Shorter Dick Cheney

by Ted on June 17, 2004

Howl, howl, howl, howl.

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman might point out that this is a pretty good summary of Rumsfeld’s behavior as well. Who am I to argue? What kind of an outfit illegally orders that a prisoner be held off the books for over a year, and then forgets to interrogate him?

ANOTHER, NON-SNARKY UPDATE: Interesting point from Michael Froomkin:

People like me, who have been highly dubious about the US acceding to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court due to the real and troubling encroachment on our traditional conception of national sovereignty are really going to have to think long and hard about changing sides on this one, or at least accepting jurisdiction with regards to some of our treaty obligations. The last few months argue strongly that the US cannot always be relied on to observe its international law obligations as much as I would have thought and hoped.

I doubt that too many people will join Professor Froomkin in thinking long and hard, but these revelations will have the unfortunate effect of changing the terms of the debate. As Anne Applebaum* points out, it’s hard to see how those in power have sufficient incentives to follow stories as thoroughly as they deserve.

  • corrected; thanks to Russell Arben Fox

{ 36 comments }

1

Extradite the Neocons 06.17.04 at 4:41 pm

Does this mean that this is the worst?

The worst is not,
So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’ -King Lear IV i 27

2

Walt Pohl 06.17.04 at 5:04 pm

Cheney’s just working on his insanity defense for his war crimes trial.

3

pepi 06.17.04 at 5:09 pm

I love this: “Pentagon officials still insist Rumsfeld acted legally, but admit it all depends on how you interpret the law.”

Moral relativists, pfui.

4

Thomas 06.17.04 at 5:29 pm

Pepi, suggesting that it is possible that the amorphous set of laws and opinions known as international law could be interpreted in a variety of ways is in no way equivalent to moral relativism.

5

Goesh 06.17.04 at 5:48 pm

Disengaging from the inevitable:
Sitting amidst our secure and pleasant surroundings, it is impossible to fathom the real consequences of a couple of suitcase nukes being detonated in the US – wow! talk about the DOW taking a plunge, eh? That amidst the rhetoric of such keen intellects in the realm of politics, economics, law, sociology and a hundred other disciplines, comes the simplicity of 3 airplanes hijacked uisng box cutters. The pure, pristine and simple intent of the forces behind 9/11 gives me cause to not harshly judge the powers that be who are trying to prevent what appears to be inevitable. Does anyone realistically think that American Jurisprudence is in any way a bulwark against those who have a sacred obligation to kill us?

6

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.17.04 at 5:54 pm

The main US objection to the ICC is that it is going to be an unaccountable political game-player rather than a useful court. And since people were trying to use it that way even before any troubling revelations about US conduct in Iraq came out, the objection stands.

Furthermore the way to moderate US action is through publicity of things the US public doesn’t like. The ICC doesn’t have the power to do things that the US public can do.

7

Extradite the Neocons 06.17.04 at 6:11 pm

Thomas: I think he was talking about US law.

8

Russell Arben Fox 06.17.04 at 6:14 pm

It’s “Anne Applebaum,” not “Anne Archer.” And for what it’s worth, I find myself joining Froomkin in such rethinking more and more every day.

9

Extradite the Neocons 06.17.04 at 6:16 pm

goesh: just because ordinary measures were neglected in the run-up to 9/11 does NOT mean that extraordinary measures are unavoidable now.
However, I have noticed that dreaming up scenarios in which torture is a good thing is very comforting to those trying to ignore those actual scenarios in which torture HAS been used, like on 40,000 people in one facility alone, whose very jailors admit that 90% of those tortured may have been collected at random.
Who is it that needs to concoct nightmares to deny that he is living in one? I’m not even sure what to call that.

10

JRoth 06.17.04 at 6:17 pm

The national reaction to the Abu Ghraib revelations has made perfectly clear that sebastian’s claim about the power – and, implicitly, the justice – of the American public is false.

We have a clear case of US soldiers breaking US law. We have clear evidence of orders from on high to do so. We have clear evidence that the President sought, and received, advce on how to perform torture without being criminally liable for it. We have White House lawyers asserting that the President is, literally, above the law during wartime. And today we have evidence that the Secretary of Defense personally ordered the illegal “disappearance” of an Iraqi prisoner.

And we have at least 40% of this nation turning a blind eye. Actively defending these illegal, immoral actions. We have sarcastic references to the presumptive weakness of American Jurisprudence. We have maybe 2 Senators from the President’s party who are willing to say that evidence of war crimes by this administration might be troubling. And, I suspect, we are about to have howls of indignation that I just used the phrase “war crimes by this administration.”

I see no reason to trust the American public on these matters. I’m filled with sorrow about this, but a huge plurality of this country has apparently decided that “patriotism” and partisanship are more important than justice and human rights. I view every vote for George W Bush as a vote for war crimes and dictatorship, and at this point, it looks like that platform will carry at least 45 million votes.

11

Dan Simon 06.17.04 at 6:31 pm

I can completely understand why those who are frustrated with the failure of the democratic process to “do what needs to be done” are driven to support an undemocratic, unaccountable alternative. That is always how democracy is undermined. All I can say is, “be careful what you wish for.” That the ICC solemnly swears to do what you think is morally right and necessary right now is no guarantee that it will continue to do so in the future. And the time may come–no, will come, if you get your wish–when you will regret having entrusted authority over your nation’s conduct to unaccountable tribunes to keep it out of the hands of your supposedly-less-trustworthy fellow citizens.

12

Maynard Handley 06.17.04 at 6:39 pm

It wouldn’t be the big lie if you backed down in the face of actual facts and evidence, would it? Did Hitler or Stalin or Mao (or for that matter Ronald Reagan) ever let such mundane things as facts bother them? To quote “another administration official” from that Yahoo story, hell no!

13

Matt Weiner 06.17.04 at 6:50 pm

Here’s a question–what do you think should happen if people who ordered torture are granted a presidential pardon? Should they be immune from war-crimes prosecution? Should every country be free to pardon its citizens who commit war crimes against another country?

14

Katherine 06.17.04 at 7:01 pm

I don’t know about the ICC. You’ve got to pick your battles, and I think the battle to bring back the Geneva Conventions and the Torture Conventions as meaningful and binding is a lot more winnable than the battle to ratify the ICC treaty.

15

rosa 06.17.04 at 7:01 pm

“actual scenarios in which torture HAS been used, like on 40,000 people in one facility alone”

ex the con – can you provide a citation for that supposed fact?

16

Extradite the Neocons 06.17.04 at 7:07 pm

rosa: can you use google? Those were the numbers on AG, provided to he ICRC by our own people.

It’s not like I’m citing Frontpagemag or something!

17

pepi 06.17.04 at 7:12 pm

thomas – except there is nothing “amorphous” or vague about conventions overtly making illegal certain precise things – such as secret detention, in this case. Conventions overtly signed on to by the US. (Regardless of not signing up to the ICC, I should add).

To quote from that one article again:

In the military’s own investigation into prisoner abuse, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba said efforts to hide prisoners from the Red Cross were “deceptive” and a “violation of international law.”

And it’s not just “Taguba says”, it’s, those laws say.

The Pentagon had better make up their minds, cos when they start contradicting not just the laws they agreed to stick to, but also one of their top generals correctly quoting those same laws, it doesn’t look too good.

18

bob mcmanus 06.17.04 at 7:32 pm

“bring back the Geneva Conventions and the Torture Conventions as meaningful and binding is a lot more winnable” …Katherine

Y’all realize a lot of this is in the hands of SCOTUS right now. If the Supremes decide the President has wide discretion in the cases of Guantanamo and Padilla this will set an arguable precedent for the Torture Memo’s “inherent” authority.

Sometimes I think some of the recent leaks implicating Rumsfeld etc have been an attempt at pressuring Republican Justices to save their scumbag friends from disgrace and possible jailterms.

19

jdw 06.17.04 at 7:38 pm

matt weiner:
_Here’s a question—what do you think should happen if people who ordered torture are granted a presidential pardon? Should they be immune from war-crimes prosecution?_

I would think the President could pardon that, too, couldn’t he? Unless the war-crimes prosecution is at the Hague or something, but it’s pretty unlikely an American would go before an international court. We handle these things pretty well at home.

Anyway, how likely is it that a presidential pardon would be issued? If Bush is reelected, there’s no need, and if Kerry’s reelected, I don’t think there’s much of a chance he’d spend the opening months of his presidency investigating the wrongdoings of his predecessor. And I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate to avail himself of the new powers Bush has discovered, either; finding the Bush administration criminal would be shooting himself in the foot.

And if Bush is reelected, I expect that the Administration’s position on the Geneva Conventions and laws against torture will probably moderate. Preemptive war, torturing Iraqis, secret detentions and whatnot are a useful political tool, as it mollifies the conservative base while deficits and spending mount. But after he’s reelected, there’s not nearly the incentive to deal with all the legal trouble this stuff brings with it.

Should every country be free to pardon its citizens who commit war crimes against another country?_

Not irresponsible ones. The US is a special case, though, because the rest of the world is rife with anti-Americanism, so if Americans were allowed to be tried by international courts they could be found guilty. If the Europeans had their way, the US couldn’t commit _any_ war crimes.

20

Matt Weiner 06.17.04 at 7:53 pm

jdw–
I was thinking about what would happen if Bush loses. Lame-duck pardons of government officials are a family tradition, after all. And I wouldn’t be so confident that Kerry won’t go after Bush’s people; wasn’t investigating Iran-Contra one of his big causes? [And I think it’s a bit cynical to say that Kerry would want Bush’s powers–the Bush Administration has gone way beyond politics as usual.]

So yeah, I’m wondering whether the Hague invasion act is still on the books. I agree with your last paragraph, anyway.

21

rosa 06.17.04 at 7:56 pm

ex the con – I’m a great googler, as a matter of fact. I hate wild goose chases, though. And finding factual support for 40,000 “tortured” would be one wild goose.

22

yabonn 06.17.04 at 8:03 pm

The last few months argue strongly that the US cannot always be relied on to observe its international law obligations

I’d have thought educated people like froomkin would have treated that optimistic self image of the u.s. with a bit of caution. Of the kind you reserve for founding myth, or at least to these “not really true but useful nevertheless” type of things.

But no. The u.s. are, unless proven otherwise, respectful of international laws, and it’s of course. National interests are for the black hats.

I suppose i knew it before, but it’s a bit shocking to have it jumping to my face : they-do-really-believe-it.

Bit scary to wonder how many more horrors before each and every university law professor is convinced that, after all, the u.s., despite its true attachment to a whole bag of ideals and everything “cannot always be relied on” ?

Kinds of put in perspective the recent american diplomatic dysfunctionnalities too.

23

pepi 06.17.04 at 8:24 pm

katherine: I agree, it’s two separate issues and it’s best to keep them separate – but the curious thing is… the Geneva conventions don’t need to be brought back because they’re there and the US still is a signatory member. That’s the most indefensible part at legal level. Demanding to remain a member while no longer acknowledging the duty to comply with what you’re a member to.

24

pepi 06.17.04 at 8:47 pm

jdw – The US is a special case, though, because the rest of the world is rife with anti-Americanism, so if Americans were allowed to be tried by international courts they could be found guilty.

If they actually did something, and unless those courts are a total sham.

On the other hand, they couldn’t even find Milosevic guilty…

If the Europeans had their way, the US couldn’t commit any war crimes.

And how is that a bad thing?

I don’t know what to think of the ICC issue. I’m not too keen on international courts myself. But I’m also not keen on the fact that often, the US military abroad has special treatment nobody else has. Not just about conventions or war crimes, but even just in case of accidents, like, for instance, a careless pilot from the nearby US base flying low crashing in a skilift killing tens of people, and getting away only with mild punishment internal to the army, instead of being tried in a civil court like any other civil pilot would have. Some of this being-above-the-law approach has contributed a bit of anti-american resentment of its own.

25

Sebastian Holsclaw 06.17.04 at 9:13 pm

“The national reaction to the Abu Ghraib revelations has made perfectly clear that sebastian’s claim about the power – and, implicitly, the justice – of the American public is false.”

What a profoundly stupid thing to say. If you are so mistrustful of the American public, there isn’t a single reason in the world to believe that we would allow the ICC to try any of our citizens even if we had signed onto the stupid court. But really we shouldn’t have worried. Europeans are so bad at international enforcement that there was never any real danger anyway. See for instance French disposal of the EU economic rules that they forced on smaller countries. See for example the European diplomatic ‘triumph’ regarding the Iranian nuclear program.

26

q 06.17.04 at 9:31 pm

It is a bit sad if the USA needs an ICC to sort out corruption. Whatever happened to “Separation of the Powers”?

27

jdw 06.17.04 at 9:38 pm

Matt Weiner:

_And I wouldn’t be so confident that Kerry won’t go after Bush’s people; wasn’t investigating Iran-Contra one of his big causes?_

I think the political considerations are different for a Congressman and for a President. I think if he wants to go after Bush, it has to be immediately after he takes office. It seems like he’d be squandering a lot of political capital for very little political reward. That might be noble, but I don’t know if it would be wise.

Also, if the Republicans still control Congress, I think it would be fair to expect that the impeachment proceedings would begin against him as soon as he started investigating Bush, which could make his entire presidency more difficult. Otherwise, he could probably put off the impeachment until after the midterm elections, which might be better.

[And I think it’s a bit cynical to say that Kerry would want Bush’s powers—the Bush Administration has gone way beyond politics as usual.]

I frankly think that’s the least cynical thing I’ve said.

28

q 06.17.04 at 9:57 pm

The USA needs to consider how to improve a process which elects as president someone so underwhelming for the job.

It sometimes seems that Bush is being run by Cheney. I can’t remember a vice-president having so much control.

29

robbo 06.18.04 at 1:32 am

Rosa wrote, I’m a great googler, as a matter of fact. I hate wild goose chases, though. And finding factual support for 40,000 “tortured” would be one wild goose.

I tried “40,000 torture abu” and came up with 2200 hits; several links on the first couple pages were relevant and credible.

Googling just “40,000 torture,” one learns that “40,000” is a nice round number that’s pops up in many torture-related articles, from Korea to Indonesia to Iraq to the USA (40,000 survivors of foreign torture reportedly reside in the Mid-Atlantic Region, in case you’re wondering).

And, according to PETA, the penalty for mistreating an elephant in Thailand is “a fine of not more than 40,000 baht.” Fascinating, I say.

30

Goesh 06.18.04 at 12:47 pm

You wanna’ see torture? Go to the nearest domestic violence shelter, and take your pick of the many thousand in America, then stop by some of the morgues and view the bodies of children battered to death here at home ( got any stats on these numbers??) and the gunshot victims, then stop off at the nearest ER and rape crisis center and interview some victims. All this tongue clucking over some soliders mistreating Iraqi prisoners makes me reach for the nearest bottle of pepto bismol. “we are better than that!” DUHHH!

Some storm forth from the the academic trenches slinging moral diatribes, as if there were an audience that could be appreciative of your wisdom and insight – wake up! your audience is preoccupied at the funeral parlor and ER and crisis center and abuse shelter. Who was the philosopher who asked, ” what if i wrung my hands in anguish and nobody saw me?”

31

Goesh 06.18.04 at 1:00 pm

How to deter jihadists from melting the skin off your face with a suitcase nuke:
Threaten them with incarceration in a controled climate environment with 3 good meals a day, a comfortable bed, exercise equipment, a spacious open-air yard, a fully stocked library, conjugal visits, television/VCRs/CDs, complete and free legal representation and medical care, an up to date law library, correspondence courses and a mosque. No wonder the 9/11 hijackers crashed the planes they hijacked with high tech box cutters – the awesome consequences of american justice were just too much to bear. But cheer up! there was no terrorism prior to george bush being in office.

32

rosa 06.18.04 at 1:28 pm

robbo, the combination of “robbo” and “torture” yields 343 stories – you bad boy you. Of course, “rosa” and “torture” yields 77,300 stories – what a nasty creep I am!

In short, you might try reading the stories. It’s 40,000 prisoners in Abu G, not 40,000 tortured. No one (credible) has claimed that every single prisoner through Abu G was tortured.

I’m still waiting for a link that shows 40,000 tortured.

33

yabonn 06.18.04 at 2:44 pm

goesh,

I think you opened my eyes.

The facts that the e.r. centers are full of bad things clearly proves that academics are wimps in an ivory tower, that torture in irak is ok after all, and that we should all vote bush-by-the-way.

Shoulda known. “DUHHH!”, in your words.

34

Goesh 06.18.04 at 3:33 pm

2 Dicks on the docket for war crimes:
dick cheney and bill ‘ the dick'( in honor of Monica) clinton for committing atrocities against serbian civilians during the sustained 30 day bombing campaign of kosovo. You do remember that ‘good war’ I hope, in which the monster milosovich was attacked by US military might. God I love it when the liberal camp sanctions select monsters. Save some of the hand wringing for the civilian convoys hit by US high tech bombs during the kosovo war, please! Well, perhaps it was just a bad mistake during a good war that resulted in hitting those tractors pulling flatbed trailers of civilians, a common means of transportation in many places (seems like intentional oversight of Intelligence reports if you ask me) – and that train crossing a bridge full of civilians – tsk tsk – and some of those errant million dollar laser guided missles landing in civilian areas – how my tongue clucks over that!
Hmmmm! smacks of on-high authorization if you ask me! Rest assured there was some guffawing in the war room and sly winks when the old commannder in chief bill told his boys to end it as fast as they could. One can break the will of people to fight and resist in many ways, can’t they? But, to put a postive spin on it, at least those dead Serb civilians won’t be haunted with PTSD nightmares, will they?
Some here are blinded by historical relevance – how about putting truman and FDR on trial inabsentia for fire bombing dresden germany and incinerating japanese at nagasaki and hiroshima? Gosh! I bet some of the survivors of those places wish they could have had leashes around their necks and been threatened with dogs and made to pile up naked and had their genitals laughed at.
I just cant imagine citizens of a nation with the highest gun homicide rate on the planet doing such things to people – laughing at male genitals -how hideous!!

What amazes me most is how on the one hand our troops in Iraq are victims of bushes war – oh our poor boys who enlisted are being killed – then the same victims become willing agents in atrocities in the next breath. You can’t have it both ways – the voters will not allow it.

35

Adam Stephanides 06.20.04 at 2:48 pm

From Ted’s original post:

“these revelations will have the unfortunate effect of changing the terms of the debate.”

Why “unfortunate”?

36

Bob 06.20.04 at 5:03 pm

C’mon. According to this source, Bush was on a divinely sanctioned mission:

Bush said: “God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.” – from: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=310788&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y

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