Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bush Prosecution Not Obama's Choice

In today's Daily Iowan, Nate Whitney wrote:
President Obama must not pursue prosecution against former members of the Bush White House. It's simply not healthy, and certainly not productive. Hope and change, a new direction, a leader with a fresh perspective, oh but by the way - he's also going to point fingers and use the freshly appointed hand of the law to crucify the guy that used to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

No. Bush had his failures, a litany of them, and time and history will be a better judge and jury than any of us can at this moment in time, but that's not for our current president to decide. What kind of conflicting message would that be, to yearn for bipartisanship and a bold new direction for all Americans, whether they be fire engine red or the deepest sea blue in political nature, yet instigating a public flogging of our former leader never before witnessed, complete with courtroom action and possible jail terms? Is this seriously what we want? Is this our great new politics?

No. It's more of the same, from someone who promised to be anything but. Obama would be wise to leave any instigation of the matter at the door when he enters his new home. If Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the band are to be gone after then so be it, but not by this president, and not at his direction.

The key point that those advocating for or against Obama "going after" Bush for his war crimes are missing is that it's simply not up to the new president to decide such matters. Glenn Greenwald makes a compelling case that binding U.S. law requires prosecutions for those who authorize torture.

So, yes, Obama should leave well enough alone. However, the incoming attorney general has no such luxury. There must be a criminal investigation into all those who authorized torture. Any attempt by Obama to stop this investigation would show him to have little more respect for the rule of law than his predecessor.

And if anyone doubts that the Bush administration approved interrogation practices that amounted to torture, I highly recommend checking out Greenwald's piece today about Obama's suspension of the military commissions that the previous administration created to conduct farcical "trials" of Gitmo detainees:
One of the Guantanamo detainees whose military commission has not yet concluded is Mohammed Jawad. Jawad is an Afghan citizen who, in late 2002, was taken into U.S. custody and then shipped from Afghanistan, his home country, to Guantanamo, where he has remained ever since -- more than six full years and counting. Nobody has ever accused Jawad of belonging either to Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Instead, he is accused of throwing a hand grenade at two U.S. soldiers inside his country, seriously injuring both of them. He vehemently denies involvement. At the time of his due-process-less imprisonment in Guantanamo, he was an adolescent: between 15 and 17 years old (because he was born and lived his whole life in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan, and is functionally illiterate, his exact date of birth is unknown).


In Afghanistan, Jawad was severely beaten, drugged, and threatened with death for both himself and his family if he refused to confess to the grenade incident. That occurred just weeks after the incident where two Afghan detainees, including a completely innocent 22-year-old Afghan cab driver, were beaten to death -- murdered -- while detained and interrogated by U.S. troops in Bagram. The confession Jawad "signed" (with his fingerprint, since he can't write his name) became the centerpiece of the Bush administration's case against him, and yet, it was written in a language Jawad did not speak or read, and was given to him after several days of beatings, druggings and threats -- all while he was likely 15 or 16 years old.

In December, 2003, when he was (at most) 18 years old, Jawad -- according to Guantanamo prison logs -- attempted to kill himself. In 2004, he was subjected to the so-called "frequent flier" program, where, in a two-week period alone, he was moved to a new cell 112 times -- an average of every 3 hours, in order to ensure he was sleep deprived and disoriented. Over the six years at Guantanamo, Jawad was repeatedly subjected to extreme cold, bright lights, and various stress positions. He was often kept in solitary confinement or in "linguistic confinement," isolated from anyone who spoke his only language (Pashto). As recently as May of 2008, while Jawad was at Guantanamo, he was beaten so badly by guards that, weeks later, he still had extreme bruises on his arms, knees, shoulders, forehead and ribs.

Continue reading.

Mohammed Jawad deserves justice. It doesn't matter if just sweeping all the cases like his under the rug would make it easier for Obama to work with the Republicans in Congress. Those who think Jawad ought to be satisfied with mere rhetoric about hope and change should think long and hard about how they'd feel if they'd gone through what he has.

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