Answering Torture Prosecution Concerns….Plus, Gibbs PC Liveblog BIG questions being asked

As is to be expected in healthy public and blog debate, whenever someone presents a position, such as that there should be accountability for, for instance, torturing people to death in a vast, organized, systematic, government approved program of brutal torture that went on for years and was approved at the highest levels of the world’s greatest and most dangerous super power….there will be objections raised.

Those of us who write on the subject know them well, but since they are raised in comments, the answers to the objections and concerns are not as widely read as the initial information in the essays or diaries. Therefore they must be repeatedly, which tends to try the authors patience a bit, and can lead to ….er….a curtness, shall we say, born of frustration that at having to reply again and again to the same objections. So let’s address them now here in one place! As an aside, I have answered all of these questions Brazillions of times, so please excuse me if a tad bit of sarcasm may occasionally slip into the way I lay them out here, lol.

Prosecution = Investigations first.
When the word prosecution is used, people seem to forget or mentally skip over the fact that there can be no prosecution without an investigation first. A small percentage of those who object seem to think that prosecution advocates want revenge at any cost and when they hear ‘prosecution’ they seem to think that someone is advocating that Cheney just be thrown into jail or into the dock immediately.

When you hear the word prosecution….think, investigation. No one, and I mean no one is advocating for anything more than a proper, legal, painstaking and thorough investigation. We are trying to restore the Rule of Law. We WANT the Rule of Law to be applied to those who have broken, subverted and corrupted it. we want due process, and full rights for the accused. But most of all we want investigations. We are of course, given the amount of information in the public sphere, very confident that those investigations will lead to prosecutions.

Which leads to the next point of objection.  

Patience. We are constantly urged to be patient. No one, and again I mean no one,expects anything more than an announcement that formal, official, structured and coordinated investigations are beginning. Of course, once the investigations start we will be monitoring and writing about the particulars of the investigations. No One, expects to jump right to prosecutions NOW. Really! We know this will be an incredibly long and complex process, I assure you. The only thing we are impatient for is the announcement that the full range of the Bush Torture Program will be investigated…and IF the facts warrant it (which they obviously do) lead to prosecutions.

Advocacy can NEVER involve patience. if you don’t ask….nay DEMAND….what you want you will. not. get. it.

Just because we yell Loudly for something, does NOT mean we expect to have everything come to a halt to fulfill our (petulant, childish, or whatever other insulting epithet that some people who don’t understand the dynamics of advocacy politics assign to advocates) demands. The squeaky wheel DOES get the grease. The RW advocacy groups have proven that over the last eight years. being polite and supplicative gets you NOWHERE in politics. I am amazed I even have to say that, frankly!

Obama has too much on his plate. Sarcasm alert! No one expects Obama himself to put on Sherlock Holmes’s deerstalker cap, yell “The game is afoot!” and take out after Moriarty/Cheney!

Today Obama said he would support bi-partisan House investigations. He can ASK AG Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor, or as also has been suggested an outside prosecutor. All torture prosecution advocates want is for him to get out of the way. And, perhaps, stop announcing that he is (since he doesn’t technically have that power anyway) immunizing people from prosecution.

Political Capital. This one is more complicated. I will address it fully in another essay, but some initial points need to be made. First, remember that Obama won’t be wearing the Holmes Hat here. He will NOT be out front on whatever type of investigation occurs. In fact he should be far in the background and other than general statements, use the political cliche of “I can’t comment on ongoing investigations.”

No One wants to derail Health care or financial recovery or climate Change legislation or any other of the incredibly admirable and important goals of President Obama. I promise. Torture advocates want all of those things too. we are just not willing to trade them for ignoring torture. When we don’t have to. Especially since Obama IS a brilliant politician, CAN walk and chew gum at the same time, and because it IS possible that not prosecuting war crimes could also harm him. The RW can use it as a weapon. The embarrassment of the UN and Spain prosecuting in our stead can use up his international political capital. And….it gives the “terrorists” a VERY potent talking point and recruiting tool as well.

This is why the Petition for a Special Prosecutor (now with almost 49,000 sigs!) is addressed to AG Holder, and not to President Obama.

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Yes, yes, OF COURSE the RW will fight back and call Obama bad names and accuse him of being the second coming of Satan, just for allowing investigations.


They do that when he frikking shakes hands with somebody!

Second, consider this an investment of political capital. Yes there will be pushback and outrage from the right initially and at every hay-making opportunity. But, and I hesitate to talk about this much, because it DOES feed into the ‘witch hunt’ meme. But stop and think for a moment what in depth investigations of the Bush Executive Branch and, inevitably, the Republican Congress members….will reveal.

Think, if you will, of what it will mean in the 2010 and 2012 elections….. to have the entire Republican party under investigation for, or at least tangentially implicated in, a torture trial.

It is the nail in their coffin.

But I want to STRONGLY state this. We are NOT in this fight for political purposes. Or revenge. Or Retribution.

We are in it to stop torture. We are in it to restore Human Rights. We are in it to restore the Rule of Law. We are in, dammit….because torture is WRONG. And there is NO greater wrong than State Sanctioned homicide by torture

I challenge any and all to come up with a worse crime…short of genocide.

That is what our government, YOUR government did in your name. As painful and hard as it may be to face that fact. The United States under George Bush and Dick Cheney tortured people, slowly and agonizingly in some cases and suddenly and brutally in others, to the point that they died.

How can we, as civilized people, NOT investigate, and if it proves warranted, and it will, prosecute that?


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  1. Photobucket

  2. Gibbs brings up 9/11 commission.

    Dismisses what he and Rahm said about prosecutions, and refers to todays statement…

    Obama open to Hill probe of harsh interrogations

    …and says it is up to Holder!

    more if there is more!

    • Edger on April 21, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Well said, Buhdy.

  3. nobody is above the rule of Law.

    Gibbs is sweating at having to retract and the press is giving him a good grilling for once!

    “can’t be overly politicized”

    reporter….”is Pres giving in to the Left?”

    Gibbs…Pres didn;t go to to make his decision.

    Did rahm mispeak?

    Dissemble, dissemble, lol.

  4. “what about cheney?”

    to paraphrase…..fuck Dick Cheney and his “policy disagreement!”

  5. the fifth or sixth reporter ask if this is a change of policy…..Gibbs squirms! yeehaw!

    “Isn’t he now looking backwards???”

    “What changed?”


    “If he is in favor of Rule of Law, isn’t immunizing the CIA an excepton to the rule of law?”

    No! No! a thousand times no! CIA acted in good faith….but no one is above the law!

    Gibbs stumbling and squirming more!

  6. “Bush made the ultimate decision!!! Signed off on the memos

    Why shouldn’t HE be investigated???

    Gibbs dissembles….

    “Is there something wrong with my logic???”


    Oh, I am in HEAVEN!!!

  7. but….WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    A reporter asked if Bush should be held accountable…..WOW!

  8. “we will stay on top of these new developments!”

  9. I’ve grown tired of having to deal with the same objections over and over again.

    I think we also need to work harder to find clear language on the “political capital” issue and responding to those who have other issues they’re afraid investigations will derail (i.e., healthcare, environment, etc.).  A lot of fights could be avoided by coming up with that language, imo (tho of course not all of them, lol).

    Good essay, buhdy, I think you’ve pinpointed some of the most important aspects of this debate.

  10. and some things aren’t.

    STop sign Pictures, Images and Photos

    Laws against torture are as clear as a Stop Sign.

    Do we really need to have lengthy and healthy discussions about what a Stop Sign really means?  Do we really need to examine the possible nuances involved?  

    If someone ignores a Stop Sign 183 times in one month, if they ignore Stop Signs for five years and kill a bunch of people, what possible complications can there be in prosecuting them?

    Politics and moral cowardice are the only things preventing fast track investigations and prosecutions of torture. And if there are any bloggers anywhere in the Netroots who can’t see that, it’s because they don’t want to see it.  


    • robodd on April 21, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    politically and justice-wise seems to be a special prosecutor.

    No congressional “circus” (plus, there is still the issue of defying congressional subpoenas) and no political involvement of the AG/DOJ or the executive.

    Who should apply for the job?


  12. I dashed off a comment which may turn out to be linked to reality. Consider the events of the past few days, including the release–on Obama’s direction–of the torture memos, as well as the CQ article on Jane Harman’s role as an Israeli agent-of-influence, as well as her role as a blackmailed accomplice of AG Gonzales to promote warrantless wiretapping.

    From Feb. 11th:

    If only Obama could wield strategic deception. (4.00 / 5)

    Here’s what I’m getting at:

    (1)  Leahy, a well-known blowhard who huffs and puffs but can be counted on never to press the issue beyond a “sternly worded letter,” could serve as a lightning rod by waging a campaign to create such a “truth commission.”

    (2) The Republicans, of course, will howl and yowl to protest any such attempt to expose their beloved war criminals to public scrutiny of policy decisions to torture; to engage in illegal, warrantless wiretapping and data mining; and to politicize the Department of Justice. And don’t forget the launching of the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses–a clear violation of Nuremberg principles.

    (3) Go ahead and let the Republicans howl to oppose the creation of a truth commission. Indeed, dial their knobs a little to help ensure and amplify the howling. Let them appear to be as obstructionist as possible. Let them succeed and be seen as the ones responsible for preventing the establishment of such a commission to get to the bottom of things.

    (4) Meanwhile, carefully leak to the media documents, photos, and video footage that reveal in graphic and horrific detail the extent of the Bush Administration’s crimes and internal deliberations (i.e., conspiracies) to commit those crimes under U.S. statutes and international law.

    (5) Simultaneously–and out of the public view–engage a task force of top- notch prosecutors to scrutinize the Bush Administration’s document trail and to question cooperative witnesses, i.e., civil servants with integrity.

    (6) When the public groundwork in (3) and (4) has been properly dug, start bringing the assembled documents and witnesses before a grand jury to begin a series of indictments for war crimes.

    (7) In parallel, other federal prosecutors can go after fraud and theft of public funds (i.e. bailout money disbursed as executive bonuses, etc.) in the financial industry.

    (8) Oh, and don’t spare corrupt Democrats. Go after them just as hard. Take a look at Rep. Murtha’s cozy relationships with defense manufacturers, for example. Perhaps the business interests and government contracts of Sen. Feinstein’s husband merit a little scrutiny. Vigorously prosecuting corrupt Democrats (and there are plenty of them out there) will provide the necessary political balance for prosecuting Bush Administration war criminals.

    Eric Holder’s Department of Justice could have its hands full for the next few years.

  13. Objections?  You mean like

    WASHINGTON – Former vice-president Dick Cheney says the U.S. government gained valuable intelligence from its aggressive interrogations of detainees after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. . . . .

    That SOB doesn’t give up — trying to save his arse!


    Repeat the acts of torture, repeat the national and international laws, repeat legal responsibilities in relation thereto.  Repeat all of this over and over and over  Ignore objections.  Ignore asides, etc., as though not heard and just repeat the acts, the laws, our liabilities and responsibilities therefor.

    Just one thought, buhdy.  By sticking to torture, renditions, “ghost detentions” as the legal “cause” — it really wouldn’t take that long to investigate and prosecute.  Afterall, a great deal of the evidences of all matters pertaining to the torture is already established.  

    • Alma on April 21, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    I think we’ve done everything right.

    Years ago we started with congress:

    Been there,

    done that,

    got the book,

    and the shaft.

    Then we went on to the justice department when our congress critters told us to take a flying leap.  Its nice to see some of them are finally coming around.

    • geomoo on April 21, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    To generalize, they all involve taking the investigation position and making it into an extremist one that is easily argued down.  I see this also on the other side.  Calling people Obamabots, zombies, and accusing them of believing anything Obama says is the same tactic.  These tactics are causing a lot of wasted breath and arguing with really discussing the actual issues.  It’s very satisfying how you have dismissed these most common arguments so thoroughly.  It is exasperating, and very difficult to gather the energy to remain civil while explaining what you’re NOT saying ten times, then never getting a response to what you are saying.

    As to the investigation/prosecution deal.  I think we should take that one away by simply changing our language.

  14. Major General Taguba is very strongly for investigations and prosecutions.

    Ultimately, Taguba concluded, investigation of the Bush Administration is needed if “accountability is not to be just a hollow term.” “In my opinion accountability is a condition of employment. Government leaders who chose to accept high level positions of influence ought to hold firm and be accountable.”

  15. but…….

    the crux here is bipartisan……

    does anyone see bipartisanship coming anytime soon ?!?

    I still think that O is shaping up to be the next civil war president…….

    we got a donny brook comin, no bout adoubt it…….

    • dkmich on April 21, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    and they deserved.  I just wish we could put enough pressure on him to really do something about the unemployment in this country.  His stimulus plan is a sucky last place when compared to the financial hit the people in this country have taken.    

  16. yah. this is killing me, I can only peek in, I have a bunch of shit to do plus my benevolent overlord wants to know whats for dinner.

    back later.

    let us know when/if you post this to the DK.

    Use that listserve once in a while, buhdy, eh?

    • quince on April 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I really appreciated this one.

    • TomP on April 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Now we know they torured to provide a link between Iraq and Al Queda.  Bush and Cheney belong before the Hague on trial.

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