Springtime for Rummy and Ashcroft
The Village's desires notwithstanding, the criminal Bush regime may still be held accountable for its acts. Newsweek:
Top Bush administration officials could soon face legal jeopardy for prisoner abuse [torture euphemism] committed under their watch in the war on terror.
In early December, in a highly unusual move, a federal court in New York agreed to rehear a lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft brought by a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar. (Arar was a victim of the administration's extraordinary rendition program: he was seized by U.S. officials in 2002 while in transit through Kennedy Airport and deported to Syria, where he was tortured.) Then, on Dec. 15, the Supreme Court revived a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld by four Guantánamo detainees alleging abuse [torture euphemism] there—a reminder that the court, unlike the White House, will extend Constitutional protections to foreigners at Gitmo. Finally, in the same week the Senate Armed Service Committee, led by Carl Levin and John McCain, released a blistering report specifically blaming key administration figures for prisoner mistreatment [torture euphemism] and interrogation techniques [torture euphemism] that broke the law [torture euphemism]. The bipartisan report reads like a brief for the prosecution—calling, for example, Rumsfeld's behavior a "direct cause" of abuse [torture euphemism]. Analysts say it gives a green light to prosecutors, and supplies them with political cover and factual ammunition.
Good. And good for the Senate Armed Services committee. I would think that disassociating oneself from torturers and criminals would be something both parties would be anxious to do -- although, so far, I've been wrong.
A growing group of advocates are now instead calling for a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission.
As I've often said, I could for for this. If avoiding jail time for these guys is the price of knowing what they did to our country, so be it. They can go through life having people throw shoes at them.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, says that although "we know what went on," "knowledge and a change in practices are not sufficient: there must be acknowledgment and repudiation as well." He favors the creation of a nonpartisan commission of inquiry with a professional staff and subpoena power, calling it "the only way to definitively repudiate this ugly chapter in U.S. history."
But for those interested in tougher sanctions, one other possibility looms. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and author of "The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld," points out that over 20 countries now have universal jurisdiction laws that would allow them to indict U.S. officials for torture if America doesn't do it itself. A few such cases were attempted in recent years but were dropped, reportedly under U.S. pressure. Now the Obama administration may be less likely to stand in their way. This doesn't mean it will extradite Cheney and Co. to stand trial abroad. But at the very least, the threat of such suits could soon force Bush aides to think twice before buying plane tickets. "The world is getting smaller for these guys," says Ratner, "and they'll have to check with their lawyers very carefully before they travel." Jail time it isn't—but it may be some justice nonetheless.
And it's good news that thinking like this has made its slow way into the mainstream of WaPo's Newsweek.