At the very end of this video, Rahm states, as clearly as any politician ever states anything, that the executive branch will not seek prosecutions of anyone for torture.
He quotes the President. “This is a time for reflection, not retribution.”
Instead, we will reflect on the fact that America tortured people to death in a vast, well planned and organized official program of torture spanning years. And that there are NO consequences for that.
Let us reflect, then.
Not on President Obama’s actions, but on what this means for the future.
IF what Rahm says is true.
Let us reflect on the conclusion that when America tortures it is not illegal. It is not a crime. Because the President of America, ANY President of America says so. International law says it is a crime, of course. Repeatedly:
Convention Against Torture — signed by Reagan in 1988, ratified in 1994 by Senate:
Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law (Article 4) . . . . The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. . . . An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
Geneva Conventions, Article 146:
Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.
Charter of the International Tribunal at Nuremberg, Article 8:
The fact that the Defendant acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the Tribunal determines that justice so requires.
U.S. Constitution, Article VI:
[A]ll Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.
As does, depending on Presidential interpretation (apparently) the Constitution.
But if their is no penalty, no consequence at all, for breaking those laws….what do they really mean?
Today’s NYT Editorial puts it this way…
Until Americans and their leaders fully understand the rules the Bush administration concocted to justify such abuses – and who set the rules and who approved them – there is no hope of fixing a profoundly broken system of justice and ensuring that that these acts are never repeated.
We do not think Mr. Obama will violate Americans’ rights as Mr. Bush did. But if Americans do not know the rules, they cannot judge whether this government or any one that follows is abiding by the rules.
In the case of detainee abuse, Mr. Obama assured C.I.A. operatives that they would not be prosecuted for actions that their superiors told them were legal. We have never been comfortable with the “only following orders” excuse, especially because Americans still do not know what was actually done or who was giving the orders.
Or………….what will be done in the future under these same….. “rules.”
Our current President has stopped this vast, well planned and organized official program of torture. By Executive Order.
Which means that in four or eight years, President Palin can sign a new Executive Order reinstating this vast, well planned and organized official program of torture. Just as president Bush did.
Under this precedent, there is no penalty for torture. Or indeed, any other act the President, armed with Cheney’s Unitary Executive Powers orders, no matter how heinous.
There is no penalty or consequence for writing “legal” memos justifying anything the President wants justified.
There is no penalty or consequence for breaking international law or treaty, if the President says so.
There is no penalty or consequence for War Crimes…..as long as they are American War Crimes.
There is no penalty or consequence for torturing people, even innocent people. If the President says so.
Even, in the case of Jose Padilla, American Citizens. All he or she has to do is declare it legal.
In this brave new world, America can now invade whatever country it wishes to with no consequence. America can torture or kill whoever it wants with no consequence.
As long as the American President says so and has his lawyers draft memos declaring it “legal.” No matter if those memos stand up to the scrutiny of other lawyers or the legal community. The President of the United States under these new standards, has virtually unlimited executive power.
According to the The President of the United States
If what Rahm says is true, and there will be no prosecutions for torture, The President doesn’t even have to grant a pardon for the last Presidents illegal acts (if there are such things, anymore) all he has to do is ignore them. All he has to do is not even have his DOJ investigate them. And those acts are now, by precedent, “legal.”
If there are no consequences for breaking the law, there is no law.
If the President can declare that the law can simply be ignored at his discretion, that no investigations and no prosecutions will occur…
By choosing not to enforce the law, by claiming the power to choose whether to enforce the law…
Then the President of the United States is not just above the law, he becomes the law.
With only the Congress to say him nay.
And we have just seen how well that works.
The President has decided not to prosecute. The President has just granted himself the power to ignore the law.
Let’s just hope that President Palin is as benevolent as President Obama. because that is all we CAN do now…..hope.
As Rachel says, somebody talk me down. And, please, help me find a way to get Congress to rein in the ever expanding Executive Power of the Presidency.
No matter who holds it.