Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Scott Horton's Persuasive Precis For Prosecution

In reply to a David Broder column in WaPo recently, in which Auntie David gets positively giddy with disdain for the notion that Bushevik torturers in the CIA and enablers in the OLC should face criminal responsibility for war-crimes, the ubiquitous Harpers'mag "No Comment" blogger, and legal scholar offers the best and briefest summary of the argument FOR prosecution, the virtual and practical impossibility of it notwithstanding:
Since I am an advocate of accountability, and Broder presumes to question my mental health, I’ll offer a personal response. I have no interest in vengeance or retribution, but I have a strong interest in upholding the rule of law and in stopping torture. Unlike Broder, I do not consider the law to be a political plaything but rather a repository of our highest values. The United States has a series of criminal statutes which apply to this situation and which were violated. Further, the United States signed a very important international convention under which it promised to open a criminal investigation into any credible allegations of torture. At this point there is a uniform consensus that the United States is in breach of its treaty obligation. (A matter of indifference to Broder, apparently). Moreover, its conduct is sending a clear message around the world: the prohibition on torture is a trivial matter which can be defeated by a tyrant in any corner of the world. All he needs to do is hire a lawyer and have him issue an opinion that when he tortures, it’s completely lawful.
That's it, exactly. The argument is air-tight. The alternative, Horton concludes, is:
And note the means that Broder sees for resolving the matter. President Obama should resolve the question of criminal accountability himself, Broder says, bypassing the Justice Department. This surely is advice Broder has taken straight from his friend Karl Rove’s playbook. But just think about this for a while. Do we really want to live in a country in which the president is the constant arbiter of who is and who is not criminally investigated? That is the very hallmark of a banana republic, a practice that the Founding Fathers worked very hard to insulate us against. But for Broder, all the talk of independent judgment exercised by professional prosecutors is rubbish. No Washington pundit worth his salt really believes any of this. The White House calls the shots, Broder tells us, and that’s the way it should be. Broder is so deeply steeped in Beltway cynicism he hardly knows how to disguise it.
Broder is so deeply steeped in Beltway cynicism he hardly CARES to disguise it.

Look to the post just below this one for what I take to be the arguments why the truth of Horton's argument isn't going to matter...

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