, I say have at 'em -- but that won't finish the work of rebuilding what they broke.

However they are prosecuted and punished (and I hope both will happen), more than anything I want for the verdicts to be clear and transparent so that no-one doubts that Justice was done and our country regains its commitment to doing Justice, under the Constitution -- which clearly prohibits torture.

No matter what the rest of the world does or thinks is right.

#167 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 04:54 AM:

I have a feeling that the USA has attitudes which make it easier for torture to take place. Maybe it's bias in the reporting, but the US Prison systems seem designed to dehumanise the prisoners. This seems to me to be more than a different balance between punishment and reformation.

And it affects both sides of the bars: where did the staff at Abu Ghraib become what they were?

In that sort of environment, torture seems inevitable.

And if prison is seem as so extreme a punishment, the political stakes are raised sky high.

#168 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 10:01 AM:

LLA: However they are prosecuted and punished (and I hope both will happen), more than anything I want for the verdicts to be clear and transparent so that no-one doubts that Justice was done

I doubt that is possible; there will always be a substantial minority that Believes that nothing that was done was wrong and therefore that any conviction is wrong. More than any specific conviction (however much it would please me for the Right to see that they do not have near-absolute impunity), I think we desperately need to make the tinfoil-hattery of the Right so unacceptable that it becomes a tiny minority, instead of (e.g.) the ~1/4(?) that still believe in Iraq's WMD.

Dave: Prisons in the U.S. serve a wide variety of purposes; some (e.g. Angola) are intentionally severely destructive, while others (e.g. Danbury) are designed to make it clear there is no stigma attached to some ultra-white--collar crime. (Scooter Libby would have come out as fresh as he went in.) The Republicans don't fear prison per se; they fear only that some voters who might have swung their way will vote for Democrats rather than a party containing high convicts -- as may have happened in 1976.

#169 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 01:25 PM:

LLA: I don't think the issue with the OJ trial was forum shopping. I think, given the makeup of the jury, that the weakness of the prosecution's case (among other things... the glove didn't fit. Not just a bit of stiffness from being dry, and a but of snugness from a latex underglove. The jurors and witnessess said it was at least a couple of sizes too small for him to have ever worn, but I digress) that any jury, anywhere, would have acquitted him.

The case made in the press was so strong for conviction, however, that shopping for a jury in the wrongful death case (where huge swaths of the public were convinced he did it, verdict notwithstanding), that there was going to be a hard time finding any jury which wouldn't convict. Esp. as wrongful death = preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt.

Add that it was, "only money", and the race issue, and it was pretty much a certainty that one was going to go against him.

Rodney King was more a case of jury-shopping. For those who don't know, the change of venue wasn't a real change. I was pretty sure, the moment the new venue was announced the cops were going to get off. Simi Valley got a huge bunch of its population from people fleeing to avoid bussing. I recall some really awful writing in one of the local papers (to Simi), when my high school (in a mixed, but heavily hispanic area, on the edge of East LA) made the finals for the regional football division, by beating them. The columnist/reporter came just the merest degree from saying, "the wetbacks were filthy ringers, and they cheated". The opening description was along the lines of, "from a neighborhood of rundown homes and greasy taco stands" and then went on to make allusions to hulking mexicans and I forget what all. It was pretty bad.

It was also a bedroom community for cops, and before that a place cops went to retire. It was the same media market as the one which was, "too toxic" for the cops to get a fair trial. I couldn't have been on that jury, because I knew too much. I know it's impossible for King to have taken that offramp at the speed they claimed. I know that he left the freeway, and stopped, at the first streetlamp (which is what the Dept. of Motor Vehicles tells one to do if one has doubts about the police; which, were I King, I might have). I know that the PR-24 Side-handle Baton is a brutal, and clumsy weapon.

I'd read the police tape transcripts (I was working an internship at the Daily News at the time, so we had them the next day). I know the cops lied, because what they said in their reports didn't match what was on the scanner transcripts.

I was of a mixed mind on the feds filing charges (not because they were wrong, but because the difference between them wasn't clear to the public). I think, in retrospect, the feds were right, but they failed to make it clear what the difference in the charges was, and why they had to file.

#170 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 06:18 PM:

LLA, I have to disagree on the juries in the OJ trials. The jury in the criminal trial said that they thought he probably did it, but that there was reasonable doubt in their minds; that's enough for a civil finding of "liable," but not for a criminal finding of "guilty." So there's no evidence of a substantial difference in their view of the facts, only in the standard of evidence.

OTOH I gave up on the press coverage of the first trial after people started acting like the jury had to be stupid to acquit him; SNL was particularly egregious in this way. I had reasonable doubt of his guilt, and I saw incriminating evidence that was kept from the jury, as did we all. So calling the OJ criminal jurors stupid for acquitting offended me, and I stopped paying attention. I could have missed some substantial disagreement; however, I still think the difference in the standards of evidence was the major factor in making those two trials come out differently—it's apples and oranges.


#171 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 06:27 PM:

Chip @ 168:

There are always people who doubt verdicts (family, friends) of even the most rigorous, most transparent prosecutions. I agree that the politics surrounding the remaining Republican core must be addressed (I hope that came through in previous posts). My fear is of the kind of prosecution that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of enough people that civil disobedience follows.

My experience in L.A. has been that otherwise reasonable people will act against their own long-term self-interest, given sufficient provocation (please don't ask the details -- they're not my secrets to tell).

Terry @ 169:

My recollection is that there were initial reports that the D.A. considered trying the case in Santa Monica, but (ironically) feared that a white jury would be better disposed to O.J. than a black one would; hence the decision to try the case downtown, where he would have better control of the prosecution than he might in a satellite courthouse. One of the reasons I initially noted the link between the King cases and the Simpson case is that Judge Ito, who got the case by the luck of the draw of that crucial decision, happened to live only a few miles from the place where the King beating occurred. I would like to think his awareness of the sensitive nature of racially skewed evidence is one of the reasons the L.A.P.D. officers testimony was allowed to be called into question so heavily. (In other words, there were decisions made at the preliminary hearing that made me certain that O.J. would be acquitted -- and I approved those decisions, even if I harbored questions about his guilt).

All of this background just leads me back to the tightrope first described by Randolph @ 155. Anyone who thinks this prosecution is going to be easy is kidding themselves. Anyone who thinks it's unnecessary is an even bigger fool.

#172 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 06:51 PM:

Xopher @ 170:

I'm sorry to have missed your post as I was writing my post at 171 (I'm posting too often again! -- and too carelessly!).

You are entirely correct that the burden of proof in a civil case is different than it is in a criminal case (IANAL either -- but that's true in all U.S. jurisdictions, to my understanding). I agree completely that the media turned the original Simpson trial into a travesty (see the second note to my original post at 138). To me, the essential result was that civic confidence in the Justice system (I've been typing a capital J to point to the ideal as opposed to a lower-case j for the reality) was diminished. (BTW, the "non-partisan" head of the L.A.P.D. and the D.A. were both Republican -- take that for what it's worth given that we're talking 20 year-old politics).

Obviously, citizens have called the Justice system into question before in other jurisdictions, and they will do so again. I would like to avoid that, to the degree possible, in any trial over an issue as crucial as torture.

#173 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 07:51 PM:

LLA: As I recall the details, the prosection was a little concerned with the jury pool on the West Side, but they didn't move to downtown because of that. Rather they became aware (and quickly) there was no way to accomodate the press of press, and interested bystanders. The courtrooms in West LA are smaller, and the streets not as able to handle the people (parking, places to set up cameras, etc.). They got dozens of applications for press passes to the courtroom in the first hours after the indictment was announced.

I do know I have a differet perspective. I am from LA, have lived there most of my life (call it 28 of the last 34 years, and I didn't get there until I was eight), but I was stationed in Monterey at the time of the arrest, and living in Sonoma during the trial, so the media frenzy (and "analysis") was different.

The first I heard of it was the infamous "low speed chase".

I don't know that I'd refer to Daryl Gates as a Replican. Reactionary Tyrant is more the case (how he got away with saying, "people arrested for selling drugs don't deserve a trial, we should just take them back of the station house and shoot them" I'll never understand).

#174 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 08:14 PM:

LLA: Allow me to say, you are not posting too often; nor does it seem careless.

We all have little things (and sometimes big things) we think we are making clear, which aren't really.

Unless you are arguing without care for your position (which I don't see) or in bad faith (which I surely don't see), I would not say you are being careless.

It's a dialogue. There will be confusions. You haven't offended me, and I very mush misdoubt you have offended Xopher.

I've enjoyed your posts, and been glad; actually, to clarify my points, as I assume you are not the only one to read them as you did.

#175 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 08:24 PM:

Terry Karney @ 173:

Have I mentioned how much the Southland will miss you because of your move?

I've lived here all my life (how insular an experience is that!) and I clearly remember the discussions of Simpson's unpopularity in the black community because he had "turned his back on his people." This was considered to be a tactical reason to move the trial to a venue that would increase the number of blacks in the jury pool, to select for as many black women as possible (as they were expected to skew heavily against a black man who had married a white woman), to choose a woman as lead prosecutor (who could play up the domestic violence issues to the female jury pool) and a black man as co-prosecutor (who would "neutralize" any remaining racial issues).

And yeah, Daryl Gates and Satan tend to share the same face in my nightmares.

#176 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 08:30 PM:

LLA: This is a temporary thing. I will be back to Calif. soon enough. SLO will be where I hang my hat, but LA, and SF will be host as much as I can manage.

Too many places now have claim on my affections to be more than semi-peripetic resident of any one place (which is no small part of why I really need to make the photography pay the bills).

And if I were to have a place to make the center of my wanderings, SLO is a pretty damned fine one.

#177 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 08:54 PM:

I can't say that I've ever heard anyone say that they miss Darryl Gates.
(Or Bernie Parks, or Willie Williams. Bratton we might miss; he's better at public relations than his predecessors.)

#178 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 09:11 PM:

P J: Count yourself lucky. I have heard more than one person say LA would be better off if we'd kept/still had Daryl Gates to keep the peace.

Which given some of his excesses (the hit squad comes to mind) and the things he spawned (S.W.A.T, and the militarization of the US police, in general), is horrifying.

#179 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 09:19 PM:

Terry Karney @ 176:

I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed visiting places I know (and don't) in photos on your LiveJournal. Count me as one who prays for your success in making a living through your photographs -- I want the world to see more of the world as your eyes see it.

And I want you to know how much I value your posts on proper interrogation methods. They've been fodder for many of my verbal defenses of the Constitution.

Now, if we can only start a trend!

P J Evans @ 177:

Hear! Hear!

#180 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 09:37 PM:

LLA: Now my curiosity is piqued... do we know each other in some manner away from the net?

#181 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 09:51 PM:

Terry Karney @ 178:

You have perfectly encapsulated my fears of what could happen if Bush & Co. aren't prosecuted successfully -- the spread of the Daryl Gates paradigm of law enforcement.

And at 180:

I have been visiting the L.A. County Arboretum, and our other civic garden treasures, since I was a toddler (to get the wiggles out, as my mother used to say), so I've recognized some of the backdrops in your photos. Being that my father also loved hiking and backpacking throughout the state, there is the chance that I've passed you on a trail, said "hello", and never knew who you were.

If we did meet, it has been a pleasure to see my state through your eyes.

#182 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 10:16 PM:

Ok, I just wondered. The world is both large and small. P J Evans and I might recognise each other, were we to meet, but I am not aware; despite travelling in overlapping circles, of having actually met her.

No, there is no way I can leave California for good.

A dear friend sent me music while I was in Iraq. In one of the mixes she introduced me to Dougie McLean's, Caledonia, which I noticed was a scansional duplicate for "California"

I don't know if you can see
The changes that have come over me
In these last few days I've been afraid
That I might drift away
So I've been telling old stories, singing songs
That make me think about where I came from
And that's the reason why I seem
So far away today

Chorus: Oh, but let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia you're calling me
And now I'm going home
If I should become a stranger
You know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia's been everything
I've ever had

Now I have moved and I've kept on moving
Proved the points that I needed proving
Lost the friends that I needed losing
Found others on the way
I have kissed the ladies and left them crying
Stolen dreams, yes there's no denying
I have traveled hard with coattails flying
Somewhere in the wind

Now I'm sitting here before the fire
The empty room, the forest choir
The flames that could not get any higher
They've withered now they've gone
But I'm steady thinking my way is clear
And I know what I will do tomorrow
When the hands are shaken and the kisses flow
Then I will disappear


#183 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 10:18 PM:

Terry, we first met when you were a skinny teenager (a long time ago). There's this place in North Hollywood ....

#184 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 10:41 PM:

P J, yes, I know, that's one of the circles in common. I assumed there was a strong possibility, but I had no certainty.

And yes, it was some time ago I was a skinny teen. Now I'm a skinny man in early middle-age.

#185 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 10:47 PM:

Terry Karney @ 182:

I just looked at your pictures of Sturtevant Falls (from the link on "It's a big rock") and had wonderful flashbacks. For such a big city, L.A. can be a remarkably small place. I don't have a website to post my pre-digital age photos of the trail, but I have such happy memories of walking there with my dog(s).

We may indeed have passed on the trail. It's a glorious collection of rocks. Did you ever explore Eaton Canyon's waterfall? Not as spectacular in full flood, and not nearly as much of a trek, but such a surprise as a result!

#186 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 11:03 PM:

LLA: If you want to have some different amusements: Variations has a lot of different treatments of the same shot of the falls.

I was reviewing an app for Photoshop; one which emulates various filmstocks, and that picture was a really good one, because of the yellow/green shades, and the contrast.

#187 ::: Consumer Unit 5012 ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2009, 03:58 AM:

Getting to January 20th unindicted should NOT be "base".
I think I need to forward Mr. Pierce's words to my congresscritter.

#188 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2009, 07:55 AM:

And Gary Trudeau weighs in on the topic....

#189 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 05:43 PM:

Hullabaloo did a whole chart of arguments by torture apologists. Color-coded by type, even!

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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