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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tortured Logic

If Bush is remembered for anything, it's my hope that he's remembered for torture. If the Republican party under Bush is remembered for anything, I hope it's for being the pro-torture party. There aren't many aspects of the Bush years that disgust me nearly as much as the policy of torturing detainees and none that disgust me more. The whole thing is so obviously evil that it almost seems cartoonish. If I wanted to accuse a president of something unthinkably awful, torture would be on the list, along with keeping child sex slaves and stealing human organs. If I had my choice, Bush would forever be remembered as the ridiculously, cartoonishly evil president. Like Sen. Joe McCarthy before him, Bush would become a living example of just how lousy a person can become in their quest for personal power, how the very worst person can wrap their crimes up in the flag, and how abusive and brutal even a democratic government can be if it abandons the law. Do me a big favor, would you? Spend the rest of your life talking about Bush this way. Evil, corrupt, and criminal. Make sure to include all the neocons and the Democrats and Republicans who've supported him in this.

Evil is the word. But another we can throw in is stupid. Bush's Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, demonstrated that stupidity yesterday.


Departing U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Wednesday that he saw no reason for prosecutions or for pardons for those who gave legal advice on the Bush administration's terrorism policies.

Some human rights groups have urged President-elect Barack Obama to launch criminal investigations into the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on al Qaeda terrorism suspects.

They also have questioned whether the Bush administration broke the law with its warrantless domestic spying program adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Whether this is real stupidity or feigned stupidity is an open question. I'll take him at his word and assume he's as stupid as he may or may not be pretending to be. Mukasey is a former federal judge, so you'd think he'd know that torture is a felony. But it'd be a terrible, terrible thing to say he's being dishonest, so we'll assume he's being totally upfront and say he's as stupid as he wants you to believe he is. That's giving him the benefit of the doubt, because we want to be fair.

See, torture is illegal under title 18, chapter 113C of the US Code. How did I, someone who isn't a former federal judge, find this out? I took about ten seconds to type "federal torture statute" into Google. It was the first result. Mukasey wouldn't have thought of checking to see if torture's illegal because -- to be fair -- he's stupid.

But Mukasey's talking about people who didn't actually torture. He's talking about people who advised torturers, right? That comes under Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241. That crime is called "conspiracy against rights." How did I find that one? I typed "federal statute conspiracy" into Google. Not much of a stumper, but remember, we're cutting Michael Mukasey some slack and assuming he's a moron.

"There is absolutely no evidence that anybody who rendered a legal opinion either with respect to surveillance or with respect to interrogation policy did so for any reason other than to protect the security of the country and in the belief that he or she was doing something lawful," he said. "In those circumstances, there is no occasion to consider prosecutions, there is no occasion to consider pardons." Whether or not they believed it was legal is completely irrelevant. "I thought it was legal, but it turns out I was wrong" isn't much of a defense.

Of course, the Bush administration have painted themselves into a political corner here -- that's why Mukasey mentions pardons. If Bush were to pardon his torture team, he'd practically be admitting he knew their actions were illegal. They've got to pretend everything was above board and hope for the best.

Will they be investigated for what would literally be crimes against humanity? We're getting mixed signals on that front. Some on Team Obama say yes, while others say no. No matter which answer is true, experts say they should.

"The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it," Michael Ratner, a professor at Columbia Law School and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights said. "I don't see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable." Put simply, if Bush and company get away with it, torture will only be technically illegal from now on. It'll be a crime without punishment. In their cowardice, this congress has already established that there's no such thing as an impeachable offense. The next congress and administration shouldn't established that the executive branch is beyond any law. That's the definition of dictatorship.

Even if no one is prosecuted or even investigated for this, we can still make sure they pay some sort of price. History can remember them as evil, stupid, and criminal.

Do me a solid and see to it that -- at the very least -- happens.