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Obama Admin Says Officials Who Sanction Kidnaps, Torture, Murder Deserve Blacklist Sanctions . . . Except US

12:28 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Finally, the Obama Administration and human rights advocates agree that when government officials condone, order or engage in kidnappings, renditions, blackmail, beatings and torture, those officials should be held personally accountable and sanctioned under international law. . . .

. . . Provided those government officials are all Iranians. from the NYT via AP:

Under an executive order signed this week by President Barack Obama, the State and Treasury departments jointly announced the sanctions that target Iranians who "share responsibility for the sustained and severe violation of human rights in Iran," notably after last year’s disputed presidential elections.

At a State Department news conference, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it was the first time the United States has imposed sanctions on Iranians for violating human rights. . . .

"On these officials’ watch or under their command, Iranian citizens have been arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed and killed," Clinton said. "Yet the Iranian government has ignored repeated calls from the international community to end these abuses."

The move bars the eight Iranians from entering the United States, blocks any of their U.S. assets and prohibits Americans from doing business with them.

Although none of the eight is believed to have substantial assets in U.S. jurisdictions, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he expects foreign financial institutions to stop doing business with them.

Of course, if the Administration really cared about human rights and the rule of law, this order would apply to dozens of the highest officials in the Bush and Obama regimes. But don’t expect any of them to be lawyering up, nor expect the AP to notice the, uh, irony.

Buck up, everyone!

Glennzilla, Obama to finally Punish Torturers!

John Chandley

Follow John on Twitter @JohnChandley

On Torturers and Pedophiles, Popes, Presidents and Public Accountability

12:55 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

A front page New York Times story reports the still unfolding horrors of pedophile priests and Church coverups. The story now includes the Pope himself, for at least the period in which Cardinal Ratzinger was the head of the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the group nominally responsible for dealing with such crimes.

It’s now clear that during Cardinal Ratzinger’s reign, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith served several functions all essential to corrupt purposes. It served to cover up and excuse criminal behavior, issuing opinions excusing, concealing or condoning criminal activities of priests who abused thousands of children.

It sanctioned and oversaw a secret trial system whose primary purpose was not to protect the children or inform the public but instead to make certain the church would be protected and the public would never learn of the priests’ crimes or the Church’s complicity.

And it provided an official, theological framework within which its blatant obstruction of justice could function while still claiming a moral foundation.

Where have we seen this before? Well, how about Dick Cheney and his faithful legal cardinals overseeing John Yoo and fellow priests in the Department of Justification, as they wrote unprincipled and legally bogus opinions sanctioning war crimes already or about to be committed by the Administration and its torture regime.

How about the secret military prisons, and the bogus military tribunals, whose procedures, remoteness and secrecy were initially designed to make sure the public never discovered the kidnapping, rendition and torture regime that defined and masqueraded as a "war on terror." How about the current Administration’s insistence that all of this remain secret, that no one be prosecuted? That we not even ask who was responsible for doing this in our names?

There is nothing new about political leaders, whether Popes or Presidents, telling us that the rule of law should not apply to them or to those they direct when they are engaged in the defense of the faith or the homeland. The logic and rhetoric are always the same.

And that’s because the mindset is exactly the same, the arguments they make to justify their corruption are the same, and the self-protecting pleas that we should forget, forgive, only look forward and never hold anyone accountable are exactly the same.

A just civil society depends on public trials and legal accountability for criminal behavior. Our wise Founders understood this. Our current leaders, whether Popes or Presidents, don’t seem to get it, and now they’ve made themselves complicit in evil.

NYT: Vatican declined to defrock U.S. priest who abused boys
NYT Editorial: The Pope and the Pedaphilia Scandal

Obama Administration “Disappointed” Italy Enforces Laws Against Kidnapping

8:13 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Responding to an Italian court’s conviction in absentia of 23 US officials for kidnapping a Muslim cleric, who we then reportedly rendered to Egypt for torture, the Obama Administration further disgraced itself and America’s image by calling the results "disappointing."

They should have applied the word to themselves.

ABC reports that one of the convicted officials concedes the US broke the law, but she argues the Bush and Obama Administrations should have claimed diplomatic immunity for her:

One of the 23 Americans convicted today by an Italian court says the United States "broke the law" in the CIA kidnapping of a Muslim cleric Abu Omar in Milan in 2003.

"And we are paying for the mistakes right now, whoever authorized and approved this," said former CIA officer Sabrina deSousa in an interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson.

DeSousa says the U.S. "abandoned and betrayed" her and the others who were put on trial for the kidnapping. She was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.

US officials just couldn’t find enough people to say how "disappointed" they were that the Italians had done what two Administrations and their respective Justice Departments didn’t do.

A State Department spokesman said the Obama administration was "disappointed" by the verdict.

Also convicted was Air Force Colonel Joseph Romano, who allegedly helped facilitate the CIA kidnapping team’s flight to Egypt from a U.S. air base in Italy.

The Department of Defense had unsuccessfully claimed the court had no jurisdiction over Romano under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement.

"We are clearly disappointed with the ruling and the lack of respect for the fact that we have asserted jurisdiction in this case," said Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell.

Yeah, I’m disappointed too about the "lack of respect." I really hoped this Administration might have a modicum of respect for the rule of law, not to mention respect for other nations and their citizens. But apparently that’s too much change to expect.

New York Times

Seminal, more background from SadButTrue

Do ABC This Week’s George Will and Other Panelists Support Murder If It Works?

10:46 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

I don’t know how else to interpret this.

Under George Will’s logic, which relies on Fred Hiatt’s moral framework, if it could be established by an independent commission that the dissemination of Will’s immoral utilitarian views on torture could be discouraged, thus reducing the use of torture and the incidence of people being murdered through torture, by hiring someone to kidnap, torture and even assassinate George Will and other like-minded pundits who publicly propagated such views, it would be the moral thing to do.

How did it happen that it’s regarded as acceptable among America’s "serious" pundit class to argue that cruelty, torture, murder are all okay, if you can convince Sandra Day O’Connor they "worked"?

And the next question for Will and friends should be, "given what you said, what should a patriot do?"

Fred Hiatt Wants to Know How Well Torture Works, But We Need a Volunteer

8:00 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

On the same day the Washington Post publishes an article on what a wonderful intelligence asset Khalid Sheik Mohammed became after he was shackled, diapered (as in left to hang in his own feces) sleep-deprived for 7 1/2 days and waterboarded 183 times [Marcy dismantles WaPo's "immoral and irresponsible article" here], the WaPo’s editor, Fred Hiatt, recommends that America invite two former Supreme Court Justices to chair an impartial inquiry to determine how well torture works:

Such a commission would investigate not just the Bush administration but the government, including Congress. It would give former vice president Dick Cheney a forum to make his case on the necessity of "enhanced interrogation techniques." It would examine the efficacy of such techniques, if any, and the question of whether, even if they work, waterboarding and other methods long considered torture ever can be justified.

Yes, that’s exactly what’s been missing, a public forum for Dick Cheney, until now thoroughly muzzled, to illustrate how well these techniques work. America could put this behind us if only Dick Cheney had another chance to explain how well torture has served the interests of the United States, improved its reputation, made itself proud, and set an example for how US forces should behave and how others should treat them.

Perhaps Dick could oversee demonstrations of various techniques, and explain how he and the sadists in the White House and the Justice Department supervised and choreographed each prisoner’s "program."

Of course, there would be a dispute about who to use as the illustrative victim in these demonstrations. The right would want to kidnap some innocent Pakistani or Afghani kid, or some undocumented family from Guatemala and have the Obama Administration render them to the Fox studios where the demonstations could be viewed live, following reruns of 24, with color commentary from Fox’s astute pundit panel.

Others, horrified at first, would soon get in the spirit, because that’s how this works. They might eventually suggest that perhaps the guinea pig should be John Yoo, Bybee, Addington, Rumsfeld or even Cheney himself. Or maybe Fred Hiatt.

EMERGENCY: If there is any international authority with any honor out there, please intervene and bring these thugs to justice. America is no longer capable of preserving the rule of law.

McClatchy: Obama Heeded Maliki on Abuse Photos; What That Says for Our Occupation

6:15 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

McClatchy’s Nancy Youseff reports that a principal reason Obama reversed himself on the release of further pictures of detainee abuse is because Iraq Prime Minister Maliki protested there would be major violence in Iraq that would force an earlier US withdrawal.

President Barack Obama reversed his decision to release detainee abuse photos from Iraq and Afghanistan after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki warned that Iraq would erupt into violence and that Iraqis would demand that U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq a year earlier than planned, two U.S. military officers, a senior defense official and a State Department official have told McClatchy. . . .

When U.S. officials told Maliki, "he went pale in the face," said a U.S. military official, who along with others requested anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

The official said Maliki warned that releasing the photos would lead to more violence that could delay the scheduled U.S. withdrawal from cities by June 30 and that Iraqis wouldn’t make a distinction between old and new photos. The public outrage and increase in violence could lead Iraqis to demand a referendum on the security agreement and refuse to permit U.S. forces to stay until the end of 2011.

Maliki said, "Baghdad will burn" if the photos are released, said a second U.S. military official.

Read the rest of this entry →

Could David Broder Be any More Dishonest and Morally Corrupt?

7:34 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

David Broder’s column today provides a depressing example of the type of intellectual dishonesty and moral corruption of Beltway pundits that Glenn Greenwald (among many others) has been assailing in recent posts.

Broder is appalled at the thought the United States of America might wind up prosecuting senior US officials, possibly even the President, for committing serious felonies. He acknowledges that "without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability — and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations." But rather than struggle with the implications of failing to hold senior officials accountable for committing serious crimes, Broder performs a cowardly bait and switch:

It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance.

So with zero evidence to support his assertion that anyone who believes in accountability for government officials is motivated by "an unworthy desire for vengeance," Broder excuses himself from any further consideration of the public value of justice, accountability, and deterrence of future law breaking.

Broder then tries to obscure his moral cowardice by further dishonesty: Read the rest of this entry →

More on American Governance in Freefall [with Krugman update]

6:46 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

In commenting on my original post, commenter Watt4Bob pointed to an article by the respected lawyer, Elizabeth de la Vega, in which she argues against the appointment for now of a special/independent prosecutor, because the secrecy of grand jury proceedings and other factors will tend to close off further public exposures. That’s likely true — we saw that in the Plame case and the trial of Scooter Libby. But it’s not a very satisfying argument.

I respect de la Vega and her point of view, but it only raises more serious questions about our system of government accountability. From her article:

… What we continue to need, in sum, are unwavering spotlights, even more civic education, and, most importantly, an irrefutable and cohesive factual narrative – comprised of direct and circumstantial evidence – that links the highest-level officials and advisers of the Bush administration, ineluctably, to specific instances and victims of torture.

If this were three years ago, I’d find this more persuasive. But it seems to me we now have tons of this “irrefutable and cohesive factual narrative” already. Sure, there’s likely more — we’d like to hear statements under oath from the principals and others, though these are not likely — but we have the basic facts. What we need is something else. Read the rest of this entry →

American Governance Is in Freefall

3:23 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

According to this NYT Caucus report, the President of the United States and the leaders of the US Senate agreed there should be no meaningful investigation of the commission of war crimes in the prior Administration. The principle of accountability in the US is in freefall.

At a meeting of top Democrats at the White House Wednesday night, President Obama told Congressional leaders that he did not want a special inquiry, which he said would potentially steal time and energy from his ambitious policy priorities, and could mushroom into a wider distraction by looking back at other aspects of the Bush years.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and other top Senate Democrats endorsed Mr. Obama’s view on Thursday, telling reporters that they preferred to wait for the results of an investigation by the Senate intelligence committee expected sometime “late this year.” But Ms. Pelosi renewed her call for an independent panel.

So, stories over the last few years, all coming together over the last few days, unambiguously tell us that the highest officials of the US Government ordered the commission of war crimes, in order to obtain false information to justify an even more egregious crime of waging an unnecessary, aggressive war in which, with a hundred thousand already dead, innocent people are still being killed. But when the opposition party takes over, the official response is that the US government cannot hold a single person legally accountable. Read the rest of this entry →

The White House on Torture: Planning a Political Trainwreck

6:36 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

The only thing worse than watching a slow-motion train wreck is to watch people who should know better move the switches to make sure the trains collide. I don’t know how else to describe the White House’s last few days in explaining who should and should not be investigated/prosecuted for torture.

For years now, we’ve known that a group of lawless White House and Senior Administration officials ordered brutal methods recognized as torture be used to extract information from detainees. We know this group orchestrated the interrogations and the methods used. We’ve learned that this group kept pushing for more, because they were not getting the answers they wanted to justify their war policies. [kudos to JimWhite]

These officials were facilitated by a group of morally compliant DoJ attorneys who willingly wrote legally bogus memos to define away and thus sanction torture. And the policies were carried out by a group of CIA operatives who obviously knew it was wrong (and whose superiors destroyed evidence) and so demanded CYA legal authorizations and orders from the President.

And finally, we know the White House — and what used to be called the Justice Department — did everything they could to cover up their conspiracies to commit war crimes.

Given this set of well known facts, any normal eight-year old would conclude that if anyone were ever held accountable, it should be those officals at the top who ordered these policies, followed by sanctions for the compliant attorneys. Only then, unless you could establish good faith reliance, you’d hold accountable those who carried out the orders.

In other words, you would do the opposite of what happened with Lynndie England at Abu Ghraib. But this weekend, the WH tried to argue, in effect, that John Yoo was just another Lynndie England.

Everyone with any decency knew that dismissing what happened at Abu Ghraib as the work of a few bad apples acting without encouragement/authorization from senior officials was dishonest. Restricting legal accountability to that level was morally repugnant, destructive of accountable government and the rule of law. But apparently, this simple principle of accountability escaped the White House counselers. Hence the slow-motion, but entirely avoidable, train wreck. Read the rest of this entry →