Democrats And Torture

Democrats And Torture May 15, 2009

Just to make the record clear, I think Speaker Pelosi’s complicity if not outright endorsement of the torture regime is a good argument for her removal from the Democratic leadership.  One can find information on Pelosi and torture from various places, but here is as decent a place to start as any.  To reiterate, I’m not supportive of charging those involved in implementing the torture regime.  There should however be political consequences, and they should be bold.  Removing Speaker Pelosi from the leadership would be a good start.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Depending on her, and every other official’s, level of legal culpability, I think trial followed by prison is not too much to impose.

    The price for approving or enabling torture ought to be so utterly Faust-blanching that no future politician will contemplate it. That is the only way to stop it once and for all.

  • David Nickol

    Depending on her, and every other official’s, level of legal culpability, I think trial followed by prison is not too much to impose.

    Matt,

    How high up in the Bush administration would you go?

  • jh

    Well Matt I am against trials for many reasons. Despite the horrible results that might outflow from it in the future as to precedent there is a big problem. The American people.

    This was shown in quite a vivid way by the moderate Democrat Harold Ford who leads the DLC and came within a whisker of being the Senator of Tenn.

    As he announced to the astonishiment of Chris Matthews a few days ago he said basically yeah If was in the senate back then and saw all this stuff I would think most of it was ok. If polls are correct that is a pretty common attitude.

    I think the public would have little patience for any trials

    My problem with Pelosi is not her attitude or approval (and lets face it more leading Dems were in on it than her) but she appears to be lying.

  • Pelosi’s behavior is shameful. And removing her would indeed send a strong signal against torture.

  • Matt,

    How high up in the Bush administration would you go?

    As high up as the torture went. If Bush ordered it, prison: Cheney, ditto. And every member of Congress too.

    The Bush people spread the guilt around in abipartisan way, to minimize the possibility that prosecutions would ensue. So, call their bluff: everyone who is guilty pays the price. Every single person.

  • Policraticus

    I am 100% for the prosecution of those U.S. officials indirectly or directly played a role in ordering the torture of prisoners. If that goes all the way to the Speaker of the House, the former Secretary of State, or even the former president, then so be it. No one said serving justice has to be popular with the American people. The precedent set by not prosecuting those who formally participated in torture (let us ignore those who feign ignorance of what the definition of torture is) is far worse than starting a precedent of exempting U.S. officials from standards of justice.

  • Can we get rid of the rest of them along with her (by them I mean politicians from both parties)? Joking, kinda of…

  • Well shoot, if we’re all going to congratulate ourselves on advocating things that won’t happen (and would probably have incredibly bad side effects if they did) I advocate that we convict the US government as a whole and all the state governments of crimes against humanity too many to number over the last couple centuries and abolish all of them.

    We can then allow all power to devolve to cities and towns which can all function as independant city states.

    Perhaps this is even something Michael and I can finally agree on…

  • Policraticus

    Well shoot, if we’re all going to congratulate ourselves on advocating things that won’t happen

    Who’s doing the self-congratulating?

  • What good is the U.N. Convention against Torture if we don’t enforce it?

  • M.Z.

    There are certainly arguments to be made for charges. The U.S.’s political support for torture needs to be addressed first though.

  • We can then allow all power to devolve to cities and towns which can all function as independent city states.

    MacIntyrian state baby! Bring back the polis!

    For me, I have no doubt that the independent and sovereign state of New Orleans would be one of the greatest nations in history.

  • Well shoot, if we’re all going to congratulate ourselves on advocating things that won’t happen (and would probably have incredibly bad side effects if they did) I advocate that we convict the US government as a whole and all the state governments of crimes against humanity too many to number over the last couple centuries and abolish all of them.

    Why stop there? — Reflecting the practices of old, we should exhume the body of President Truman and put him on trial for war crimes against Japan.

  • Policratius:

    The precedent set by not prosecuting those who formally participated in torture (let us ignore those who feign ignorance of what the definition of torture is) is far worse than starting a precedent of exempting U.S. officials from standards of justice.

    As Christopher notes above, that precedent has already been well set, from Truman to Sherman.

  • Policraticus

    As Christopher notes above, that precedent has already been well set, from Truman to Sherman.

    I don’t think Christopher intended to make an intelligent point with his comment. Though I now agree with you that the precedent is well set.

  • Truman was indeed a war criminal. But that does not mean we should adopt the Pope Formosus precedent!

  • M.Z.

    Precedent should be respected but not bowed down before.

    Hypocrasy makes the world go round. The world will survive it. We still have the political issue that is going to be difficult enough to address justly.

  • Policratus,

    Who’s doing the self-congratulating?

    There can be little purpose in advocating a course of practical action which one knows very well will not be followed other than to convey to the reader one’s own superiority of sentiment.

    Kyle,

    What good is the U.N. Convention against Torture if we don’t enforce it?

    I’m not aware of any other countries which have prosecuted the majority of their political leadership over such a small number of abuses — UN Convention or no. So whatever damage the Convention is in danger of suffering, it has suffered it numerous times since its writing.

    As for what good it is: It represents an international consensus that countries ought not to torture people. It would be best honored by not torturing people in the future. I’m not clear that jailing most of the executive and legislative branches is required, though.

    Generally,

    As for why not to prosecute: I don’t think that magnitude of the abuses, on a historic scale, justifies setting the precedent of having large scale after the fact political prosecutions. One of the dangers of such an approach is that it strongly encourages those who are in power to refuse to let go of it. For a famous example, recall that the Senate’s refusal to give Julius Caesar immunity from prosecution by his political enemies was one of the primary excuses he gave for leading his armies into Rome and seizing total power.

    Having those who have used their power badly living quietly in retirement may be embarrassing to the morally rigorist (or simply vengeful) among us, but it is generally far better than having them still in power.

    I think MZ hits pretty much the right tone: If one argues that having approved of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Guantanamo is a reason to be out of office, then Pelosi should lose her speakership. But there is no precedent for prosecuting her or the former administration, and every reason not to start such a precedent. (Which is why Obama, who has the wisdom of a stalk of grass on a windy day, will make no such move.)

  • David Nickol

    Truman was indeed a war criminal.

    I assume this is in regards to dropping the bomb. It may be reasonable to second-guess someone who was Commander-in-Chief during a world war, but I think calling him a “war criminal” is going a bit far. Churchill was in on the decision, and as I recall from reading his memoirs, he said there was simply no question that at that point, if the bomb could be used, it should be used. So I suppose Churchill is a war criminal, too.

    Is anybody who fights a modern war a “war criminal”? If so, then the term has no meaning.

  • jh

    Good gref How depressing. Who knew that Catholics were so hell bent on putting people in jail over issues that there is not clear cut defination on

    I hope you are never on a jury. You will no doubt not give the defandant a fair trial

    For all this talk of JUSTICE it appears that people working in good faith shall be taken from their families and becom felons and imprisoned

    Again amazing.

  • David Nickol

    For all this talk of JUSTICE it appears that people working in good faith shall be taken from their families and becom felons and imprisoned.

    jh,

    Do you really thing anyone is going to be tried, let alone convicted, let alone sent to prison?

    And where do you draw the line between “working in good faith” and “only following orders”? And what makes you think they were all acting in good faith?

  • M.Z.

    The issues are clear cut. That they aren’t to you is a personal deficit.

  • There can be little purpose in advocating a course of practical action which one knows very well will not be followed other than to convey to the reader one’s own superiority of sentiment.

    So it’s all about my “sentiment”, DC?

    No, I say these things because it is clear that the Washington establishment would be happy if they could get away with making pious noises and then letting this whole thing fade into some sort of passive-voice “mistakes-were-made” land where prosecutions and prison are for crack dealers and not for people who actually, you know, matter.

    Prosecutions will only happen if the American people demand them. I would think that Catholics especially would be keen to support this.

  • What good is the U.N. Convention against Torture if we don’t enforce it?

    Sadly, the purpose of the U.N. Convention against Torture, and any other pertinent international accords, is to provide legitimation for occasional exercises in moral onanism, as when we prosecute Liberian warlords for torture and other war crimes, or hector assorted third-world ne’er-do-wells for various and sundry offenses against human rights. That is, in the minds of the architects of the American foreign-policy consensus, such documents are equivocal and instrumental, meaning one thing for them, and quite another for us, and serving as tools of whatever we’ve deluded ourselves into believing makes us Special. Or Exceptional, as in the myth of American Exceptionalism. Quite obviously, to judge by the cacophony of Beltway and blogosphere sages caterwauling about the mere intimation of the possibility of prosecutions, as though torture were a technical policy quibble, such strictures were never intended – by us – to apply to our and our policies. This is not to discount the possibility of sound prudential considerations militating against it, of which this, in the case of the United States –

    One of the dangers of such an approach is that it strongly encourages those who are in power to refuse to let go of it.

    – is not one. Being parsed, it means that we should maintain a discreet silence when an administration articulates a theory of implied executive dictatorship and then tortures people under the fictive powers conjured by the theory, because if we don’t permit the executive to behave like a dictatorship on the DL, it might remove the pretenses of popular consent and openly avow itself a dictatorship (though I prefer the term junta). Either let them articulate a theory of dictatorship and gradually work their way into it, or they’ll just declare a dictatorship. Choices.

    In an unstable political system, this might be a rational calculus; in America, not so much. If our system cannot handle the truth about our leadership and what they have perpetrated, perhaps it’s time to pull the plug.

  • For all this talk of JUSTICE it appears that people working in good faith shall be taken from their families and becom felons and imprisoned

    funny…that’s exactly what hundreds of middle eastern families are thinking about the United States’ policy towards their sons, fathers, brothers at Guantanamo.

    At least Bush and Pelosi would be allowed a fair trial and representation.