Andrew Sullivan has a must read rant on Obama’s foot dragging on the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture. As some of you know, Sullivan is a conservative, but he is gay and also likes Obama. But he has had enough.
Basically, his point is that the well documented use of torture by the US in Iraq is a war crime, and not investigating it is also against international law. Obama hypocritically claims that he is “absolutely committed” to the release of the Senate report as soon as it is finished. Really? The report was completed (as Sullivan puts it) fifteen fricking months ago!
So why has it not been released? Because the White House (along with the CIA) is stonewalling its release. This makes Obama complicit in the crimes and also guilty of violating international law including the Geneva conventions. Even Senator Diane Feinstein has had enough, as Jon Stewart points out:
Obama is absolutely wrong to be helping to cover up war crimes by the CIA. We cannot preserve any moral authority we have left if the president doesn’t account for the excesses that happened while fighting terrorism. This must stop.
100% agreement. Please include Baby Bush in here.
I have often written the White House about the War Crimes.
I agree too. It seems like war crimes are ignored when committed by us or our friends or our puppets. The “good guys” need to be held accountable just as much as the “bad guys”. Maybe we’ll see some change when Canada and France issue statements that Bush, his cronies and Obama will be arrested if they step out of US borders. Don’t hold your breath.
When did the right thing to do become literally ‘politically incorrect’?
… and after France prepares to hold us to account, the European Union needs to challenge France on the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. I imagine it becomes a giant circle a crime and accountability.
So few have been punished that perhaps a new international treaty should declare amnesty for past war crimes to all who will sign and admit guilt. All signatories must vow to actively pursue justice against new war crimes of signatories and the old and new crimes of non-signers. Use South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a model.
I look forward to flying pigs and meeting my first unicorn.
It may be difficult, but not impossible. I think we should come out and say “in the wake of 9/11, things got a bit overboard in the fight against terrorism. We acknowledge those excesses and want to put safeguards in place to prevent them in the future.”
We’ve done similar things before.
Like Sullivan, I have generally approved of many of Obama’s policies because I find them to be centrist, overall. I find much of the accusations of socialism, extreme left-wing policies, fiscal irresponsibility, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, etc., to be laughably wrong and off-target.
But there are certain areas–NSA spying, persecution of whistleblowers, deportations, drones, etc.–that I absolutely despise the current administration’s stances. On these issues, Obama is so far to the right that the term “fascist” (and I don’t use that term lightly) starts to become appropriate. (Frankly, I’m not convinced that this would be much different regardless of who occupies the White House, but that’s another issue…)
Given that context, I find Obama’s actions regarding the CIA investigation to be completely self-serving and unsurprising. He cannot go after Bush for war crimes, despite the evidence, for one simple reason: It creates precedence for the next administration to do the same to him. While I do think what happened under the Bush regime was far worse (anyone remember Valerie Plame? extraordinary renditions?), I think there are some things that Obama has done and/or overseen that are bad, too. In short, I see a difference in degree, not kind.
I hate to be this cynical, but I have no hope for truly fair international cooperation regarding war crimes prosecution. The only people ever prosecuted for such (e.g., Milosevic, Saddam, a variety of Japanese and German officials from WWII) were those who lost their respective wars. War crimes committed by the victors always go unpunished.
Good summary Michael. And it brings up why I think Democrats have been ambivalent about this — how can they attack Obama about this when the Republicans were clearly worse. Furthermore, it is obvious that the Republicans would relish the opportunity to scream that Obama is soft on terrorism, if he does go after the CIA.
It is a rather slippery slope that we seem to be sliding down at increasing speed.
Hmmm. My thinking and opinion on this seems to be from a different angle. I don’t think either Bush or Obama should or could be held accountable for the actions of those under them. The government is simply too big and too far flung to hold one man accountable for the actions of millions of employees. Particularly when that person is a temporary inhabitant of the position. They neither created it, nor control it. Now if they materially participated and or gave specific orders for events to be carried out then that is different matter all together. Many of the leaders Michael mentioned were instrumental in building the systems and government operations that were in fact responsible. For instance, Saddam was in power for 25 years and created, influenced and held accountable the institutions responsible for mass killings and torture. This I not true I the US, our Presidents inherit their agencies. And in fact it is congress who is charged with most of their oversight. Sadly, while we’d like to hold our leader accountable, he is not that powerful. He can order his military into action but cannot be held accountable for the actions of each member. That should fall to the non-appointed managers and maybe cabinet members if they participated in the decision making process.
Some areas every president can and should be held accountable are the creation of policy and the conduct of foreign policy. They have the greatest influence on these 2 areas. At the end of the day, we’d all be shocked to know how little our leader actually knows about the day to day decisions and running of the government. And since he is looked at as the leader of his political party it is in the interests of congress and other elected officials to make sure he is seen favorably for their own political futures.
I also agree that each succeeding president has a vested interest in protecting his predecessor and that is protecting himself.
Here’s another area where the President should and likely does have control.
“Command responsibility, sometimes referred to as the Yamashita standard or the Medina standard, and also known as superior responsibility, is the doctrine of hierarchical accountability in cases of war crimes.”
The “Yamashita standard” is “unlawfully disregarding and failing to discharge his duty as a commander to control the acts of members of his command by permitting them to commit war crimes.”
The “Medina standard” holds that a commanding officer, being aware of a human rights violation or a war crime, will be held criminally liable when he does not take action.
I think both the Yamashita and Medina Standards clearly apply to Bush and despite my fondness for him Obama as well.