Tag Archives: torture

reasonable limits on presidential pardoning power

I’m contemplating Bush’s potential pardon of his various underlings for their roles in torture or other illegal actions, and I’m angry.

The Presidential pardoning power can be and should be used for humanitarian reasons — for mercy, or for justice, when for whatever reason those are not available through ordinary means. There’s also a good argument for using it for “national reconciliation” — e.g., pardoning the Viet Nam draft dodgers, or (gag) pardoning Nixon. (Those situations are clearly distinguishable, obviously, but even though I firmly disagree with the Nixon pardon, it’s a reasonable argument.)

But the pardoning power should not be available for use to eliminate responsibility for one’s own misdeeds, and for members of the government that includes actions committed on orders. Members of the government already receive a wide variety of protections for “following orders”. Use of the Presidential pardon power to pardon those who followed one’s own illegal orders is the worst kind of self-dealing, and it places the President above the law. Since “[t]he President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” it’s clear that impeachment for such crimes was envisioned. Yet pardoning one’s underlings for their illegal activities render it virtually impossible to prosecute the superior that ordered the actions — the President thus protects himself from any such impeachment or other prosecution.

It’s regularly stated that the Presidential pardon power is “plenary” and virtually unlimited, but there must be some level of absurdity. Can the President pardon himself for, say, ordering the massacre of Congress and the suspension of the Constitution? Or bribe an investigative commission and then pardon himself for doing so? Well, yeah. Bush I showed us that they can, with his Iran-Contra pardons. So here we go again. There is just no fucking justice or accountability for members of this administration. God that makes me angry.

update 2/28: See, this is why I should save my wrath until after the fact. I could have used it so much more effectively ….

voting for bush is voting for torture

Michael Froomkin breaks it down: voting for Bush is voting for torture. [Linking to obsidian wings post on the new Republican plan that enables torture.]

I said it before: repudiating the Bush administration policies on terror and treatment of prisoners and civilians is my most compelling reason for voting for Kerry. The Bush administration is morally bankrupt and to condone in any way these policies is a national shame. The Bush administration, frankly, should have resigned en masse after Abu Ghraib. They have not done so, and it is thus our responsibility to fire them.

Good commentary on torture memo justifications from fafblog!

From Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog., Saturday 12-June-2004:

Torture: A last recourse we may require sooner and sooner

The Medium Lobster has been disquieted of late at by the latest round of Iraq torture scandal news. There has been much uproar – among that irritating minority which have not been studiously scrutinizing the week’s top story, the beatification of Ronald Reagan, at least – regarding the powers of the president and the incompatibility of torture with a liberal democracy. In the midst of all this, the Medium Lobster would like to offer those with cooler heads some perspective as to the merits of harsh interrogation.

Imagine there is some weapon of mass destruction planted by terrorists in the heart of a city, ready to go off – a “ticking bomb,” if you will. Would it be wrong to torture a terrorist to find the location of such a device and save the millions of lives at risk? Hardly. Now, what if instead of torturing a terrorist, interrogators had to torture a confederate of that terrorist – some associate who would know where the terrorist was so they could locate that ticking bomb? Is that dirtying of our hands such a high price to ask in the goal to protect millions? I think not. Now, what if instead of a terrorist’s comrade, interrogators have a terrorist’s relative or neighbor? Is it still justified to go as far to save innocent lives? I should hope so! And what if that terrorist has a lot of relatives and neighbors – hundreds, even? Would it be wrong to grant blanket authority to torture hundreds of prisoners knowing full well that any of them could have the crucial information required to save a city? Certainly not! And what if the threat we’re faced with is not a bomb at all but an even more pernicious threat – a rogue nation with the potential capability to someday construct that bomb? Would it not be America’s right – no, her duty – to invade that country, occupy it, and set up a system of torture-like interrogations to rid that country of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction once and for all? Absolutely!

Indeed, the most unsettling question being raised by these latest news items is not the issue of torture itself, but the question of whether America will be strong enough to use that torture to defeat the enemies of life and liberty. The Medium Lobster can only hope that this great nation will retain its nerve.

More blowback …

More reporting from Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker (2004-05-24 issue, posted 2004-05-15). This one begins by noting:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

And concludes with this quote from Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch:

“In an odd way,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said, “the sexual abuses at Abu Ghraib have become a diversion for the prisoner abuse and the violation of the Geneva Conventions that is authorized.” Since September 11th, Roth added, the military has systematically used third-degree techniques around the world on detainees. “Some jags hate this and are horrified that the tolerance of mistreatment will come back and haunt us in the next war,” Roth told me. “We’re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.”