Thursday, July 30, 2009


From Salon, courtesy of Eschaton:

CT: We have elections, we also had an election where this was an issue. A new president, who came in there, and has said, we're not going to torture, we're going to do this, and we're going to do this--

GG: What do you think should happen when presidents--

CT: Is that not enough? Isn't that enough?

GG: When, generally, if I go out and rob a bank tomorrow, what happens to me is not that I lose an election. What happens is to me is that I go to prison. So, what do you think should happen when presidents get caught committing crimes in office? What do you think ought to happen?

CT: You see, this is where, this is not - you cannot sit here and say this is as legally black and white as a bank robbery because this was an ideological, legal --

GG: A hundred people died in detention. A hundred people. The United States Government admits that there are homicides that took place during interrogations. Waterboarding and these other techniques are things that the United States has always prosecuted as torture.

Until John Yoo wrote that memo, where was the lack of clarity about whether or not these things were illegal? Where did that lack of clarity or debate exist? They found some right-wing ideologues in the Justice Department to say that this was okay, that's what you're endorsing. As long the president can do that, he's above the law. And I don't see how you can say that you're doing anything other than endorsing a system of lawlessness where the president is free to break the law?

Click here to read or listen to the rest.

This is from a discussion between Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald and NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Todd takes the Democratic establishment line on prosecuting Bush administration figures who justified and ordered the shameful and deeply immoral torture regime that began shortly after 9/11: all that happened in the past; we have a new administration now; going after these people would be politically impossible and would tear the nation apart, to boot. Greenwald essentially takes my point of view: if we don't prosecute the torturers, law and morality are both meaningless in the United States.

As far as I can tell, there is no real response, anywhere, to Greenwald's argument. I mean, the Democrat line is, in essence, that lots of bad things will happen if we prosecute, but they don't say a word about the actual legal issues, other than acknowledging that such issues exist, and there is simply no attempt to wrestle with the very real moral consequences of allowing America to torture people. In other words, all the Democrats have is evasion. Greenwald wins simply because his opponent refuses to actually argue with him.

To be fair, the Republicans have yet another point of view, but theirs would be laughable if the stakes here weren't so high. Conservatives argue that torture is actually legal, or that what the Bush administration did wasn't actually torture, or that torture is okay when it produces results.

Personally, I don't think I need to dignify those "arguments" by responding to them. But what the hell. Torture is not legal. What the Bush administration did was torture. The ends don't justify the means, especially when it involves the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering on helpless human beings.

Anyway, go check out the debate. It's got the kind of clarity we rarely see in the mainstream media.