It’s about indictment, stupid. Not impeachment. It should be images of war criminal Radovan Karadzic being hauled away in handcuffs — not Bill Clinton being scolded by Congress — that should haunt the dreams of the about-to-be-exiled Bushies.
What a monumental waste of time it was last week to watch and listen to the showboat hearings held by the House Committee on the Judiciary, billed as “an examination of executive power and its constitutional limitations.” Like a stopped-up crapper, my in box overflowed with a load of pro-impeachment jeremiads excreted by feverish progressives.
But let’s get real. Criminalization of political action — even if we’re talking invasion and occupation — is a terrible idea. In any case, how on earth does any rational beomg believe that George W. Bush will actually be impeached by a bunch of Democrats who voted for his war in the first place — with fewer than 100 days from a national election, no less?
Please. Instead, we should be concentrating on prosecuting — in the good, old-fashioned courts — those administration officials who flagrantly broke domestic and international laws by institutionalizing rendition, prisoner abuse and torture, and who shredded the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Convention Against Torture, the War Crimes Act, the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Constitution. Ask Mr. Karadzic or the family of the late General Pinochet if these sort of barbarities are indeed not actionable in actual courts of law.
In her magisterial new book, The Dark Side, New Yorker investigative reporter Jane Mayer does the heavy lifting and as much as writes the bill of indictment. She even fills in the name, rank and serial number of those who might be placed in the dock. And this goes way beyond the obvious Pooh-Bahs like Bush, Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld.
The list is staggering in scope. And the prima fascia evidence is overwhelming. Not only did entire packs of administration cronies conspire to break our laws, but they exchanged memo after memo, double-checking how they might (or might not) technically skirt prosecution.
At the top of this rogues’ list, place the name of David Addington, counsel and chief of staff to Dick Cheney. Mayer writes that within “minutes of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Addington began to assert himself as the war on terror’s indispensable man.” Though he had no constitutional mandate, he soon came to dominate the small cabal of apparatchiks that devised and supervised interrogation methods at Gitmo, who pushed back objections from military prosecutors, who pushed for the pro-torture policies codified by a compliant Department of Justice and who bullied and intimidated anybody and everybody who blinked at the brutal policies he favored.
Some others who merit investigation include:
John Yoo, former legal counsel to the DOJ and current UC Berkeley law professor, who was the chief draftsman of the now-infamous “torture memos,” which more or less demolished the Geneva Conventions.
Jose Rodriguez, former CIA chief of Clandestine Services. He’s the guy, according to Mayer and other reporters, who ordered the destruction of videotapes showing at least two al-Qaeda members being tortured — I mean water-boarded — by U.S. officials.
Jim Haynes, former Department of Defense general counsel, who according to several reports, wrote the memo authorizing more than a dozen “rough interrogation” techniques. Haynes is also suspected of pointedly brushing aside warnings from Pentagon lawyers that he was trying to legalize torture.
Current Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former head of the DOJ Criminal Division, winds up implicated in criminal acts of prisoner abuse. Mayer’s CIA sources say that “Chertoff was consulted extensively about detainees’ treatment,” including some specific cases of water-boarding torture. One CIA source tells Mayer, “Chertoff, and Gonzales, and all these other guys act like they know nothing about this now, but they were all in the room.”
The list of suspects goes on and on (you can Google a great compilation done by Slate.com by using the search term coercive interrogation Slate).
I have no idea if an incoming Democratic administration is likely to pursue these potential cases. But the wonderful part about this sort of justice is that you don’t need congress or the White House to achieve it. All you need are a few honest and courageous prosecutors — and an American public willing to shun, ostracize and stigmatize the torturers among us.
Indeed, this week, such courage — at least in moderate doses — sprouted even in the parched fields of the Bush Justice Department. A newly published report from the DOJ’s Inspector General and its internal ethics office concluded that senior advisers to former attorney general Al Gonzales broke the law by politically discriminating by not hiring those deemed too liberal. It’s not exactly a Karadzic-like frog march to a war crimes tribunal, but it’s certainly a step down the road we must follow.