National Journal Blog, 13 April, 2009

Logo_nationaljournal This week's question addresses the issue of whether or not there should be a "Truth and Justice" commission to investigate the issue of US government torture of prisoners.  pl

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13 Responses to National Journal Blog, 13 April, 2009

  1. JohnH says:

    Kind of like the 9/11 Commission?
    Who has the integrity to assure us that the ‘Truth and Justice’ Commission will be committed to truth and justice and not just to restoring the tattered images of powerful perps?

  2. Cieran says:

    Damned fine commentary, as always, Colonel Lang.
    And for those who answer “no” to this important question, my response would be
    so what part of “the rule of law” didn’t you understand?
    Thanks for posting on this fundamentally-important topic…

  3. J says:

    Milt Bearden hit the nail on the head with his ‘weak form of accountability’ will arise, and those on the periphery who were parties to the tortures (heavyweight members of Congress who advocated and pushed hard behind-the-scenes for torture-torture-torture/waterboard-waterboard-waterboard) will never see the inside of a jail cell. If anybody is held accountable and sent off to jail in the end, it’ll be the ‘little people’, not the torture deciders and facilitators.
    The Jack Bauers and their 24’s if you look at where their torture mindset writers/producers originate, one will find is in the neocon and zionist camps. For some reason they appear to have a love relationship with barbaric torture and cruelty.

  4. While clearly the record may never be complete I would argue that the judicial playout of the “torture” issue should not be dismissed lightly as another arrow in the quiver of “Truth.” Admittedly it is a Justice system not a truth system yet final judicial review now appears likely to strongly document Exective Branch activity that was either authorized, possibly in error, or not authorized, again possibly in error. I do know that given what was known even before 9/11 about AQ and the threat it appears that many threads of the torture and rendition issue have been part of the cloth of US clandestine activity for much much longer than the Bush Administration 1st or second. What I do think deserves the fullest documentation is the domestic intel operations going back to Nixon and why or why not those purported Constitutional violatins occurred and what prevents their reoccurrence.

  5. jon says:

    I believe there needs to be an accounting, and a settling of various wrongs and crimes that have been committed in the names of the American people which were violations of our own and international laws, as well as the Geneva Conventions.
    This is a job for the courts. I would be very disappointed if, in their zeal to turn over rocks, that Congress might grant immunity to those most responsible for setting this train in motion, simply to be able to hear a story a bit sooner.
    We don’t need show trials, and we don’t need kangaroo courts. We do need to repair the damage that has been done to the rule of law, and to the expectation that the government should act with probity and in accordance with its own laws and the norms of civilized nations.
    I don’t believe that our country is so delicate that it could not bear the time and strain of impartial trials to establish the facts and apportion responsibility.
    I would also be concerned that the scope of inquiry not be artificially limited to focus mainly on those individuals at the bottom of the food chain, who had little choice in carrying out the orders of their superiors.
    Doing this work and properly holding to account those who actively subverted the Constitution and other laws would do a great service in repairing the power and regard of the US throughout the world.

  6. steve says:

    No, there is no need for truth commission.
    The United States has a functioning criminal justice system which was established to enforce the law.
    Among those laws are statutes making torture a felony subject to prosecution.
    If warranted, criminal prosecutions first, then congressional commissions to deal with the breakdown of lawful authority within the executive bureaucracy.
    But prosecutions first. It is simply a crime.

  7. frank durkee says:

    “Prosecuturial discretion” means that this is finally a political issue not a “justice” issue. I do not see the political will at any level to do this much less force it. As much as I too think it needed.

  8. JJackson says:

    I read all the posts at the link, and the comments here, and the thing that struck me is it is mainly viewed from the point of view of how it would play in the US. I was expecting it to have more to do with those who had – and are – suffering as a result of changes in US policy. In the South African version it tended to be a cathartic experience for the wrong doer to lay bare their crimes so they can be acknowledged as such, learnt from and, possibly, forgiven. This does not seem anything the American public are likely to embrace. Scheuer said ‘”Truth Commission,” as if America is some half-baked Third World country’ which rather sums it up. If Americans are not ready to be subjected to the standards the South Africans imposed upon themselves we still have some way to go.

  9. zanzibar says:

    If our Constitution is to mean anything anymore then the first step is to appoint a special prosecutor and convene a grand jury to prosecute all criminality.
    When we are done with that then it makes sense to have a congressional commission like the Church commission or a “truth commission” to dig into how we got this far. I have a sneaking suspicion that we will find out that it was not the law but the people who took the oath to defend the Constitution and enforce the law impartially. So unless those culpable are held to account no new laws matter as we will continue to slide the slippery slope to banana republic-dom and fascism. The current administration’s stance only perpetuates the malaise of the past several decades where the highest echelons of our society act with impunity.

  10. jedermann says:

    Two images of America exist separately and simultaneously within the minds of many if not most Americans. There is the idealized, “Saturday Evening Post” version of a nation devoted to the noble principles set out in our founding documents and then there is the gritty, cynical, “24” version of a nation that winks at its tough guys doing whatever they deem necessary to protect us from a hostile world. Entertaining these notions simultaneously is commonly thought to be the very definition of modern patriotism. It would seem to me to indicate schizophrenia, insincerity or muddle-headedness. If we actually care about our nation’s health and its place in the society of nations we need to discover the truth of what we are. The reconciliation that needs to happen in our case is not so much that between victim and perpetrator as with South Africa. The reconciliation we need is of the dissonance between our national mythos and the way we have been conducting our affairs.
    It is a dangerous world and we surely owe ourselves and our descendants survival, but if this national enterprise is mainly a means to make money and maintain our presumptive right to consume a disproportionate share of the world’s resources then let us admit that frankly and call it what it is. It is our good fortune to have been heirs to the coincidence of Enlightenment thinking and European energy and its discovery of a vast new world of riches. If it turns out that American Democracy was merely a product of the latest fashion in Western philosophy adopted to promote the exploitation of this treasure house, then the reversion to the ancient practices of torturing prisoners and spying on citizens may have been inevitable. If that is the case then, by all means, let the scales fall from our eyes and let us see ourselves as others do. It may not be easy to find an appealing new image that is both appropriate and inspiring but it is not healthy to maintain too many illusions about oneself. If, on the other hand, we believe our democracy is intrinsically stronger than autocracy or, if not stronger, then that it is somehow better in spite of its weaknesses, and if we find that our national behavior when exposed to the light of day undermines our claims of stronger or better, then we must change the way we are acting.
    Regardless of legal action or inaction it is in our best interest to put the painful effort into making known officially and publically what our government has done in our name. The process will likely be shoddy in the execution and partial in result at best, but I believe that the “truth” that emerges will still be true enough and divergent enough from the way we like to see ourselves to warrant and demand the reconciliation of Norman Rockwell and Jack Bauer.

  11. Charles I says:

    You gotta love Michael Scheuer.
    Bleeding heart liberal, I’d love justice,but a Commission’s out of the question. Bush hanged would be fine with me, except I’m agin the death penalty. I like the comment its banana republic.
    Look at the 9/11 commission, w/t/f was on those 25 pages, howcum none of those Predators ever touch off in Saudi, but I digress. Imagine a commission. Look at cast of characters who put on those dopey shows you get with “Hearings” up on the Hill? And I’m assuming they televise the good parts, no?
    I don’t think as a whole, the country is capable of conducting one without it degenerating into the basest politics.
    The whole 30 years of PNAC climaxing in Iraq, the great widening of the income gap, venality of your legislators, incompetence of your government, (spending capacity aside), real shite happening under cover of the shrill hectoring, the wedge issuess, the religious hysteria, the politics of fear and divide that came to pass for politics cowed many who shrink from reasoned inquiry.
    Existing laws have got my vote. They won’t ferret out the truth, or the whole sordid story, which would be a great good thing in itself. But they will serve Justice better than I believe a Commission could serve Truth, so on this calculus, a greater good, Truth and Justice being equal.
    And therein lies the rub: I have a feeling the Truth might be more important than Justice in this case, but its not going to come out, not all of it, anywhere.

  12. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Practically speaking and with notable exceptions, it is inherently unwise to prosecute the “little guy” without going after those at the top, particularly in this type of scenario. To put in Waffle House language, treat the deputy with respect and even deference. But after someone in a supervisory position (Addington?) or better yet, the sheriff (you know who) raises his hand, takes the oath and then sits in the witness stand, take out the knife, preferably in a most respectful manner.
    Juries tend to relate more to those at the bottom of the chain and don‘t appreciate it when an attorney rips them to shreds. Far better to go after the one in the “supervisory role”. And that advice doesn’t come me, but alas, a man now in his 80’s but who, in his day, was one of the best. Plus, it just passes the common sense rule. And a lagniappe: you win over those of the lower part of the chain of command, even tho’ you are getting ready to bring it all crashing down.
    So at this point, I tend to disagree with Glenn Greenwald, who otherwise is the best constitutional lawyer-journalist in the land, bar none. Greenwald apparently wants to see the prosecution of anyone, period, end of story.
    One notable exception, of course, is if you know the one so accused will flip. Take Larry Franklin for example. And I can’t help but wonder if that explains why the GOI didn’t indict anyone down the chain of command after the USS Liberty incident, particularly the pilot Spector. Geez…ya’ think the GOI was scared to death that Spector under indictment would have pointed up the chain? Good grief, the fact the GOI did not indict anyone in the chain of command is of “high” probative value in and of itself.

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