Friday, December 12, 2008

Impeachment Is Still Off The Table

Well, shut my mouth and call me Fanny! A bipartisan Senate committee report has found that high level Bush administration officials are responsible for authorizing "harsh interrogation techniques" at Gitmo and elsewhere. From the Washington Post:

A bipartisan panel of senators has concluded that former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials bear direct responsibility for the harsh treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and that their decisions led to more serious abuses in Iraq and elsewhere.

In the most comprehensive critique by Congress of the military's interrogation practices, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report yesterday that accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the authors and chief promoters of harsh interrogation policies that disgraced the nation and undermined U.S. security. The report, released by Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), contends that Pentagon officials later tried to create a false impression that the policies were unrelated to acts of detainee abuse committed by members of the military.

The report is the most direct refutation to date of the administration's rationale for using aggressive interrogation tactics -- that inflicting humiliation and pain on detainees was legal and effective, and helped protect the country. The 25-member panel, without one dissent among the 12 Republican members, declared the opposite to be true.

The administration's policies and the resulting controversies, the panel concluded, "damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority."
[Emphasis added]

The timing of the report is certainly interesting. The investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee has been going on for quite some time, presumably predating the national conventions of the GOP and Democrats and the election campaign, yet not a peep about the findings emerged during the campaign, even though one of the principals in the investigation was running for president. Suddenly, six weeks after the election and a month before the inauguration of the new president, the report appears. That, however, is not the only interesting aspect of the report.

Donald Rumsfeld, the former Defense Secretary who was unceremoniously dumped after the 2006 election, is being cast as the heavy in the scenario. Now, I'm reasonably certain that Mr. Rumsfeld deserves the role, but it is highly unlikely that he operated in a vacuum. The report also mentions a few other officials, according to the WaPo article:

...Senate investigators said the seeds of the policy originated in a Feb. 7, 2002, memo signed by President Bush declaring that the Geneva Conventions, which outline standards for the humane treatment of detainees, did not apply to captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. As early as that spring, top administration officials, including then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, participated in meetings where the use of coercive measures was discussed, the panel said, drawing on a statement by Rice released this year. [Emphasis added]

The Democratic leadership in the 110th Congress kept impeachment off the table, and at this point, any such move is far too late to have any significance. Prosecution for these war crimes, however, is still a viable response, and I hope the 111th Congress and the Justice Department will have the genitals to take the necessary steps to bring some meaningful closure to this shameful episode in our history.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, this administration was operating in a vacuum -- a legal vacuum they created by de facto voiding of Constitutional checks and international treaty obligations.

And, as for a legal response down the road, I wouldn't hold my breath. I don't see anyone at the top ever being held to account. Congress? Please.

5:08 AM  
Blogger Flying Junior said...

The despicable and unprecedented acts of cruelty and violence ordered by Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al have left a stain on the pride of this nation that will not soon pass away. It would be hard to believe that the congressional report should not result in some type of legal action. At the very least, a public censure and condemnation of U.S. sponsored torture would signal to the world that this era of abuse has come to a close. But you are right. These actions merit a prosecutorial response.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't impeachment proceedings stop Bush from pardoning anyone???

6:45 AM  

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