Thursday, December 18, 2008

Prosecuting American War Criminals

Citing the final installment of the Senate Armed Services Committee report on Torture, The NYTs in a lengthy editorial calls for the prosecution of all those who ordered torture in the name of the American people.

The Times isn't fooling around.
Now, a bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has made what amounts to a strong case for bringing criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William J. Haynes; and potentially other top officials, including the former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

The report shows how actions by these men “led directly” to what happened at Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret C.I.A. prisons.

It said these top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America’s standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy.
I'd be curious to hear a principled reason not to do exactly as the NYTs proposes. We seem to be developing this culture in Washington in which it is widely agreed that those who commit illegal acts at the direction of a President should somehow be exempt from criminal prosecution, and I'm not clear why.

It's widely agreed, for example, that Ford did the right thing in pardoning Nixon, but why? You're either a civilized Nation governed by laws, or you're not.

I'm not suggesting the criminalization of politics, but I think torture is a bid deal.

So, please straighten me out with a principled argument about why I'm wrong.

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