David Broder: Obama Should Stand Against Prosecutions

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If ever there were a time for President Obama to trust his instincts and stick to his guns, that time is now, when he is being pressured to change his mind about closing the books on the "torture" policies of the past.

Obama, to his credit, has ended one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.

He was right to do this. But he was just as right to declare that there should be no prosecution of those who carried out what had been the policy of the United States government. And he was right when he sent out his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to declare that the same amnesty should apply to the lawyers and bureaucrats who devised and justified the Bush administration practices.

But now Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more -- the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past. They are looking for individual scalps -- or, at least, careers and reputations.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaTerrorism

25 Comments
Posted April 26, 2009 at 5:55 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. deaconjohn25 wrote:

If lawyers who give their honest opinion to the President or CIA or whatever are going to have to worry about later prosecution—then the president will never get a genuinely honest opinion again. That clearly endangers our country. There are many conservatives who believe some of the things Obama has done are near treason in the face of the terrorist war against us. Does that mean if someone other than a far liberal Democrat is elected in the future
  we will see the lawyers who advised Obama hung for treason. Absurd. Ridiculous. But logical if the radicals keep running this administration.
  And all this is phony politically motivated whoo-ha. Those damning Bush, etc. clearly remember the fear washing across America after 9-11. It was the same fear that washed across America after Pearl Harbor. And what did the great liberal Democrat hero FDR do in response? He ordered every American born citizen of Japanese descent to be rounded up like cattle, their homes confiscated, their businesses destroyed. Then they (men, women, children, and babies)  were sent into desert hell hole concentration camps in Utah
for the duration of the war. When the war ended they were released and told “tough luck” for all they had lost.
    Yet Dems virtually worship this president who did what he believed he had to do after Pearl Harbor.
  If this witch hunt against Bush people continues, then every monument to Roosevelt should be hammered into dust.

April 26, 7:53 pm | [comment link]
2. Dee in Iowa wrote:

I’m a Democrat, but I fully agree with deaconjohn - let it go - move on - all three branches of the government have many more important things to do.  I voted for Obama and am still proud of it.  I hope all Republicans can say the same regarding their vote for Bush.  Every president makes mistakes, and usually it is because of poor advise…...We don’t need another witch hunt.  I wish both parties would finally come to that conclusion…...

April 26, 10:07 pm | [comment link]
3. David |däˈvēd| wrote:

So, in spite of the fact that the Bush Administration not only broke US law, but International law, it should all be forgiven and sweep under the rug of national reconciliation, aw gee, let bygones be bygones. It is a violation of US law for this current US Congress and this US executive administration to ignore it all, especially for political considerations at the next ballot.

Not to worry. None of these folks dare step outside the US for the remainder of their natural lives. They will surely be arrested, tried and convicted of the war crimes they have committed by any number of national and/or International courts. The inditements are being researched and prepared, and the international arrest warrants written and authorized in these very moments.

The USA may be the remaining superpower, but the rest of us have lost much resect for her. To ignore this will only prove to blacken her reputation all the more on an international scale. Señor Obama is popular world-wide because we expect the change that he promised. Our expectation with that change is to right the wrongs involved, not push them under the rug.

April 27, 2:04 am | [comment link]
4. Christopher Johnson wrote:

“War crimes” is a malleable concept which basically consists of things that you allegedly did that I don’t like.  Or things that my political enemies may or may not have done that I don’t approve of.  Anyway, the idea that such things began and ended with the Bush Administration is too stupid for words to express.

April 27, 4:17 am | [comment link]
5. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

The Republicans should never have impeached Clinton. That decision will reverberate for decades

April 27, 8:09 am | [comment link]
6. jkc1945 wrote:

There will be no prosecution of these lawyers, or for that matter, anyone in the Bush administration.  The reason?  Simple.  The pot doesn’t dare run the risk of calling the kettle black.  Eventually, the kettle would find itself full of the same hot water.

April 27, 8:26 am | [comment link]
7. Katherine wrote:

Ah, David in his wisdom is judge and jury, and “knows” that U.S. laws were broken.  The criminalization of government policy based upon disagreement with the policy is the next step to banana republic status.  Investigation and prosecution should be restricted to cases in which there is evidence that American laws have actually been broken, which was the case in the Clinton perjury and may be the case in the misappropriation of TARP funds.  As to the idiocy of countries indicting foreign leaders for “crimes” committed in their own countries, not the indicting country, this is a way to break down international law and order, which relies on respect for national sovereignty.

April 27, 9:09 am | [comment link]
8. Dee in Iowa wrote:

Big difference between prosecution and forgiveness and to forget.  Prosecution - no, forgiveness ( if asked for) - yes, forget - no…...I don’t believe they have been pushed “under the rug”. 

Also, he/she who is willing to NOT lie about their sex life, please raise your hand…...

April 27, 9:53 am | [comment link]
9. Katherine wrote:

Dee in Iowa, you’d commit perjury before a federal grand jury?  I wouldn’t, or I don’t think I would.  I’ll bet you wouldn’t, either.  In any case, prosecution for policy decisions is in another ball park.

April 27, 10:01 am | [comment link]
10. Alli B wrote:

So, in spite of the fact that the Bush Administration not only broke US law, but International law, it should all be forgiven and sweep under the rug of national reconciliation, aw gee, let bygones be bygones.

No, actually they didn’t.  More rhetoric from the thought police.

April 27, 10:43 am | [comment link]
11. David |däˈvēd| wrote:

BTW, my older sister, who is my business partner and office mate, has a Licenciatura in Human Rights from the college of law in Hidalgo State and an MBA/JD from the USA. She is well versed in US criminal law and has practiced in CA, AZ and NM as well as International human rights law.

Torture is illegal under US and International law. It is not a policy decision, it is a war crime. It is not some malleable concept. It is specifically defined in several International Conventions, to all of which the USA is a party. There is an ever growing body of International evidence that the Bush Administration authorized and practiced torture, as well as International kidnapping and imprisonment.

The Bush Administration made all of your lives that much more perilous outside your country. Speak to your own Dept of State to get an understanding how much more perilous over the last eight years. How many more of you are taken captive, held for ransom, or just disappear. I have lived in your country. It has many wonderful blessings to offer. I do not wish harm to anyone. I know plenty of people unfortunately who do. They have their counterparts in many other nations.

“As you sow, so shall you reap.”

PS - Dee, sorry I could not make the sex life connection to this subject matter. I am only on my first cup o’ joe, though!

April 27, 11:35 am | [comment link]
12. Pb wrote:

Waterboarding was a response to 9/11 and not the cause. How about the culpability of the lawyers who wrote memos to separate and weaken out intellignece efforts before 9/11? I agree with Cheney rarely but I believe all of the classified reports should be released if some are and let the American people decide. This seems to me a follow up on the European tour and the American bashing. I can not see where the photos will help our cause.

April 27, 11:48 am | [comment link]
13. Katherine wrote:

With all respect to your sister’s excellent qualifications, David, her opinion does not constitute a judicial ruling.  The opposing arguments are:  It was not torture in any classical sense of the word.  It was tough interrogation, in which the prisoner was made uncomfortable, but careful guidelines were established to ensure that no actual lasting physical or psychological damage was done.  No bones were broken, no beatings were administered.  There are numerous countries where, by report, this cannot be said of ordinary jails for routine criminal defendants, much less terrorists.  Second, these were not individuals covered by the Geneva Convention.  They were not, like John McCain in a Vietnamese jail, ordinary military members captured in the course of combat.  They were not soldiers fighting for their countries; they were terrorists, outside international law.

I doubt very much that facts support your assertion that Americans are more likely to be kidnapped or targeted by terrorist attacks than before the Bush administration.  Actually, terrorist attacks on Americans and American targets have declined.  The same cannot be said for casual rude remarks made by citizens of other countries, which I have experienced personally, but that’s another matter.

April 27, 12:01 pm | [comment link]
14. Dee in Iowa wrote:

# 9 - Katherine - your right, probably wouldn’t, but the millions of dollars, the hours , the names of some good people who were smeared, all because of a vendetta to get the Clintons.  And that’s what they came up with…..as far as I am concerned, we now know, from memos, the thinking of the government under the last administration.  I am not willing to spend millions of dollars, hours, and smearing some good people again, just to get even…..and that’s what it would be - getting even…....I’m sure there are some other Democrats on this blog that would not agree -

April 27, 12:09 pm | [comment link]
15. David Fischler wrote:

Re #11

“International kidnapping and imprisonment”

Oh, you mean rendition—the policy that was started by the Clinton administration. Some of the people who advocated for and carried out that policy are now working for Barack Obama. Do you want to see them tried as well? Is there anyone on the left—anyone—who has called for the proposed witch hunt to extend back before January 20, 2001? Not that I’ve heard.

April 27, 12:12 pm | [comment link]
16. Katherine wrote:

Dee, we can agree that this would be getting even, and it’s not worth it.  I supported Bush’s decision not to investigate Clinton administration issues; many conservatives were out for blood.

April 27, 12:38 pm | [comment link]
17. David |däˈvēd| wrote:

Please remember, David F. that not everyone here is a United Statesonian. Anglican blogs attract an international following. So I do not care from which administration they worked, prosecute who needs to be prosecuted.

Katherine, it is to be decided by a court of law whether they are guilty, but a number of respected Statesonian jurists/law professors have spoken to the issue and it is their considered opinion that the current US Dept of Justice does not really have the say to investigate and prosecute or not, and certainly not the President to say that they cannot, the laws are in place that say that they must. The question is whether US Attorney General Holder is of a better caliber than his recent predecessors. (A certain Mexican Statesonian comes to mind.)

no actual lasting physical or psychological damage was done
There are many in my field, psychology and sociology, as well as medical physicians, who would take great issue with that belief.

No bones were broken, no beatings were administered There is certainly testimony and evidence to the contrary.

There are numerous countries where, by report, this cannot be said of ordinary jails for routine criminal defendants There are thousands of Latin Americans who can testify to that fact in the US.

Second, these were not individuals covered by the Geneva Convention You lot have made yourselves judge & jury to that. There are many citizens in the world who disagree.

The same cannot be said for casual rude remarks made by citizens of other countries My very experience many times when visiting the USA legally, starting with the crew at the border and extending to the casual encounter in the street with common citizens.

I am out of the office and away from my Mac for the remainder of the day. I wish you all a gracious day. Watch out for the swine flu. I have my surgical mask for when in public, it is our latest fashion trend.

April 27, 12:44 pm | [comment link]
18. Katherine wrote:

Yes, David, and there are eminent legal experts who don’t agree with your opinion as well.  On the other issue, I have never been deliberately rude to foreigners at home and don’t plan to start because some few foreigners have been rude to me when I’m abroad.  Is it your experience that Americans in general are rude, or only some?  I’d really like to know.  I assume you look like the professional you describe yourself to be, and I am not happy to think that you are subjected to casual verbal abuse. 

In spite of our disagreement here, I wish you safety and health in the current flu outbreak!  Take care.

April 27, 12:56 pm | [comment link]
19. Katherine wrote:

Heh.  Attorney General Holder visited the Tower of London today, including the spot where Guy Fawkes was put on the rack to reveal his fellow conspirators in the plot to blowup Parliament, 1605.  Now THAT was torture.  I’ve seen the equipment there.  Saddam Hussein would have felt at home.

April 27, 1:02 pm | [comment link]
20. Alli B wrote:

Katherine, it is to be decided by a court of law whether they are guilty
No. Only if someone partisan enough decides to try to take it to court.  Legal experts and our national security folks have already made these decisions.
but a number of respected Statesonian jurists/law professors have spoken to the issue
Yes, and a great number of respected jurists/law professors disagree with “your” jurists/law professors.  Shall we criminalize a difference of opinion?  It certainly seems that that is what you are advocating. Very, very dangerous thing to do.  You may not be a Statesonian (?), but we pride ourselves on our freedom to disagree.  That is the very essence of what makes the United States such a great country.

April 27, 1:27 pm | [comment link]
21. Andrew717 wrote:

Second, these were not individuals covered by the Geneva Convention You lot have made yourselves judge & jury to that. There are many citizens in the world who disagree.

Not anyone who has read and understood the relevant treaty.  The world was quite aware of non-state violent actors when the Geneva conventions were drawn up, and were fairly clear in defining to whom these protections applied, and to whom they did not.  One of the concerns was to protect civillians from combat by drawing a bright line between combatants and non-combatants, partly by denying protections to those who attempted to use the local civillian populations as a shield.  “Properly ratified international treaties” and “What I wish was reality” are not, in fact, the same.  A mistake amde by those who ought to know better.  My International Ethics professor in university, for example, only admited when faced with the text of the treaty that un-uniformed guerillas/terrorists did not qualify.  Thought, as she asserted to the class, “they should.”  But her opinion does not in fact constitute international law.  Nor does yours, nor mine.  Rather, it is the text of the relevant treaties.

April 27, 1:40 pm | [comment link]
22. Andrew717 wrote:

The passage in the treaty relating to who does or does not recieve protections due a prisoner of war:

Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:[
(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) that of carrying arms openly;
(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

April 27, 1:50 pm | [comment link]
23. Dave B wrote:

David |däˈvēd| The President can end all of this because he does have a right and the power to say if the folks that intiated and carried out Bush’s policy are prosecuted.  Obama could give an executive pardon!  Are the members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees going to be prosecuted because they did not object to the interrogation techniques purposed?

April 27, 2:22 pm | [comment link]
24. libraryjim wrote:

Dave B.,

IF the Justice Department does go ahead with prosecution of Bush officials, then, yes, they should also include members of the House and Senate Committees (Republican AND Democrat) who were briefed and agreed with the action, including Nancy Pelosi.

After all, fair is fair.

April 27, 3:29 pm | [comment link]
25. jkc1945 wrote:

There will be no prosecution.  Obama isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even he will recognize that, if he prosecutes the Bush administration, it is only a matter of time until he and his political cronies will be in the dock for some reason or another.  The pot does not dare call the kettle black, in this case, because the pot itself will inevitably be (uh-oh!! no pun intended)  black, too.

April 27, 5:48 pm | [comment link]
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