Tuesday, December 30, 2014

If "To Forgive Is Divine," What About a Pardon?

Living With the Stain
 This "Scarlet Letter" is a "T" instead of an "A"...

Don't deceive yourself. During the Bush W. autocracy, our nation was stained. What went on under the direction of the Bush government is now permanently etched on the flag of the United States. Everyone on the planet -- everyone -- knows all about what we did.

The ones from Guantanamo -- guilty or not -- have screamed, night and day for years. They have frozen to death. They have been sustained alive by feeding tubes inserted in their rectums, just a little something to "break their spirits."

MeanMesa is a citizen of the United States. That means that these atrocities may as well have been committed by these very hands. Every citizen of the United States who paid even a single cent in taxes during the autocracy is complicit. Now that it finally over, every citizen of the United States will atone. This isn't going away any time soon.

We now find ourselves very short on friends. The respect and the trust of earlier times have vaporized in a few years.

If it weren't already the case before, after what we've done most of the world now cordially hates this country, and most of the world has good reason for that sentiment. We may have "changed our ways," but this stain will last longer than the shirt will. Think of it as a really bad, poorly made, momentarily hateful tattoo in a really unavoidable, dominant location -- perhaps positioned squarely on our national forehead.

For all those Americans with a better grip on reality than the GOP hill billies, there is no prospect for isolating ourselves. That dreamy solution has never worked before, and in the world of 2014 it has become notably even less plausible. If we intend to live here among the humans, we will be living in this shadow.

It might not, actually, last forever. Maybe - with good fortune and a concerted effort -- much of those on the planet will have forgotten most of the more grisly parts of the story in four or five decades from how. That would be 2060.

Here we are. So, what's to be done now?

How do we clean this stable? 

A Nation of Laws, Not a Nation of Men
And, nothing spells "laws" like "prosecutions..."

There has been talk.

Many more than a few Americans, horrified and humiliated by what's been done "over their signature," are calling for prosecutions. Unfortunately, during the very weeks and months while the violent barbarism was in its most savage stages, the democracy slipped. Now, the government is controlled by oligarchs and their obedient Republicans in the Congress.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, honorable will breathe even a first breath of life in that snake pit. This certainly includes any of those "high borne" prosecutions sleepily imagined by those presuming that things might be handled in the same way they were handled in the "old country."

Although the billionaires could care less about what happens to George W. Bush or his gang, they share a sort of frenzied, forced camaraderie with all others they perceive to be in their elite class. In this case, they have apparently instructed their minions in the House and Senate to protect this bunch, holding them safe and aloof -- perhaps simply out of spite. Their disgust with the democracy, as seen in the election they just purchased, is glaringly obvious, infuriatingly arrogant and quite boastfully public.

Given the gravely weakened position of the citizens, the prospect for these prosecutions must now be stripped of all "feathers and fury," and left -- just as a cold naked chicken -- to be examined in the light of day. Further, it is not a particularly bright day, either. In fact, it's rather gloomy.

Shame casts few shadows.

The general consensus of opinions is that such prosecutions would be practically impossible. There is not a singular obstacle, instead, it seems that dozens of all sorts of "social factors" have congealed to render the prosecution idea universally untenable, that is, DOA ["dead on arrival"].

This Washington Post article sizes up the situation with a fairly comprehensive set of pretty rational observations. Have a look. [Excerpted. Read the entire Washington Post article here - Washington Post ]

Why Dick Cheney and the CIA don’t
 need to worry about international criminal charges
By Philip Bump
December 10, 2014

Though much of this was known, at least in the abstract, the added level of detail evoked a predictable international response. The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, released a statement that presented the end game: criminal charges, not only for the CIA agents involved, but also for "former Bush Administration officials who have admitted their involvement in the programme."

This will almost certainly never happen. The Post spoke by phone with George Andreopoulos, professor of political science and criminal justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and director of the Center for International Human Rights at the college, who explained how international law and the international courts would work.

The International Criminal Court is the only international venue that could try an American for his or her actions in the CIA's interrogation program. There are territorial and temporary courts — the tribunals dealing with Yugoslavia or Rwanda, for example — but only the ICC is poised to take action if an individual country won't. That's key: The ICC has "complementary" jurisdiction, meaning that it will step in only if a local or national court is unable or unwilling to do so.

What's more, it only has jurisdiction for crimes in countries that are signatories to the 1998 Rome Statute that established the ICC. Afghanistan, where many of the CIA's actions occurred, is a signatory, as are Lithuania and Romania, which were sites of other CIA prisons. If any of those countries chose to charge CIA agents — or Bush administration officials, as Emmerson suggests — they could do so. Or they could refer cases to the ICC, which would determine if any defendants would face war crimes charges (if the actions were considered to be part of a military conflict) or charges of crimes against humanity.

But that won't happen. "It is highly unlikely that any prosecution against American nationals that were involved in this kind of abusive conduct that is discussed in the report will face the light of judgement day before an international criminal court," Andreopoulos said. Why? Politics. Afghanistan is dependent on American financial support for its ongoing rebuilding effort — not to mention that America still has an active military presence aimed at keeping the country stable. (Andreopoulos: "There's no chance in hell that an Afghani government will refer American citizens to the ICC.") Lithuania and Romania could, assuming that the CIA's actions in those countries were provable, but given America's international clout, they won't either. 

Although conditions for these more "orthodox" approaches to prosecutions seem more or less permanently blocked, there remain plenty of folks who are angry enough to undertake their own, "alternative" actions to this end. Nigeria has indicted Cheney as a principal party in a Halliburton bribery scheme [Read more here - TRUTH OUT ]

Wallace County, Texas, has indicted Cheney for organized criminal activity investments in Vanguard Private Prison Corporation [Read more here - Huff Post]. The Canadians wanted Cheney arrested during his planned visit [Read more here - Huff Post ] The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights filed a criminal complaint against Cheney, Tenet and Rumsfeld in Germany, and called for an immediate investigation [Read more here - Liberal America]

There are plenty more. Don't be shocked if you haven't noticed much about these stories reported on the wholly owned media.

However, amid all these insults and frustrations which have been imposed on the democracy, a "new idea" has emerged, one which proposes a strangely gratifying possibility -- especially after one acknowledges that there are very few other choices.

Please read Romero's proposal carefully in the following New York Times "op-ed." [Link to the original article here - New York Times]

Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured

BEFORE President George W. Bush left office, a group of conservatives lobbied the White House to grant pardons to the officials who had planned and authorized the United States torture program. My organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, found the proposal repugnant. Along with eight other human rights groups, we sent a letter to Mr. Bush arguing that granting pardons would undermine the rule of law and prevent Americans from learning what had been done in their names. 
But with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all — because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.

To his credit, Mr. Obama disavowed torture immediately after he took office, and his Justice Department withdrew the memorandums that had provided the foundation for the torture program. In a speech last year at the National Defense University, Mr. Obama said that “we compromised our basic values — by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.” 

But neither he nor the Justice Department has shown any appetite for holding anyone accountable. When the department did conduct an investigation, it appeared not to have interviewed any of the prisoners who were tortured. And it repeatedly abused the “state secrets” privilege to derail cases brought by prisoners — including Americans who were tortured as “enemy combatants.”

What is the difference between this — essentially granting tacit pardons for torture — and formally pardoning those who authorized torture? In both cases, those who tortured avoid accountability.

But with the tacit pardons, the president leaves open the very real possibility that officials will resurrect the torture policies in the future. Indeed, many former C.I.A. and other government officials continue to insist that water boarding and other forms of torture were lawful. Were our military to capture a senior leader of the Islamic State who was believed to have valuable information, some members of Congress would no doubt demand that our interrogators use precisely the barbaric and illegal methods that the Obama administration has disavowed.

The Obama administration could still take measures to hold accountable the officials who authorized torture. Some of the statutes of limitations have run out, but not all of them have. And the release of the Senate’s report provides a blueprint for criminal investigations, even if that’s not what the intelligence committee set out to do.

But let’s face it: Mr. Obama is not inclined to pursue prosecutions — no matter how great the outrage, at home or abroad, over the disclosures — because of the political fallout. He should therefore take ownership of this decision. He should acknowledge that the country’s most senior officials authorized conduct that violated fundamental laws, and compromised our standing in the world as well as our security. If the choice is between a tacit pardon and a formal one, a formal one is better. An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signalling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted.

Mr. Obama could pardon George J. Tenet for authorizing torture at the C.I.A.’s black sites overseas, Donald H. Rumsfeld for authorizing the use of torture at the Guant√°namo Bay prison, David S. Addington, John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee for crafting the legal cover for torture, and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for overseeing it all.

While the idea of a pre-emptive pardon may seem novel, there is precedent. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson pardoned Confederate soldiers as a step toward unity and reconstruction after the Civil War. Gerald R. Ford pardoned Richard M. Nixon for the crimes of Watergate. Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam War draft resisters.

The spectacle of the president’s granting pardons to torturers still makes my stomach turn. But doing so may be the only way to ensure that the American government never tortures again. Pardons would make clear that crimes were committed; that the individuals who authorized and committed torture were indeed criminals; and that future architects and perpetrators of torture should beware. Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora’s box of torture once and for all.

[Anthony D. Romero is the Executive Director of the ACLU - American Civil Liberties Union.]

Obama's "Chess" Game:
Presidential Pardons
Too Bad, Rupert and Rush...

The billionaires have fortified and defended the positions of this entire political cabal in ways that only massive sums of cash make possible. While the looting of the treasury and the deregulation of their enterprises may have represented their highest priority -- the one driving their take over of the government -- billionaires and other moguls have always been nervously sensitive to lawful retribution handed out to their plutocratic peers.

Romero's argument that pardons would "close Pandora's box of torture once and for all" has merit, albeit a distant, future and theoretical sort of merit. Setting the bar of what is to be accepted or tolerated for future Presidents is a good thing. MeanMesa hopes that the country never again falls so far as it did during the autocracy when even the vestiges of democracy were routinely ridiculed so savagely.

However, all this leaves us with the opportunities of this moment, too. In respect to these values, the pardon idea represents a well rounded and essentially unassailable stroke of political genius. The public advantages for the President derive from what will be perceived as his motivation to grant such pardons.

1. It would eliminate the civil disruption and mayhem of actual trials for the criminals who were the executives ordering the acts. 

2. It would be seen as an act of dignified compassion for the information challenged citizens who, so far, have only been passingly interested in the affair.

3. The pardons would, presumably, finally shut up more than a few of the right wing pundits who have gnawed incessantly at Obama's flank for years.

4. The act would present an impressive point of comparison between the constantly cruel and vindictive "conservatives" and a far more noble President who was willing to act boldly in the interests of the nation.

5. The pardons would provide an unavoidable "shock" which might awaken the interests of all constituents with respect to the real gravity and consequences of national policies.

7. And, finally, the act would remind Americans of the precedent set in our fairly recent history -- by an unelected Republican President pardoning a criminal predecessor who had never faced impeachment hearings or criminal prosecution.

It's been done before. [image source ]

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