Monday, March 30, 2009

Spanish Lawyer: Ex-US Officials Must Face Torture Charges

Well, something many of of have been clamoring for may just come to pass! A Spanish lawyer has placed the wheels of justice in motion against a gaggle of Bush Administration stooges. The complain alleges the men gave legal cover to the torture of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by claiming that the U.S. president could ignore the Geneva Conventions and by adopting an overly narrow legal definition of torture.

The all star cast includes: Alberto Gonzales; Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes. The complaint has a long road ahead of it, and only addresses lawyers who rendered legal advice enabling torture.

It's a start!



Publius said...

Well, Al, I've been watching this post sit out on its lonesome for a while without anyone commenting. It may be that there is such unanimity of opinion on what can only be termed karmic justice displayed in the Spanish court's action that everyone is kind of basking in the warmth.

I know I am. What's really very interesting about this Spanish action is the potential effect here at home. No matter what the Spanish court's decision, I don't think any of the named scumbags will ever spend time in a Spanish lockup.

But it's far deeper than that. Most citizens of the older and more advanced nations have a deep-seated aversion to letting furriners have anything to do with their people. I've always been the same way, both because I've spent a lot of time doing stuff for the nation that other countries don't like and also because I'm very hesitant to put Americans in the dock in other nations, many of which do not honor the legal niceties the way we do.

So we always fight against these types of actions, especially if it appears the American in question was acting in the interests of the U.S., which of course is the defense for the named six. But were they really acting in our best interests? Not according to the majority of the American people.

And then there is the fact that Spain is an advanced nation, is a strong ally and has a modern legal system. Plus we've signed up for a lot of these international agreements and there is going to come a time when we're not going to be able to just ignore them when we feel like it. Plus—and this is a big one—we've already established a precedent by snatching people overseas and then trying them here in the U.S.

But the biggest issue of all, the potential circus, is the fact that our new president is probably shitting himself thinking what he's going to do if the Spanish hand down an indictment. There is a lot of sentiment here at home—and even within his own administration—to open DOJ cases on suspected war crimes by members of the Bush Administration and then let the chips fall where they may. Congress wants to do its thing. Obama does not want any of this to happen. His preference is to let "what happens in Washington stays in Washington" be the operating philosophy. No president ever wants to go after the last administration because it would set a very undesirable precedent, i.e., they might be next.

I've always understood this philosophy of letting sleeping dogs lie, not because I want people to get away with anything, but because the retribution business could get out of hand. We've become too much of a banana republic as it is; I'm not sure we want to do anything to further our national decline.

But what I want and what Obama wants may not matter. If there is an indictment, there will be a ton of pressures here at home to unleash the dogs. A lot of strains on long-standing alliances as well. For example, what if Spain were to threaten to leave NATO or deny U.S. military access if the U.S. didn't take action?

Being in D.C. at the time, I had a front row seat for Watergate. It was really entertaining. This could be even better.

basilbeast said...

Did anyone see Rachel Maddow's interview with Colin Powell over the past couple of nights?

mike said...

Publius makes a good point about retribution and banana republics.

Additionally Addington, Feith, and the other four are chump change in the torture sweepstakes. They were followers not leaders.

But I am glad to see this. Perhaps some other countries should put forth charges also as a question in my mind is whether Spain is the place for justice against torturers. Franco continued his policy of torture right up until his death in 1975, albeit in small numbers mostly Basques and Catalans. But just seventy years ago he tortured not only those minorities but millions of others. And after his Reconquista in the 1940s and stretching into the 50s and 60s, his allies in the Falange tortured millions more including any who were suspected of being Pinkos, Trade-Unionists, Freemasons, or just plain old bad-Catholics. Many of Franco's enemies were no better, the Spanish Stalinistas tortured and murdered Priests and Nuns and anyone they considered Trotskyites or Anarchists. There are many Spaniards still alive today who were victims of torture by their own countrymen, and millions of children of both tortured and torturers.

Has Spain had a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" for these crimes? But then, maybe there are no clean hands.

Aviator47 said...


It will be interesting to watch this one play out. I agree that the odds of jail time are slim, no matter what the judicial outcome might be. But, if convicted, these creeps will have to be careful where they go, as well as keep an eye over their shoulders. That alone will be a good thing.


Publius said...

Mike, recall I mentioned "karmic justice"? Well, if you think about it, what better place to express the civilized world's distaste for the actions of the Bush Administration than Spain? And don't forget the Inquisition, BTW. Spain has a lot skeletons in the closet; maybe this is their way of addressing them. I say good for them.

On the whole subject of how a people reacts to its past, think about Germany. Who's more intolerant of antisemitism than the modern Germans?

And then think of us, the good old U.S. The unfortunate fact is that we've kind of made a national pact to forget much of our past. We're the nation that fought that incredibly bloddy civil war, but still had lynchings through the 50s and had to have federal troops move into the South in the 50s to address what was supposed to have been settled 90 years earlier.

We're also the nation that conveniently overlooked compelling evidence about the Holocaust early in WW2. And then we were "surprised" in 1945.

Frankly, I doubt we'll ever do anything about this festering sore on our own. Maybe for good utilitarian reasons as I've pointed out. But if other nations were to perhaps embarrass us a bit and nudge us towards frankly looking at our recent past, I'm not so sure I'd be the least bit unhappy.

mike said...

Publius -

As I said above: "But I am glad to see this". So we agree that this legal complaint is a good thing. When are the indictments?

However I would like to see another country or two in addition to Spain bring these guys to court. Not sure I care about Franco's boys putting their own skeletons to bed even if you are right about karmic justice.

And I am wondering if the many other countries that are signatories of the 'European Convention on Extradition" will have the cojones to extradite these six slippery eels to Spain if they travel overseas.

On modern Germans, God bless the majority of them. But in the short time I was in Germany I met not only a few anti-Semites, but also many that were anti-Turk or anti-Croat.

Agree with you on our own abominable history of lynching.

Bottom line for me though is that this Spanish legal action only goes after a few stooges. Cheney has admitted publicly that he helped to authorize waterboarding. And the buck stops with Bush.