Rahm: NO Prosecutions? No Torture Until Next President?

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.

Simulposted at Dkos

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.


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  1. After all, I don’t want to get punished!

    So………push back on this until we get a clarification?

    And then start in on Congress?


    • robodd on April 19, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    You deserve torture for such commentary, Buhdytreasonous!  Waterbuhdying.

    • Edger on April 19, 2009 at 11:17 pm




    You’ll have to excuse me if I’m a teensy bit cynical these days.

    How about Dog the Bounty Hunter?

  2. … over at the Orange but will repeat it here because this is driving me nuts.

    What the fuck are we supposed to be reflecting upon?  Obama releases the memos and says it’s a time for reflection, not retribution.

    Reflection on what?  And Rahm repeats it.

    What on earth do they think we ought to be reflecting upon?  That torture is not good and oh yay that Obama has signed a paper saying we don’t do that any more, even as we are receiving reports that it’s still going on at Gitmo?

    This just doesn’t make one drop of sense.  Something is really wacky here.

    And still and again … not one word about the victims.  Not one.

  3. the real problem here is the human beings right here in America……

    cause ever since we took this place by killing 10’s of millions of people we have not been prosecuting anybody…..

    hell Custer was a hero…..

    why should we be surprised?!?

    we did not deal with it then……

    and because we did not we are continueing to do it now…..

    and because we will not deal with it now we most certianly will do it again…….

    I will bet anyone a thousand dollars right now…..

    and very soon it will be done to us……

    I will bet anyone a thousand dollars on that one too right now….?!?

    any takers….

    any takers that your children are next?!?

    whats a matta……

  4. Back over at the Kos, the main counterpoint to the prosecution of the criminals within the CIA seems to be the “we have always tortured so it isn’t a big deal” defense. I would argue that this current session of United States sponsored sadism was quite different from those in the past. We f’ing flaunted this one. Torture, when we have done it in the past, was always a dirty little secret. We all know from the horrific campaign rallies of the MccainPalin ticket and from the Bush years that the right (not just the extreme right) were ready to go hardcore medieval on any Muslim that happened, legally or illegally to fall into US custody. That is the danger here…the fact that our grossly ineffective and sadistic treatment of prisoners IS known to MOST of the population. This was not the case in the past. Obama is thinking of shoring up his right flank here. Not the dire consequences this will have on the future of this “republic”. Torture is now on the mainstream American political stage, and it is getting a free pass.

  5. I know you know how this country started,,,,,,

    that has never been addressed……

    hell down in Bishop they still play cowboys and natives…..

    it is the very heart of the American psyche…..

    the heart of the taker…….

    we have never dealt with this cause we believe we are entiltled to everthing we have taken by force from the world……

    why should we…….

    it is the same everywhere……

    the Turkish deny their genocide……

    everyone denies that they are like those other viscious bastards over there……..

    this a true human flaw and it will be what brings us down……

    because we do not want to be truely accountable for our oneness……

    we want to be able to excuse the unexcusable so that we can keep what we have taken from each other……

    when there was less than a billion of us we could sit it out a generation or two and then do it again…..

    now it is non stop and it is growing…….

    soon, very soon it will become common practice here……

    the next president will say that there are enemies within…..

    you and I B……

    people like us, we will be next…..

    the data mining will be used against us by the next conservative backlash……

    you know it is so….

    and all of the good little handwringing liberals will look the other way just as they did this time…….

  6. . . . and it’s driving me crazy. But I want to Pony all the commenters in this thread, and double Ponies to Buhdy, Nightprowlkitty, and DawnoftheRedSun.

    (I can rec diaries and leave comments, but I can’t make the Pony buttons work–just for the last few days.  Go figure.)

  7. The democrats and republicans aren’t really opposed to each other.

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