Torture is no lottery, and it looks like some major players are about to lose out big. A human rights watchdog from Germany called the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has filed a war crimes case against many of the Bush Administration’s top officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet and of course the titular Bush.
The first concrete charges against the Bush Administration are a welcome departure from the weak former attempts of addressing the U.S.’s torture policies in the immediate wake of 9/11, among them “symbolic” non-government sanctioned trials and mobs of rather rude riotous Canadians. They are not from a national government, or the U.N., but these charges may hold some serious weight under the right circumstances.
In 1998 during a visit to London, notorious Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested by U.K. police. This marked the first time a former head of state had been arrested on the basis of universal jurisdiction, the idea that any state may investigate or prosecute individuals for crimes committed in other countries, e.g., Pinochet’s human rights atrocities executed in Chile. Although after extradition he avoided trial for health reasons and eventually died without a conviction to his name, Pinochet serves as a precedent for ways the international community can handle those who denigrate human rights in the future, as well as today.
So for what crimes should the Bush Administration be held accountable? Obviously, instigating the war that killed a half million Iraqis, minimum, based off the completely unsupported falsehood about Iraq possessing WMD’s is a show of confounding incompetence — but no war crime. The manner in which we treated the prisoners we took over the course of that war, however, is a definite war crime. Here’s the thing, though: Bush, Cheney and Co. have repeatedly admitted to using enhanced interrogation over the last decade, and our collective citizenry continues to barely bat an eye.
The Bush Administration, may it be noted, does not confess; it only admits. Confession implies some sort of penance or guilt that one feels for the actions they’ve committed, while admission is a forced concession, if anything. It’s no secret that Dick Cheney loves his waterboarding. One can only imagine how wet Cheney would get if he were undergoing the torture himself (courtesy of former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura) and how his views on the matter might change after experiencing the closest proximity to death possible.
The era of clandestine torture by the U.S. is coming to a close. No more can the Golden Shield protect the New Gang of Four from legal prosecution than the use of enhanced interrogation can extract viable information out of captives. Holding the former administration accountable for their crimes is not just a punishment for them, it is a preservation of the morals and standards that are supposedly meant to guide our country. We need to start living up to those big words: Liberty, Equality and Justice for all.
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