May 29, 2009

The Tattlesnake – Cheney the War Criminal Edition

Those who watched Dick Cheney’s speech Thursday, May 21 had a glimpse of the ‘real Cheney’ stripped of his usual condescending corporate-CEO cold-bloodedness and country-club sham machismo — for the first part of his remarks he was a shaken, sick old man of 68 desperately trying to make a case for brazenly violating the laws of civilization and the US Constitution, apparently clinging to the notion that if he can summon up enough public support for his torture policies he can avoid the temporary judgment of a jury, and the more lasting condemnation of history.

For, in fact, Cheney’s fervid protestations that ‘we didn’t torture’ and his subsequent bizarre assertions that ‘everything we did was legal’ fail on both counts, yet another prime example of the perpetually wrongheaded Cheney approach on display since he assumed the vice presidency by way of an illicit Supreme Court decision in 2000.

The waterboarding that Cheney has blithely admitted to in several different public forums has been defined as torture since the autos-da-fé of the Spanish Inquisition 500 years ago, and various international tribunals and American courts in the Twentieth Century have reaffirmed that definition. Cheney’s justification that the torture he authorized was ‘legal’ because a couple of DOJ lawyers told him so holds no more water than if they had advised him it was legal for him to own slaves. The Constitution Cheney took an oath to uphold states clearly that ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ is banned, as do several treaties the US has signed which are by dint of Congressional approval the law of the land, as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1988 which specifically prohibits the sort of cruel and degrading treatment of detainees Cheney authorized.

“The Convention Against Torture – Signed by Pres. Reagan and sent to the Senate by Pres. George H.W. Bush, this treaty prohibits torture and ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’ treatment. To avoid confusion, the Bush I Administration said that it would interpret the treaty to prohibit the same ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments prohibited under the US Constitution. It cited the ’200 years’ of case law available to tell us what was forbidden.”
– From “The Senate Anti-Torture Amendment [2005]” OS Policy (.pdf file).

Late Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, in his opening statement at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, also refuted Cheney’s arguments against holding those who committed and authorized torture accountable for their actions:

“While it is quite proper to employ the fiction of responsibility of a state or a corporation for the purpose of imposing a collective liability, it is quite intolerable to let such a legalism become the basis of personal immunity.”

Any claim by Cheney that waterboarding is legal and not a war crime in direct violation of US law is as ludicrous as saying he has a full head of dark hair, or that he has good aim with a shotgun. In short, Richard Bruce Cheney is as much of a war criminal for approving and continuing to support waterboarding and other forms of degrading abuse of detainees as any Nazi official convicted at the Nuremberg Trials. If Cheney didn’t like our anti-torture laws when in office, then he should have taken the proper steps to change them – ask Congress to pass an amendment to the Constitution allowing torture. Of course, such an amendment would never be enacted, so he hid, and continues to hide, behind Bybee, Woo and Bradbury’s thin illegal confections that wouldn’t pass muster in any court in the world, much less a decent law school.

And that’s what Cheney really fears – a courtroom, a jury, testimony under oath, and a prosecutor who won’t let him get away with sanctimony, bluster, flag-waving or ignoring the facts.

“Experience indicates that the use of prohibited techniques is not necessary to gain the cooperation of interrogation sources. Use of torture and other illegal methods is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and induce the source to say what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”
– From the US Army Field Manual, quoted in “The Senate Anti-Torture Amendment [2005]” OS Policy (.pdf file).

It’s this simple: Both President Obama and Attorney General Holder have said waterboarding is torture. Dick Cheney has admitted publicly several times that he authorized such torture as a government official, violating his oath of office to uphold the Constitutional laws of the land prohibiting torture. He is guilty of precisely the same violations of international law as were the Nazis, the Japanese officers during WWII who approved waterboarding, Cambodia’s Pol Pot, and various other despotic regimes. It’s a ‘slam dunk’: Cheney is a war criminal and should be prosecuted as such, either by the US Justice Department or the International Court in The Hague or, preferably, both.

© 2009 R.S. Janes.

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