Monday, January 05, 2009

Obama appointments and the chances for justice

How will all this look if Jeb becomes President?

Glenn Greenwald is hard to please when it comes to any appointment that will be dealing with the torture policy. So it's a very good sign that he is very pleased to hear about two recent appointments: Leon Panetta as CIA head and Dawn Johnsen as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). (Obama's impressive new OLC chief Salon 01/05/08)

The chances for a real legal and political reckoning with the torture policy and war crimes are looking better. Just this past year, she wrote of the criminality of the Cheney-Bush administration:

We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation's past transgressions and reject Bush's corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation's honor be restored without full disclosure. (Restoring Our Nation's Honor Slate 03/18/08)
There's an informative article about the torture policy now available at the New York Review of Books site, What to Do About the Torturers? by David Cole 12/17/08 (01/15/09 issue).


But I've begun to find it almost bizarre when someone describes the seriousness of the torture policy but then seems to blithely dismiss even the possibility of prosecuting the high-level perpetrators, as Cole does:

At home, the Justice Department's "torture memo" would be a legal defense for any but the lawyers who wrote it, and Congress, in the Military Commissions Act, granted retrospective immunity to officials involved in the interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects in the wake of September 11.
The retroactive immunity may be a real obstacle to prosecution. But my understanding is that just because Bush's people wrote Mob-lawyer-style legal opinions to justify their actions, that wouldn't shield anyone from prosecution by itself.

And in any case, Cole's suggestion is to appoint a commission, which would all but inevitably turn out to be a "bipartisan" snow job that would conclude that bad things were done but nobody is really to blame. And the Republicans would howl in outrage even at that. Only if there are real criminal investigations and prosecutions will there be any deterrent to further such lawbreaking in the Jeb Bush administration.

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