Sunday, July 12, 2009

Will Obama have you cheering for Cheney?

Washington Post reports on a proposal concerning torture prosecutions that the office of the US Attorney General has leaked to the press:
. . . the sources said an inquiry would apply only to activities by interrogators, working in bad faith, that fell outside the "four corners" of the legal memos.
In other words, only supposedly "rogue" low-level CIA operatives would face prosecution for torture. And the criteria for prosecution would not be torture, but activities that fell outside of the legal memos written by Bush legal council John Yoo. By this criteria, 1) Under Obama, a precedent will have been set whereby a president's lawyer writes the law. Needless to say, that's no law at all; 2) Only low-level people would be prosecuted -- which of course, is wrong.

In fact, point #2 is so wrong that it makes Cheney right (relative to Obama, that is). Prosecuting only army or CIA officers (as was done in the case of Abu Ghraib) and letting high level people in the Bush Administration or Congress off the hook for having authorized torture is immoral. Cheney, for his part, is on record as having declared that he will go bat for anyone who faces prosecution for torture under his watch. Back in April I blogged:
I'll say this for Cheney: unlike the current occupant of the White House, the former VP has spoken with a sense of conviction on the topic of torture. Seizing the vacuum of national leadership on the issue, Cheney is on the offensive, promising to stand up for anyone who followed his orders. That's what a leader says. Thanks to Obama's "let's move on" blather regarding the most serious crimes, Cheney is actually staking out some moral ground for himself (call it "honor among thieves"). I can't think of anyone associated with the Obama Administration who has shown Cheney's tenacity on the other side of the debate. And I think that's appalling.
Of course, it remains to be seen if Cheney meant what he said.

But if only CIA officers are put on trial by the Obama Administration (John Yoo's memos having been declared law of the land), and Cheney shows up in court as a witness for the defense, who among us won't be cheering for Cheney?

Photo by Jotman, shows Dick Cheney leaving Congress after a Senate vote in July 2008. Hat-tip Greenwald.

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