Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rule of law

The torture issue is not going away. But the Obama administration still wants it to.

It is the responsibility of the federal government to enforce the laws of the country, even when it's serving officials who commit the crimes. And the torture crimes committed by the Cheney-Bush administration.

Progressive in the US have noticed with chagrin that Britain is holding what is a barely-disguised cover-up inquiry over the beginning of the Iraq War. But even their method of sweeping under the rug the crime of launching an illegal war looks like aggressive investigation compared to how we now handle such crimes in the United States: Blair at the Iraq inquiry: No regrets Guardian editorial 01/30/10.

Hans Blix, who was extremely unfairly maligned by the neocons and assorted warmongers for reporting honestly about his findings on Iraq's non-nuclear "weapons of mass destruction" programs (which were non-existent, as was the alleged nuclear program), in Blair's blind faith in intelligence Guardian 01/28/10 how cynically Blair and his leaders in Washington used the weapons inspections to justify the 2003 invasion.

The story of the Iraq War and the torture issue are very connected, though the torture program had already begun with the Afghanistan War. The mobilization of fear after the 9/11 attacks - and the still unsolved anthrax attacks soon after - and the military mobilizations (physical and psychological) around the Afghanistan War, the Iraq War and the "global war on terror" were the justifications that the Cheney-Bush administration successfully used to initiate the torture program and massive domestic surveillance.

Serious crimes were committed by government officials. It was the responsibility of the Ashcroft, Gonzales and Mukasey Justice Departments to prosecute those crimes but they obviously did not. It is still the responsibility of Obama's Justice Department under Eric Holder to prosecute those crimes. But instead they have shielded the perpetrators.

Very discouraging news reports are now indicating a new cover-up by Holder's Justice Department, this one applying to the torture lawyers who provided the Mob-style legal justifications for the torture program: bmaz, OPR Report Altered To Cover Bush DOJ Malfeasance Emptywheel 01/29/10; Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, Justice Official Clears Bush Lawyers in Torture Memo Probe Newsweek 01/29/10.

The consequences of the torture policy are too far-reaching and too basic a violation of the rule of law for the issue to sink into the mists of government cover-up as the Obama administration clearly want them to. The administration shirked its duty in not pursuing prosecutions of torture perpetrators immediately. And it continues to do so.

And it's a dramatic symptom of the Fighting Gap between the Democrats and Republicans that the Democrats, instead of seizing the clear political advantage of discrediting the Republicans for their open embrace of official criminality, they ran the other way and happily perpetuate the official cover-up.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are willing to impeach a Democratic President over a sad love affair.

This may actually be most telling symptom of how dysfunctional the Democratic Party has become in responding to the needs of its constituents. If the Party is unwilling to take a stand on a basic question of the rule of law when there are obvious political advantages for doing so, what is really going on with the Democrats?

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