Obama's Nuremberg Defense In Context

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sat Apr 18, 2009 at 13:01


My previous diary, "Obama Embraces Nazi Nuremberg Trials Logic: 'They Were Only Following Orders'" took narrow aim at a single, fundamental moral, legal, and ethical fact: Barack Obama's rejection of the Nuremberg Principles and the rule of law, and his embrace of the Nazi's "Nurmberg Defense" of heinous war crimes: "I was only following orders."  This embrace of Nazi ideology (in the form of the Führerprinzip) is so fundamentally anti-democratic and anti-American (though quite compatible with movement conservatism) that I did not want to muddy the waters by talking about anything else in that diary.

But just as it is necessary to see that act of moral betrayal clearly with outside distractions, it is equally necessary to see it in context as well, which is what I want to do here. Here are the points explored on the flip:

(1) Even the Nuremberg Defense doesn't protect all CIA torture.
(2) The Nuremberg Prinsiples are part of a much larger legal framework that Obama is violating.
(3) Obama is obstructing a war crimes investigation, which puts us in league with Serbia. And he's using several bogus arguments in doing so:

    (3a) Enforcing the law--which is your sworn duty--is just engaging in a partisan hissy fit.
    (3b) Nothing will be gained by supporting the rule of law.
    (3c) Nothing will be gained by exposing the truth.
    (3d) Letting criminals off scot-free is a matter of principle, if they're properly connected.
(4) Condoning torture by refusing to prosecute strengthens the terrorist's case against America.  Upholding the rule of law would have been the most effective anti-terrorist strategy imaginable.
Paul Rosenberg :: Obama's Nuremberg Defense In Context
(1) Even the Nuremberg Defense doesn't protect all CIA torture.  Jason Leopold reports:

CIA Interrogation Tapes Predated Torture Memo

By Jason Leopold

(The Intelligence Daily) -- The CIA began videotaping interrogations of two alleged "high value" terrorist detainees in April 2002, four months before Bush administration attorneys issued a memo clearing the way for CIA interrogators to use "enhanced interrogation techniques," the Justice Department disclosed in court documents.

However, in a letter to a federal court judge Thursday, the Justice Department only agreed to provide details on the harshest interrogations of prisoner Abu Zubaydah that occurred in August 2002 - after the Bush administration's lawyers had provided the legal cover for waterboarding and other brutal tactics.

That letter prompted ACLU lawyers to express concern over why the government offered no promises regarding the preceding months.  Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, said the government's "motivations in confining its [latest] response to the month of August are highly suspect."

The ACLU is suing the CIA to release documents related to 92 interrogation videotapes that were destroyed by the CIA in 2005 as public attention began focusing on allegations that the Bush administration had subjected "war on terror" detainees to brutal interrogations that crossed the line into torture.

This is only the most clear-cut evidence of a more general problem: Obama is not merely affirming the validity of the Nuremberg defense, he is using it pre-emptively to prevent any sort of investigation whatever.  He is assuming in advance that everyone who engaged in torture did so under orders and/or guidance of superiors who believed they were doing so legally.  This is for defense attorneys to argue, not should-be prosecutors.

(2) The Nuremberg Prinsiples are part of a much larger legal framework that Obama is violating. As Glenn Greenwald indicated in his diary, "Eric Holder v. America's legal obligations" the Nuremberg Principles do not stand in splendid isolation as some abstract ideal fantasy, but are instead part of the well-established tissue of law on which our nation--and even our civilization--depend.  This includes:

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.

Thus, Obama and Holder are not simply rejecting out of hand the Nuremberg Principles.  They are rejecting the entire fabric of international and American law.  Although not, perhaps, as flagrantly offensive as the Bush regime, their actions represent, in one sense, an even more fundamental rejection of the rule of law, since they do not simply reject the rule of law for their own narrow self-interest, but rather reject it wholesale, grant a spurious legitimacy to this lawlessness by agreeing to it for the benefit of supposed political enemies, who are, in fact, de facto allies.

(3) Obama is obstructing a war crimes investigation, which puts us in league with Serbia. And he's using several bogus arguments in doing so.

Jonathan Turley on the Rachel Maddow show on Thursday:

MADDOW:  So, in this White House statement today, President Obama said, "This is a time for reflection, not retribution; nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."  I have to ask you if you think he's promising to not prosecute official who sanctioned torture or is he just saying that he won't prosecute CIA officers who carried out the orders?

TURLEY:  It's very hard to say because the officials, of course, wrote these memos and approved them, and the memos went to the people who conducted torture.  But what is really disturbing is that President Obama's obviously referring to criminal investigation and prosecution, that somehow he's equating the enforcement of federal laws that he took an oath to enforce, to uphold the Constitution and our laws-and he's equating that with an act of retribution, and some sort of hissy fit or blame game.

You know, it's not retribution to enforce criminal laws.  But it is obstruction to prevent that enforcement and that is exactly what he has done thus far.  He is trying to lay the groundwork, to look principled when he's doing an utterly unprincipled thing.

There's very few things worse for a president to do than to protect accused war criminals, and that's what we're talking about here.  President Obama himself has said that waterboarding is torture.  And torture violates at least four treaties and is considered a war crime.

So, the refusal to let it be investigated is to try to obstruct a war crime investigation that put it's in the same category as Serbia and other countries that have refused to allow investigations to occur.

Turley said a mouthful here, but the last thing he said strikes me as the proper context for looking at everything else.  Arguably the most fundamental evil of the Bush regime was its wanton contempt for the rule of law, which did incalculable damage both at home and abroad.  And one thing many, many activists, as well as ordinary voters looked forward to under Barack Obama was the restoration of the rule of law.  But in obstructing war crimes investigations, Obama is taking the most sweeping and fundamental stance against the rule of law that any president possibly could, making us no different from any other country in the world that protects its own war criminals.

There is nothing whatsoever noble about this when Serbia seeks to protect its war criminals, and there's nothing noble about it when Barack Obama does the same.  Indeed, when such base ends are served, it helps to unmask the false pretenses of the rationales that used to excuse and justify it, several of which Turley also deals with.

(3a) Bogus argument: Enforcing the law--which is your sworn duty--is just engaging in a partisan hissy fit.  This is, of course, the essence of the Scooter Libby defense.  The laws are for little people.  Holding top Republican officials accountable under the rule of law is nothing more than mob rule.

The fact that Obama buys into this--not just tacitly, but openly, as he did in the statement under discussion--is a clear-cut demonstration that GOP/conservative hegemony defines reality in Versailles in that Obama fundamentally accepts that hegemony.

(3b) Bogus argument: Nothing will be gained by supporting the rule of law. These are Obama's exact words: "Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

This was exactly the sort of logic that prevailed in the pardoning of Richard Nixon over Watergate, and hamstringing of investigations into Iran/Contra.  Indeed, this logic is precisely why we suffered the criminal rampage of the Bush regime in the first place.  This is the essence of the conservative rationale why conservative leaders should never be held accountable.  

(3c) Bogus argument: Nothing will be gained by exposing the truth.  Again, this was exactly the sort of logic that prevailed in the pardoning of Richard Nixon over Watergate, and hamstringing of investigations into Iran/Contra.  And again, this logic is precisely why we suffered the criminal rampage of the Bush regime in the first place. This is the essence of the conservative rationale why conservative leaders should never be held accountable.  

(3d) Bogus argument: Letting criminals off scot-free is a matter of principle, if they're properly connected.  This is the very essence of conservative ideology:  there are two tyhpes of people, to which entirely different sets of rules apply.  Exonerating those regarded as "us" is a matter of principle, no matter what they do.  Punishing "them", no matter what they do is likewise a matter of principle.  Treating everyone the same way is nothing short of "tyranny."

In short, the not-so-sub-text of Obama's rationale is pure unadulterated conservative ideology, which holds that conservatives can never be held accountable for anything, no matter what they do, while liberals must always be punished and blamed, no matter what they do.

(4) Condoning torture by refusing to prosecute strengthens the terrorist's case against America.  Upholding the rule of law would have been the most effective anti-terrorist strategy imaginable.

For a man who claims to be a pragmatist above all, Obama has shown himself to be as clueless and inept as George W. Bush.  Not only is upholding the rule of law and punishing torture the right thing to do, it is also far and away the most pragmatic thing that a new administration could possibly do to influence the disillusioned and the dispossessed, whose sympathy and/or support are vital for the continued survival and growth of international terrorist groups who threaten America.

By effectively granting immunity to the torturers of the Bush regime, Obama has made their crimes his own in the eyes of the world, surrendering the moral high ground once again, simply because he lacks the moral and intellectual capacity to stand up to the inanities of the Beltway bubbleheads.


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And Godwinning is supposed to look less like a hissy fit... how? (4.00 / 1)


You're Giviig Trollery A Bad Name (4.00 / 2)
Like I said in the comments to my previous diary:

Goodwin's Law Repealed--9/11 Changed Everything

Goodwin's Law can't legitimately be invoked to preclude discussions of actual Nazi actions, philosophy or legal arguments.

    to outright equate Obama with Nazis is not something I'd expect to find on OpenLeft.

Well, to have a Democratic President directly invoke Nazi logic is not something I'd expect, either.

Your arguments used to be wrongheaded most of the time, but at least worthy of rational debate.  Now you're just acting like a cartoon.


"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
. (4.00 / 1)
I'm the cartoon but you're running around invoking Hitler? Slow day?

[ Parent ]
Trollerei sollte nicht in Frage kommen? Bitte? (4.00 / 4)
Can you explain why you believe the comparison to be inappropriate, or is it just that you won't?

Snotty isn't an argument.


[ Parent ]
.. (1.50 / 8)
Is "fucking retarded" an argument?

How about "intellectually lazy?"


[ Parent ]
As I thought, (4.00 / 7)
you aren't having an argument. A tantrum, yes, but not an argument. You'd be amazed, I think, at how unremarkable the already infamous torture memos would appear, if translated into the German of 1936-1943, with a little eagle and swastika, and Auf Führerbefehl rubber-stamped above the signature.

Having held a number of these badly-typed documents from the Nazi era in my hands some forty years later, and having translated them for a friend's research, I can affirm that Paul is telling a very simple truth here, whether you like it or not.


[ Parent ]
This room is "Being Hit On The Head Lessons" (4.00 / 3)
Arguments are down the hall.

Now hold your hand there and say "WAAA!"

It's odd that NB would point to anyone else and use the term "intellectually lazy," no?

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
This comment needs to be visible (4.00 / 1)
Just rec'd this post to bring it back to visibility, otherwise the rest of the thread makes no sense.

sPh


[ Parent ]
Agreed (0.00 / 0)
Which brings up a question for the proprietors, or any one else in the know willing to take pity on the ignorant.  Even when a comment is hidden, I can see it, although it's prefixed by [hidden comment]. Is it just the author who can no longer see it, or is my browser doing something funny? There doesn't seem to be anything in the FAQ which addresses this.

[ Parent ]
My understanding is that it's only those with trusted user (0.00 / 0)
status who can read them. Say a first time visitor would not be able to read it.  

[ Parent ]
yes (0.00 / 0)
TU's can see, others cannot.  

[ Parent ]
ok, unhidden (4.00 / 4)
NeonBlack's comment represents a tiresome and predictable and tiresome response to just about any Nazi allusion.  It's simply never enough to say "you can't compare x to nazis" without some real effort to show why the comparison is so wrong.

If we can't use the bad example of the Nazis to keep ourselves on a higher moral plane, what use are they?  

No one thinks Obama is guilty of all the other atrocities of the Nazis, there is no genocide brewing, but from the narrow confines of Paul's comparison, it seems quite apt to me.


[ Parent ]
. (4.00 / 1)
I mean damn, nurmberg isn't the only example in the world of this:

http://nile.ed.umuc.edu/~nstan...

"a. The fact that the law of war has been violated pursuant to an order of a superior authority, whether military or civil, does not deprive the act in question of its character of a war crime, nor does it constitute a defense in the trial of an accused individual, unless he did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the act ordered was unlawful."

Is is that hard to not throw around examples that carry tremendous fucking baggage? Is that really asking too much? Is it too much to ask that progressives learn how to argue without automatically making people roll their eyes?


I think its an excellent choice (4.00 / 1)
Because it completely argues against his point.

They are a great example of why "I was only following the rule of law" is not moral justification for an action.  



http://transgendermom.blogspot....


[ Parent ]
You're Making My Point (4.00 / 5)
Point number 2, to be precise:

(2) The Nuremberg Prinsiples are part of a much larger legal framework that Obama is violating.

Only you want to use that point for perverse ends:

Is is that hard to not throw around examples that carry tremendous fucking baggage?

The baggage is precisely the point.  This is not some historically arcane issue.  It's an historically pivotal one.

Furthermore, the rationale Obama used is called "The Nuremberg Defense" for a reason.  I was simply following up on that reason.

You want me to pull my punches, the same way that Obama does.

I say, "If you're going to pull your punches, you should just pull out of the fight."

It's only being honest, after all.

Honesty and integrity are what this is all about.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
. (4.00 / 1)
It's not about pulling punches. If I can see through an agenda involving the usage of loaded terms then what do you think the opposition will do?

It's like you WANT to be a caricature.

It's equivalent to when the right rants about socialism and then equates it to western europe. It just trivializes the situation. And eventually you get to a point where no one cares about the terms you use. And we don't want to reach a point where war crimes are seen as just another smear.


[ Parent ]
You Think Just Like Karl Rove & Then Say You Want To Warn Me? (4.00 / 2)
Interesting.

So glad you care, Karl.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
If you're pro-torture (4.00 / 1)
then you ARE the opposition. No torture apologists allowed on my team.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
. (4.00 / 1)
Who the fuck said anything about being pro-torture. I simply think it's stupid to make the example of how we handled the war crimes of Nazis the example we parade for how we will handle our intelligence agents. That's the quickest way to throw your argument out the window.

And it's not like there aren't alternatives. I already posted a link from the Army Field Manual that makes the same argument. I simply feel it's beyond stupid to make  your example the most infamous and incendiary one out there.
Might be good for webpage hits or whatever circle jerk echo chamber is going on. But it's not good for political discourse or accomplishing your goals.


[ Parent ]
That makes no sense. (4.00 / 5)
We prosecuted the Nazis and told them the Nuremberg defense was invalid. This is established international law.

Now Obama says, "well the Nuremberg defense is invalid for other people. For Americans it's okay."

Do you seriously think no one is going to notice this? Seriously?

Montani semper liberi


[ Parent ]
Shhhh! If Only *I* Would Shut Up, Obama Could Get Away With It, Honest! (4.00 / 2)
Admit it, Sadie.  You had no idea how powerful I am, did you?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Apologies (4.00 / 2)
I forget about your jedi mind power sometimes. Won't happen again.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
You Are REPEATEDLY Mischaraterizing The Argument Here (4.00 / 3)
I simply think it's stupid to make the example of how we handled the war crimes of Nazis the example we parade for how we will handle our intelligence agents.

That wasn't my argument at all, and I've corrected you previously, but you continue to ignore me.

It's Obama (not the CIA agents) who is using the Nazis lawyers' arguments from Nuremberg, which were disallowed in advance by the Nuremberg Principles.

Those same principles also explicitly stated that such considerations could be allowed in post-conviction sentencing decisions.  And I have no problem with that in principle.  It's entirely appropriate, provided that such considerations are not themselves tainted by political and ideological considerations.

You are doing your absolute best to make a total muddle of things, precisely because my aim is the exact opposite: to make the historical record as clear as possible, so that it's blindingly obvious that Obama is joining the Bush Administration in undercutting 60+ years, at least, of American commitment to opposing war crimes, regardless of the Nazi's Nuremberg Defense.

All the other arguments presented serve to further demonstrate how lies feed on one another, and how terribly destructive they are to our true national interest as well as our fundamental values.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
. (4.00 / 1)
I mean really.

"We're not throwing hissy fits, but you're acting like Hitler?"

That's really what's going to get it done? That's Paul's fucking trump card?


[ Parent ]
. (4.00 / 1)
To clarify, I invoked the army field manual and it's regulations with dealing with war crimes. You invoked how we handled Nazis. That's the difference between me and you.

[ Parent ]
Kiddie Queda....a major threat to America (0.00 / 0)
Children like to play with insects. To torture them sometimes. The act of torturing Children with insects is therefore fair play.

I don't see what's wrong with torturing children with insects by confining them in boxes that prevent them from moving if it means we can identify more terrorist children groups. Kiddie Queda has been established all over the Mid East, they are trained in Madrassasas to KILL AMERICANS.

We must find these children wherever they are and either kill them or bring them to justice.

I think I speak for all U.S. "intelligence" agencies when I say this.

The threat from Muslim children is utterly chilling. Our intelligence agencies know what they are doing, that's why they are called "intelligence" agencies.

I do think though that more of our intelligence operative should be children. We have a lot already but not too many employed in foreign intelligence. If we can recruit 5 to 8 year old children who speak Arabic....we can make major strides in stopping Kiddie Queda.

.....that's all I can do is joke about this....it's so absurd....and Obama does NOTHING.

I wonder if the CIA was sexually abusing these kids to boot....I mean this is so perverse....and the CIA is filled with freaks.


Great post (4.00 / 2)
The proof of the pudding is in the trolling.

But shouldn't it be "Nuremberg"?

I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD.  


Of Course It Should Be! (4.00 / 1)
Caffeine deficiency strikes again!

(What better proof?  I spelled it correctly in the tags, in the input box directly below.)


"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Thumbs up...Paul!! (4.00 / 1)
Exceptionally article, Paul...and as far as I'm concerned you're 100% correct!  

[ Parent ]
Though the trolling (4.00 / 7)
makes my blood run cold.

I have a bit of Anne Frank in me -- I like to think her famous last words "I still believe people are basically good" are true. But when I see people making excuses for torture? Torture?

And no doubt these are "good" people, hard workers who are kind to their children, and pets. Yet they are willing to let others be tortured.

Montani semper liberi


[ Parent ]
. (1.33 / 3)
Anne Frank now?

Jesus Christ.


[ Parent ]
Like I said, (4.00 / 3)
I believe she spoke the truth. People are basically good -- you are the exception, not the rule.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Obama is volunteering to become a felon himself (4.00 / 3)
I'm not a lawyer, so perhaps someone can correct or confirm this, but isn't Obama basically admitting he's: Aiding and abetting, harboring, accessory after the fact and so on?

It seems to me if he wants to stay in that position, the US has no choice but to withdraw from International Red Cross, all three Geneva conventions that we've ratified, the Convention on Torture.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


What is torture? (0.00 / 0)
Talk about torture seems to be based on a belief that what constitutes torture is so blantantly obvious that it any decent human being so recognize what is torture and be innately horrified by its practice.  I don't believe that there is some sort of in-born conscience that means that everyone ought to have an "I know it when I see it" sensibility when it comes to recognizing what is torture.

The UN Convention Against Torture states:

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

So, what constitutes severe pain or suffering and what doesn't reach that threshold?  I'm  not sure that it's a clear and obvious line.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both


Oh Please! (4.00 / 5)
Obviously, any time you draw up a law, so that people can be impartially prosecuted, you will create the situation in which "close cases" arise.  It's the nature of the beast that there will always be some cases that come "close to the line."  That is part of the inherent difference between law and morality.

But just because there are some cases that are close doesn't mean there aren't plenty that are way over the line.

And this is precisely why we have a legitimate concept of prosecutorial discretion (which, of course, can always be abused, though there are laws against that, as well), which allows the prosecutor to look at a case and say, "Well, I think it clearly went over the line, but convincing a jury might be difficult, or not impossible, so I'll make a deal for a lesser offense."

So, in effect, what you're doing here is yet another sort of epic excuse-making that relies of wholesale disregard for the actual funcioning to the law.

The phrase "bad faith argument" inevitably comes to mind.

Now, this is very important: I'm not--repeat, not--saying that you intentionally are arguing in bad faith.  There's such a poisoned atmosphere that you could easily just pick it up, and almost innocently repeat it.

But you should be particularly on guard against this.

We all should.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Suppose you're sitting on a jury... (4.00 / 2)
... and a series of witnesses, experts as well as the victim him or herself, deliver a laundry list of techniques (sleep deprivation, food & water deprivation, extended periods of hot/cold, routine beatings, rape, electrocution, lacerations to the genitals and water boarding). They explain to you how they work, the effects they have on the victim and the victim also explains it to you in his or her own terms. Also, this is usually done over a period of weeks (it takes that long to break a person, which is the whole point of torture) and months.

Do you think you could make a decision then? I think any reasonable person could, if presented with a cogent case.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
It's a particularly modern sickness that allows one to ignore the truth and (4.00 / 10)
pretend confusion. Read the torture memos. What is described are beatings (slaps, "wallings"(being slammed against the wall)), starvation ("dietary mainipulation"), as well as time-honored tortures such as waterboarding and immersion in ice-cold water. This is in addition to sleep deprivation and stress positions.

Some believe, as you do, that these are not quite torture. On the contrary, these methods are torture perfected. It allows the torture to continue on and on. A torture that will lead to death is in fact a bad and inefficient one. Pity that you cannot see these truths.

The most chilling aspect of the torture memos is that everything is presented clinically. But read behind the legalese--what is being described is all too familiar.


[ Parent ]
Waterboarding goes back about 500 years (4.00 / 6)
to the inquisitions. If they recognized it as torture and every other practitioner since then has recognized it as torture AND since the USG executed a whole bunch of Germans and Japanese for doing it, I think it's fair to say that anyone who wants to try to rationalize this away is either not being honest or is suffering from some paralyzing degree of cognitive dissonance.  

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
Although socipathy is another possibility. (4.00 / 2)
Anyone who thinks waterboarding, i.e. strangulation, is not torture has something seriously wrong with them.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
This is also something that is very common within authoritarian societies (4.00 / 6)
The more I hear alleged "liberals" defending this sort of thing by trying to muddle up the waters, the more I think our society really is marching towards that authoritarian state. It won't be like Nazi Germany. It will probably be most like Gilliam's film, Brazil.

I have a friend who also buys the Obama rhetoric hook, line and sinker. It would be too inconvenient to enforce the law, etc., for all those stupid rationalizations. I don't think he'll stay in that camp, but it's disturbing to see from someone I've known and called friend for 25 years.

But ultimately, these people feel the need to "follow orders" and stop themselves from thinking rationally about all this. It's like there's a switch somewhere that can simply turn off one's own rational self-interest and previous dedication to the society we were raised to live in.

This is how I see those who are defending Obama on this and other stuff. There's a boatload of crazy out there.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
It is disturbing. (4.00 / 5)
But I think a lot of Obama voters were not Liberals, really. Voting for him was the most "Liberal" thing they'd ever done before.

Circumstances may make Liberals out of them yet, but it's going to be an uphill slog.

Montani semper liberi


[ Parent ]
A lot of the ones I know self-ID as liberals and have for a long time (4.00 / 2)
But obviously there's something fishy in Denmark.

Sometimes I get the impression that eight years of constant harassment under the Bush Regime has conditioned even people who were bitter about Bush to latch onto Obama as some sort of savior... and hence that's where the authoritarian impulse comes from. The wingnuts had their Dear Leader and now the rest of us have our Dear Leader. I guess this is what they mean by continuity in government, eh?

When people call him a "transformational" leader, I just laugh. But man, that doesn't go over too well with some folks. He simply can't be just another politician. That's unacceptable.

More broadly, this is a wedge that will prevent the more liberal side of society from being effective in its opposition to authoritarianism. Once again, we're split up.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
Really? That's worse, then in a way. (4.00 / 1)
I was thinking of the people on the internet who called Clinton "whore" and "bitch." Obviously not Liberals but maybe, I hoped, educable.

But maybe it's not Anne Frank I have in me it's Pollyanna. Or Dr. Pangloss.

Montani semper liberi


[ Parent ]
I didn't say I don't think those aren't torture (0.00 / 0)
What I am saying is that I don't believe they are necessarily obviously torture, which I admit is probably one of those postmodern distinctions I am fond of which annoy other people.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

[ Parent ]
Not "necessarily obviously torture." (4.00 / 3)
Spoken like a true Conservative.

When it's done to other people, it's an open question. But if it were done to you I think you would make up your mind pretty quickly.

Montani semper liberi


[ Parent ]
Well, if you can distinguish torture from not torture, so can others (4.00 / 3)
The impression I got was that you were simply trying to muddy up those distinctions on a hypothetical level. The problem with this line is that there are multitudes of real world examples on which to make distinctions.

Consider the likelihood that the language you quoted was constructed that way for a perfectly valid reason: it allows courts to consider more options, as opposed to fewer ones. It's not supposed to be ultra specific because that would enable clever lawyers to design torture programs around those statutes and avoid prosecution. The purpose of the law is to shut down any notion that torture can be somehow legal or admissible. Yoo and Bybee tried and they failed. That speaks well of the existing law.

That said, yes, attempts at post-modern "distinctions," which is basically doublespeak for "no distinctions," are annoying. Keep in mind we're not debating consumer protections or arcane tax codes. We're talking about torture and the wholesale evisceration of human rights and thusly democracy here and elsewhere.

Being cute doesn't cut it when you consider that one day you or someone you know may be dragged out of bed at 3 AM and disappeared simply for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.

As long as we have a torture regime, and I see no reason to think it's actually been dismantled unless President Obama cares to actually PROVE IT at this point, then our collective future is very much in doubt as a nation.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
Heads up about de Jesus (4.00 / 1)
he is also in favor of forced childbirth. We've had that conversation before. I guess once you've accepted something like that, torture is not that big a deal.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
You're such a time saver! Thanks. (4.00 / 3)
It's too bad though, because if there's a good time to hash this shit out, it's now.

I don't want to discourage people who are intellectually honest from participating and hopefully foster a decent discussion. But that's also something of an old-fashioned liberal notion that seems quite obsolete.

And forced childbirth does show authoritarian tendencies, right? If you can take control of a body that doesn't belong to you, you're half the way there! Maybe three-quarters.

Cheers,

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
Then I thank God (4.00 / 2)
you are not in a position of power.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Thanks for this cogent diary (4.00 / 2)
Says what we know to be true even if some cannot admit it.

This is a litmus test for me about Obama (4.00 / 1)
If he doesn't prosecute these crimes he's nothing but a dirty coward. There is NO DEFENSE for letting these people go. Period. I don't care how many veiled threats the CIA release in the media.

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

A COUPLE OF BRANDEIS QUOTATIONS (4.00 / 3)
RE:"(3b) Nothing will be gained by supporting the rule of law."

Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis elaborated in Olmstead v. United States (1928): "In a government of law, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."

RE:"(3c) Nothing will be gained by exposing the truth."

In 1913 [future] Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a forceful proponent for open government, stated "Sunlight is the best disinfectant; electric light the most efficient policeman".  


OH YEAH, AND THIS FROM "BARRY"....... (0.00 / 0)
RE:"(3a) Enforcing the law--which is your sworn duty--is just engaging in a partisan hissy fit."

BARRY GOLDWATER: "...moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue..."


[ Parent ]
No Fair Quoting Brandeis! (4.00 / 1)
He's a real constitutional lawyer.  Not a made-for-tv one.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Is Obama a free agent? (4.00 / 4)
One of the things I return to again and again is that presidents become captives of the permanent government. I'm not talking figuratively (living in a bubble), but literally.

I like to cite the case of Truman and the A-bomb. He hadn't a clue about the program when he took office and had to get all his information from those who had just spent years and billions developing the weapons. The psychological pressure on him was immense and he was even convinced that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were "military" targets.

Obama gets into office and he starts getting daily threat assessments. He hears only from the military and intelligence agencies. He can't ask the opinion of outsiders unless they have appropriate clearance. We see how that has been manipulated. Just remember the famous (hand written) letter by Jay Rockefeller questioning the briefings he was getting from Cheney.

What happens to Obama if he tries to oppose the military establishment? I'm not suggesting a coup or anything that extreme, but they, and their friends in congress, can quickly make his presidency irrelevant as they did with Clinton after the GOP took control of congress.

I don't think Obama has the freedom of action that people think he has and this is why he keeps acting timid on lots of issues, not just war crimes.

Policies not Politics


What happened to his preacher man? (4.00 / 2)
I thought the whole purpose of a first pastor was to give advice, to keep his feet on the straight and narrow despite the temptations/pressures of the permanent government. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28)

Oh wait, that's right. Obama fired Rev. Jeremiah Wright and replaced him with Rick Fucking Warren.

We're doomed.

Montani semper liberi


[ Parent ]
Except That (4.00 / 3)
He was already acting timid as hell long before he took office.

Remember his FISA flip-flop?

Guy's afraid of his own shadow.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
I share this concern (4.00 / 2)
It's why I believe his decision to release the memos was praiseworthy, even if the decision not to prosecute is not.  It was just "upholding the law" but that is no longer a trivial thing to do for a US president.

We are at the point where ordering bombings within the territory of foreign countries which the US is not at war with, without the auspices of a UN or even NATO resolution are routine and pass without comment, or even engender praise.  I remember the West Wing episode where the CODEL is bombed in Palestine and the whole country screams for Bartlett to order strikes of some sort.

The episode is probably too optimistic that a President could resist such pressure, but is a reminder that other forces have a great deal of influence over what a given President does.  Eisenhower was warning about this in 1961.  Other than the post-Watergate blip, it has only gotten worse.


[ Parent ]
Torture is Pragmatic and Justice is Absurd (0.00 / 0)
You ask is Obama a Free Agent?

People who wish to lead entire nations are almost always more interested in self promotion than anything else.

Obama is just like all the rest.

He's got the capacity and experience to see through it all...but he chooses to be a "pragmatist" which today is cover for simple ambition.

I mean ...torturing children...forcing male children to have sex with their fathers. Americans raping Iraqi women frequently and children too, much of this on videotape and Obama doesn't want to get into "RETRIBUTION"....

I'm all for Retribution....put Obama, and all the others that voted to fund the war in jail.

Oh....damn...that's not being pragmatic...it's a ridiculous idea....what's sensible is ridiculous but torture....that's PRAGMATIC


[ Parent ]
Two excellent diaries. Paul (4.00 / 5)
Just one quick point about Obama's statement that really bothered me.

He rather shamefully ascribed the desire for prosecution to a need for "retribution".

This, of course, really is nothing but a smear worthy of the worst of the far right.

But what he refuses to acknowledge is that here, as everywhere, prosecution is always required for a very different purpose: deterrence.

How does Obama expect that, if such a breaking of the law can be excused as he is so willing to do, then future officials and operatives, under like legal instructions from higher ups, will feel any real deterrence from doing the like? How can one "look forward" to a country in which torture is not tolerated if one doesn't look back and punish those who engage in it?  


You're Right (4.00 / 1)
This is a very important point.  So important that I wanted to devote an entirely separate diary to it.  

But I'm always thinking I'm going to get more diaries done than I end up doing.

So thanks for bringing this up now.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
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