Via Smirking Chimp by David Swanson — Elizabeth Holtzman knows something about struggles for justice in the U.S. government. She was a member of Congress and of the House Judiciary Committee that voted for articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1973. She proposed the bill that in 1973 required that “state secrets” claims be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. She co-authored the special prosecutor law that was allowed to lapse, just in time for the George W. Bush crime wave, after Kenneth Starr made such a mockery of it during the Whitewater-cum-Lewinsky scandals. She was there for the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978. She has served on the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, bringing long-escaped war criminals to justice. And she was an outspoken advocate for impeaching George W. Bush.
Holtzman ends her book by pointing out that legal accountability can come after many years, as in the case of various Nazis, or of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, or of the murderers of civil rights activists including Medgar Evers.
In between, for the bulk of the book, Holtzman, a former district attorney, lays out the prospects for a prosecution of Bush and others on charges of lying to Congress about the grounds for war, wiretapping Americans, and conspiring to torture. This is an excellent sampling of the many horrors on the list of Bush’s abuses, and clearly the three areas in which Holtzman believes a prosecution would stand the best chance of success. Her analysis of the war lies parallels and builds on that of Elizabeth de la Vega, another former prosecutor who has written on the topic. Holtzman adds an analysis of the steps Bush took to protect himself from prosecution in this and each other area. She also examines his possible legal defenses, finding some of them strong and others easily overcome.
In each area Holtzman finds charges that would stick, if our laws were enforced. She also finds charges that would have stuck, had the statute of limitations not elapsed, and others for which a couple of years yet remain. Holtzman believes charges for conspiring to defraud the government with war lies could be brought until January 20, 2014. She also believes that charges for violation of FISA could be brought until that same date, pointing out that changes made to the law have not provided immunity for prior violations of what the law used to be, and that immunity has been granted from civil suits but not from criminal prosecution. Charges of torture, Holtzman concludes, could be brought at any time in the future.
Holtzman argues for lengthening the statutes of limitations for grave abuses of power, for creating a special prosecutor, restoring the War Crimes Act, reclaiming protection against unchecked surveillance, recovering missing records, pursuing civil cases, impeaching torture lawyer turned judge Jay Bybee, and looking abroad for hope and change. She sees some chance of the International Criminal Court pursuing charges of torture.
This book is an ideal guide for a prosecutor with nerve and decency, although we haven’t found one in this country in the past several years. Other than Kurt Daims who is running for the office of Town Grand Juror in Brattleboro, Vermont, which voted to direct its police to indict Bush and Cheney four years ago, I’m not aware of any prosecutors in the United States with plans to pursue this kind of justice.
Glaringly absent from Holtzman’s book, despite its 2012 publication date, is any significant mention of the approach that President Obama has taken. There’s not one word about “looking forward, not backward,” not even so much as one tangential reference to Obama’s public instructions to Attorney General Eric Holder, no analysis of the intense effort that the Justice Department, State Department, and White House have pursued to protect Bush and Cheney from accountability, no mention of the ways in which Obama has continued a similar pattern of criminality — a state of affairs which, of course, might explain his reluctance to allow the enforcement of laws against his predecessor.
I don’t think it’s an unfair criticism to object that a book has left out a large but intimately related topic, one that apears to have been carefully avoided. Partisan prosecution of crimes and non-crimes by Republicans under President Clinton has been aggravated by Republican defensiveness and Democratic spinelessness under Bush. But it is the Democratic switch to defending all presidential wrongdoing since 2008 that has put the largest nails into the coffin of legitimate rule by law in this country. Bush’s crimes have been legitimized. Obama has claimed the power to torture as he deems necessary, the power to imprison and rendition as he sees fit, the power to murder any human being including U.S. citizens and children as he and he alone declares necessary, and powers of state secrecy that Nixon and Cheney never dreamed of. While Bush lied the Congress into a war that a reasonably intelligent 8 year old could have seen through, Obama has made the launching of wars a matter for the president alone. And that’s just fine with Democrats. Surely Holtzman is aware that this partisanship is a cancer, that it has ruined the power of impeachment and done away with truly independent special prosecutors, and that the purpose of accountability is to halt the ongoing acceptance of crime.
I have to quibble as well with Holtzman’s lowballing of the Iraq war death count by two orders of magnitude. I know everybody does it, but I still find it grotesque.
And yet I have to strongly recommend that this book be read and presented to every prosecutor in this country, including the seemingly shameless Eric Holder. We’ve got 23 months.
Rawstory – Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald on Thursday blasted President Barack Obama’s mantra that the nation should “look forward, not backward” regarding alleged crimes committed by the Bush administration.
“Imagine if, for example, we decided to announce tomorrow that we were no longer going to prosecute murder or rape or child abductions because we didn’t want to ‘keep looking backwards,’” he said on MSNBC’s The Last Word. “What do you think would happen? Obviously there would be a lot more people engaging in murder, rape, and child abduction.”
Greenwald added that American political culture had “decided our highest political officials are free to break the law without consequences” and Obama had continued the “evisceration of the rule of law for political elites.”
“So political elites like Dick Cheney know that they can commit crimes with total impunity, and that is why he goes around proudly boasting about the crimes he has committed.”
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Barack Obama’s response during an interview with the Boston Globe — Dec. 20, 2007
Rawstory – Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says President Barack Obama did not have the constitutional authority to order U.S. forces to participate in an attack on Libya. In a conference call with other liberal lawmakers Saturday, Kucinich asked why the U.S. missile strikes were not impeachable offenses, according to two Democratic lawmakers who spoke to Politico. Continue Reading…
Rawstory — Nine years ago today, the Bush administration decided that international law does not apply to prisoners of war. It was a watershed moment in US history, resulting in a policy of torture that pervaded and darkened the Bush years, and inflamed anti-American sentiment abroad.
To mark that grim anniversary, two men who claim to have been victims of torture filed official complaints in Geneva, Switzerland, seeking a ruling on universal jurisdiction.
If the court sides with their complaints, US President George W. Bush likely would not face arrest; he would not, however, enjoy free travel around the world.
That was evidenced over the weekend, when the media speculated on why the former president canceled a trip to Switzerland. Bush was to be the keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod’s annual dinner on February 12 in Geneva.
While Swiss officials said that Bush would still enjoy a certain diplomatic immunity as a former head of state, the local political climate posed a greater threat of repeating the riots Geneva saw during the G8 summit in Evian.
The complaints, officially lodged Monday, ask the General Prosecutor of the Canton of Geneva to investigate evidence of a torture policy within the Bush administration.
opednews.com by By Dave Lindorff — Back in 2005-06, I wrote a book,The Case for Impeachment, in which I made the argument that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as other key figures in the Bush/Cheney administration–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales–should be impeached for war crimes, as well as crimes against the Constitution of the United States.
These days, when I mention the book’s title, people sometimes ask, half in jest, whether I’m referring to the current president, Barack Obama.
Sadly, it is time to say, just 14 months into the current term of this new president, that yes, this president, and some of his subordinates, are also guilty of impeachable crimes–including many of the same ones committed by Bush and Cheney.
Let’s start with the war in Afghanistan, which Obama has taken full ownership of with an escalation that will bring the number of US troops in that country (not counting mercenaries hired by the Pentagon and CIA) to 100,000 by this August.
The president has authorized the use of Predator drone aircraft for a program of bombing conducted against Pakistan which has illegally expanded the Afghan War into another country without any authorization from Congress. These pilotless drones are known to kill far more innocent bystanders than enemy targets, making them fundamentally illegal on principle as weapons. Furthermore, this wave of attacks in Pakistan is a war of aggression against another nation if the word “war” is to have any meaning at all, and as such it is illegal under the UN Charter. Indeed initiating a war of aggression against a country which does not pose an immediate threat to the invader is described in the Charter and in the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter as the gravest of all war crimes.
The president, as commander in chief, has also, in collusion with Attorney Eric Holder, blocked any prosecution of those who authorized and perpetrated torture against captives in the War in Iraq, the War in Afghanistan, and the so-called War on Terror–notably Federal Appeals Court Judge Jay Baybee, and Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo, who as Justice Department attorneys authored the legal briefs justifying torture– and has in fact continued to permit the application of torture against captives. All of this is in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, which as a signed set of treaties, are part of the law of the United States. Under those treaties, failure on the part of those up the chain of command to halt or to punish those who commit torture are themselves guilty of the crime of torture.
As commander in chief, President Obama has also overseen a strategy in Afghanistan of expanded attacks on civilians in Afghanistan. As in Iraq under the Bush administration, this current phase of the war in Afghanistan is seeing more civilians killed than enemy combatants, because of the widespread use of weapons like helicopter gunships, aerial bombardment, fragmentation bombs, etc., as well as a tactic of night raids on housing compounds where insurgents are suspected of hiding–raids that frequently lead to the deaths of many women and children and innocent men. It is significant that even the recent execution-style slaying of nine students, aged 11-18, by US-led forces, has not led to an investigation or prosecution of a individual. Rather, the incident is being covered up and ignored, with the clear acquiescence of the White House and the leadership at the Pentagon.
It is also widely believed that under the command of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is known to have directed a large-scale death-squad operation in Iraq before moving to his current position, a similar death-squad campaign of assassination is being conducted now in Afghanistan–a campaign that like the notorious Phoenix Program in the 1960s in Vietnam, is almost certainly resulting in the deaths of many innocent Afghans.
Domestically, the president has continued to allow the policy of detention without trial of hundreds of captives in Guantanamo Bay and other prisons, including Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, and his director of national security has even stated that it is the policy of this administration that American citizens deemed by the administration to be enemy combatants or terrorists may be targeted for summary execution. Such officially sanctioned state murder is a blatant violation of the Constitution’s insistence that every American has a right to a presumption of innocence and to a trial by a jury of his or her peers.
The president has also continued and in some ways even expanded the Bush/Cheney administration’s program of warrantless spying by the National Security Agency on the electronic communications of millions of Americans. A part of that program, the monitoring of communications of a now defunct Islamic charity, was just declared illegal by a federal judge in a case that was brought against the Bush/Cheney administration, but which continued to be defended by the current administration. There has not been a decision as yet by the Obama administration about whether to appeal that decision. While the case in question does not represent a crime by the Obama administration, it is clear that it only represents the very tip of the huge iceberg of domestic spying, and the administration’s vigorous efforts to shut down this case or to win it are clear evidence that the NSA is continuing to do the same thing on a vast scale. In fact, the only reason this case even got to trial is because of a government error that resulted in a memo describing the monitoring being mailed inadvertently to the victims of the spying.