You undoubtedly remember vividly the apoplectic outrage of conservative commentators when Bill Clinton issued his list of pardons just before leaving office. That outrage, of course, is reserved only for occasions on which the Democrats appear to be doing what the Republicans think the Democrats would do if they had the ethics of Republicans.
I might be wrong, but I believe we are about to see George Bush make Bill Clinton look like a piker when it comes to pardons. I’ll even stick my neck out and predict it: George Bush is going to have to issue a large number of pardons… for people who will not admit to having committed any crimes.
The problem is this: Barack Obama wins the election. Do you think Obama will interpret the constitution to mean that the President of the United States can make torture legal by commanding his minions to torture?
Maybe he will. Or maybe he will feel the same way that most civilized western leaders have felt for 100 years: that the use of torture is repugnant to the fundamental principles of human rights. Okay. So what do all the torturers in the CIA do? Quietly quit their jobs and move to Switzerland or Argentina? Apologize? I’m really, very, very sorry that I tortured you– I had thought it was legal. And resort to the standard “I was only following orders” defense?
I suspect that an understanding might be reached, that would see the federal government under the new administration not ask any embarrassing questions, provided that the violations of fundamental human rights comes to a quick stop. But what if any of the victims are put on trial? What if their lawyers challenge the validity of evidence obtained against their clients because it was adduced under torture? Sticky wicket, isn’t it? What if they call in the FBI witnesses who objected to what they termed “rough treatment” of suspects by their colleagues in the CIA and Defense Department?
Bush is going to have perform that goofy voodoo thing wherein you forgive people for crimes you claim they haven’t committed. He tried to do a similar thing by getting Congress to grant immunity to corporations that he swears were merely obeying the law when they allowed the government to spy on individuals in the U.S. without warrants. If they were obeying the law, why do they need immunity? This kind of hypocritical bullshit should not be allowed to pass: why will anyone need a pardon if, as Bush says, everything they did was legal?
Congress should make a simple demand– it should insist that no one can be pardoned unless they have committed a crime. So Mr. Bush may only pardon torturers if they admit they illegally tortured people. And then we may turn to the President and impeach him in the hour before he leaves office.
By golly– George Bush really does understand the constitution. He just willingly shits on it.
2011-03 I was wrong. George Bush — much to Cheney’s displeasure, apparently– refused to pardon anybody, not even Scooter Libby.
Yes, I do think more highly of him than I did before. Barack Obama, on the other hand, basically continued the same policies. So, yes, I think much less of him for that. By continuing the policies, of course, he erased the possibility of charging members of the Bush Administration with violating the rights of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. That’s exactly what Bush needed and wanted and I do wonder just how overt this kind of understanding between one President and another is.
Don’t forget Karl! There are strong grounds for suspicion that Karl Rove orchestrated the malicious and false prosecution of Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. A Republican lawyer has sworn, under oath, that she was told that Rove directed the United States attorney for Montgomery to undertake proceedings against Siegelman though there was no real evidence of any crime. For a political operative to instigate such an investigation is a felony.
Congress has subpoenaed Rove but he refuses to testify. How on earth can he get away with that? The Attorney General is ultimately responsible for enforcing the law. George Bush appoints the Attorney General. There you go.
We need to start a campaign now to head off the inevitable. The campaign should focus on the demand that no pardons should be issued by President Bush for anyone who has not publicly admitted that they have committed the crimes for which they are being pardoned. (It’s probably too much to ask that they actually be charged with those crimes and put on trial.) It’s simple: no confession, no pardon. So all those intelligence agents who tortured and generals who lied and secretaries of state who lied and phone companies who allowed the government to eavesdrop on conversations without a warrant and so on and so on should have to line up on television and takes turns telling us exactly what they did that requires a pardon. It would be the ultimate reality show, and it would be GREAT for the country. These are the sonsofbitches who have been running your country for the past eight years. What do you think?
But I was only following orders!
Right. America supported the findings of the Nuremburg judges that the “following orders” defense does not exculpate actions that a reasonable person would perceive to be illegal and abhorrent. So Nazi soldiers that participated in atrocities, unless they had good grounds to fear for their lives, were not excused from their sins. The same standard was applied to the William Calley case.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure a judge in the U.S. in today’s political climate would agree with me that anyone participating in the use of torture has no excuse. America is moving backwards, towards barbarism. The idea that torture is “abhorrent” prevails in civilized countries. What is a civilized country?