New York Times calls for the prosecution of Bush-Cheney regime torturers

I believe that the New York Times is the first major U.S. publication to call for the prosecution of the Bush-Cheney regime torturers. Of course, the Times is also guilty of propaganda by Judith Miller and others at the Times in support of the unnecessary and illegal war in Iraq — also a war crime under the Nuremberg Principles — but this is at least a good start. Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses:

Since the day President Obama took office, he has failed to bring to justice anyone responsible for the torture of terrorism suspects — an official government program conceived and carried out in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


He did allow his Justice Department to investigate the C.I.A.’s destruction of videotapes of torture sessions and those who may have gone beyond the torture techniques authorized by President George W. Bush. But the investigation did not lead to any charges being filed, or even any accounting of why they were not filed.

Mr. Obama has said multiple times that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” as though the two were incompatible. They are not. The nation cannot move forward in any meaningful way without coming to terms, legally and morally, with the abhorrent acts that were authorized, given a false patina of legality, and committed by American men and women from the highest levels of government on down.

Americans have known about many of these acts for years, but the 524-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report erases any lingering doubt about their depravity and illegality: In addition to new revelations of sadistic tactics like “rectal feeding,” scores of detainees were waterboarded, hung by their wrists, confined in coffins, sleep-deprived, threatened with death or brutally beaten. In November 2002, one detainee who was chained to a concrete floor died of “suspected hypothermia.”

These are, simply, crimes. They are prohibited by federal law, which defines torture as the intentional infliction of “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” They are also banned by the Convention Against Torture, the international treaty that the United States ratified in 1994 and that requires prosecution of any acts of torture.

So it is no wonder that today’s blinkered apologists are desperate to call these acts anything but torture, which they clearly were. As the report reveals, these claims fail for a simple reason: C.I.A. officials admitted at the time that what they intended to do was illegal.

In July 2002, C.I.A. lawyers told the Justice Department that the agency needed to use “more aggressive methods” of interrogation that would “otherwise be prohibited by the torture statute.” They asked the department to promise not to prosecute those who used these methods. When the department refused, they shopped around for the answer they wanted. They got it from the ideologically driven lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel, who wrote memos fabricating a legal foundation for the methods. Government officials now rely on the memos as proof that they sought and received legal clearance for their actions. But the report changes the game: We now know that this reliance was not made in good faith.

No amount of legal pretzel logic can justify the behavior detailed in the report. Indeed, it is impossible to read it and conclude that no one can be held accountable. At the very least, Mr. Obama needs to authorize a full and independent criminal investigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch are to give Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. a letter Monday calling for appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate what appears increasingly to be “a vast criminal conspiracy, under color of law, to commit torture and other serious crimes.”

The question everyone will want answered, of course, is: Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president.

But any credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.

One would expect Republicans who have gone hoarse braying about Mr. Obama’s executive overreach to be the first to demand accountability, but with one notable exception, Senator John McCain, they have either fallen silent or actively defended the indefensible. They cannot even point to any results: Contrary to repeated claims by the C.I.A., the report concluded that “at no time” did any of these techniques yield intelligence that averted a terror attack. And at least 26 detainees were later determined to have been “wrongfully held.”

Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback; it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments. Because of the Senate’s report, we now know the distance officials in the executive branch went to rationalize, and conceal, the crimes they wanted to commit. The question is whether the nation will stand by and allow the perpetrators of torture to have perpetual immunity for their actions.

Give us a Nuremberg Tribunal-style war crimes investigation, Mr. President. We are obligated by law to do so, to follow the evidence where it leads, and to hold the depraved individuals who authorized, planned and participated in illegal acts of torture in our name accountable for their crimes to the fullest extent of the law. No immunity from prosecution, no presidential pardons. We are Americans. We hold ourselves to a higher moral  standard than the rest of the world. That is the true meaning of “American exceptionalism.”

9 responses to “New York Times calls for the prosecution of Bush-Cheney regime torturers

  1. “Steve” anonymous: We are a nation of laws, not men. No one is above the law. The Times Editorial Board invokes this bedrock principle in their demand. When crimes are committed by the highest authorities in the land, it is especially urgent to see that those crimes are answered in a court of law. Regarding war: it’s not just a matter of law (see Nuremberg Principles here), it’s really a matter of common sense that opponents agree that neither side will abuse prisoners. The USA, under the leadership of the GW Bush administration broke the rules of war and, by doing so have given legal refuge to our enemies who wish to torture our troops.

    • I realize we are a nation of laws. What disgusts me about this is issue is it is driven by the politics of destuction. The Senate could have released their report any time over the last few years, but they didn’t they waited waited until they lost the Senate to do so. Then they cherry picked the findings of the committee to paint the Nation in the worst possible way in order to make the report as damaging as possible. Now the calls for war crimes trials are coming from left wing sources intent on trying to once again hurt the Bush Administration. Their concern about the rule of law is minimal and their primary goal is to score damaging points against their political enemies.

      The Nuremburg Trials had nothing to do with prisoners of war. It was about genocide and the manner in which occupying forces dealt with indigenous populations. Someone had to answer for the Concentration Camps and the mass murder that went on under Hitler and Hirohito.

      You can’t possibly be serious when you say that how we treat enemy prisoners of war will affect how our troops are treated by the enemy when captured. When did we behead any of our enemy POWs? When did we rape any of our enemy POWs? When did we execute any of our enemy POWs? Our enemy is not governed by any rule of law when it comes to how they treat our troops or civilians when they capture them. Nor does our example affect them.

      The New York Times is interested in political payback, NOT the rule of law.

  2. Gee, maybe you should tell the US government and our State Department about the UN. The UN is the only international body with all the world’s countries as members. The US uses the UN constantly to try to achieve diplomatic and military actions that we want.
    Most institutions have a certain level of corruption, not sure that we want to use that as whether their policies or statements are invalid.
    The US attacked another country without provocation. Would it be okay if another country attacked the US based on the reasoning that we used to attack Iraq?

    • The United Nations is not an organization with some corruption, it is an organization where corruption is expected. When we want to do something (such as go into Iraq) we go to the United Nations and buy approval to do whatever we want to do. This gives us an air of legitimacy whether what we are doing is legitimate or not.

      By the way, did you forget that we had UN approval to attack Iraq? Like I said, you can buy their approval whether your quest is justified or not. To depend on them to provide you with rationale for anything is simple: Just keep looking and you will find where they have taken both sides at some point depending on who paid.

  3. “Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback…”

    That is EXACTLY what it is about. It is the Bush haters coming out of the woodwork to try and exact the pound of flesh they weren’t able to exact during his administration.

    “…it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments.”

    Does anyone seriously think that our Nation going through a public garment rending and self flagellation about this is going to impress any other Country on earth with our moral superiority? If so, they are idiots. And nothing will prevent this from ever happening again. It has happened in previous wars and will happen in future wars. In case no one ever pointed it out before, war is an evil and ugly thing. It is a crucible that brings out the best and the worst of human beings. It also brings out the non-participants to sit in judgement over things they know nothing of.

    This pretense at self righteousness posturing hiding a political agenda is like Japanese Kibuki Theater: It has far less meaning than noise, form and style.

  4. Excuse me, but there is no “true meaning” of “American exceptionalism.” The concept is farcial, and always has been. This whole debacle is a shining example of how we are anything but exceptional. Empires aren’t exceptional, they’re brutal. Drone killings (Obama), assassinating your own citizens (Obama) and systematically persecuting people of color (a lot of state and local governments and their agencies) all are not exceptional. They’re horrific. And the arrogance of claiming to be exceptional (that is, better than others) is incredibly damaging. It’s fashionable these days to bash Vladimir Putin, but was he wrong when he said this:

    “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

  5. Interesting that we never hear much in the US about our illegal war against Iraq. Here’s a statement by former UN Secretary General Kofa Annan.

    • When you find yourself depending on the UN for your “evidence” on anything, you are fishing in a dry hole. The UN is rife with corruption, fiscal mismanagement, bribery, misinformation, and general unreliability in all regards. Kofi Annan’s administration was particularly noted for bribery of officials, child prostitution in Africa, the selling of donated foodstuffs on the open market and the theft of money in field offices. He may not have been personally involved, but he let it happen on his watch.

      You need to find a better source to “prove” the war was illegal. That should be easy because I suspect your standard of proof is not very high.