President Barack “The Buck Stops Here” Obama is facing a novel outsourcing charge—outsourcing the enforcement of U.S. laws.
America is a nation of laws — laws enforced by Spain.
John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes and Douglas Feith wrote, authorized and promulgated the Justice Department “torture memos” that the Bush Administration used for legal cover. After World War II, German lawyers for the Ministry of Justice went to prison for similar actions.
We’ve known about Yoo et al.’s crimes for years. Yet — unlike their victims — they’re free as birds, fluttering around, writing op/ed columns … and teaching. At law school!
Obama has failed to match changes of tone with changes in substance on the issue of Bush’s war crimes. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he answered when asked whether he would investigate America’s worst human rights abuses since World War II. Indeed, there’s no evidence that Obama’s Justice Department plans to lift a finger to hold Bush or his henchmen accountable.
“They should arrest Obama for trying to impersonate a president,” one wag commented on The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Web site.
Fortunately for those who care about U.S. law, there are Spanish prosecutors willing to do their job. Baltasar Garzón, the crusading prosecutor who went after General Augusto Pinochet in the ’90s, will likely subpoena the Dirty Half Dozen within the next few weeks. “It would have been impossible to structure a legal framework that supported what happened [in Guantánamo]” without Gonzales and his pals,” argues the criminal complaint filed in Madrid.
When the six miscreants ignore their court dates (as they surely will), Spain will issue international arrest warrants enforceable in the 25 countries that are party to European extradition treaties.
Of course, just because something is enforceable doesn’t mean it will actually be enforced. Spain might enforce the warrants, other European countries might not. But this is about optics, as much as anything else. This is about expressing outrage at conduct that no civilized nation should engage in. This is about making a clear statement what civilized nations are obliged to do when infections of the body politic allow such conduct to occur. This is about condemning things that cry out for condemnation—both what the Bush administration did, and what Obama refuses to do, in clear violation of his constitutional obligations to enforce the law.
When a government practices torture — and then condones and justifies and defends the practice — that’s not something you can just consign to the “Kumbaya” campfire, as Obama is trying to do. Letting bygones be bygones is not a defensible option.
But hardly anyone is forcing Obama to defend his stance. And here’s how totally terrified the six lawyers targeted by the Spanish
Inquisition investigation are of the possibility of being held to account in the U.S.—in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Feith excrescence taunted Obama, daring him to investigate and prosecute:
If President Barack Obama and the prosecutors see a crime to be prosecuted, they can act.
Scott Horton reported yesterday that Spanish prosecutors are pressing on, continuing to shoulder the burden Obama has abdicated:
Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantanamo, several reliable sources close to the investigation have told The Daily Beast. Their decision is expected to be announced on Tuesday before the Spanish central criminal court, the Audencia Nacional, in Madrid.
The case arises in the context of a pending proceeding before the court involving terrorism charges against five Spaniards formerly held at Guantanamo. A group of human-rights lawyers originally filed a criminal complaint asking the court to look at the possibility of charges against the six American lawyers. Baltasar Garzon Real, the investigating judge, accepted the complaint and referred it to Spanish prosecutors for a view as to whether they would accept the case and press it forward. “The evidence provided was more than sufficient to justify a more comprehensive investigation,” one of the lawyers associated with the prosecution stated.
…contrary to a claim contained in an editorial on April 8 in the Wall Street Journal, the Obama State Department has been in steady contact with the Spanish government about the case. Shortly after the case was filed on March 17, chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza was invited to the U.S. embassy in Madrid to brief members of the embassy staff about the matter. A person in attendance at the meeting described the process as “correct and formal.” The Spanish prosecutors briefed the American diplomats on the status of the case, how it arose, the nature of the allegations raised against the former U.S. government officials. The Americans “were basically there just to collect information,” the source stated.The Spanish prosecutors advised the Americans that they would suspend their investigation if at any point the United States were to undertake an investigation of its own into these matters. They pressed to know whether any such investigation was pending. These inquiries met with no answer from the U.S. side.
That eloquent, deafening silence tells its own story.
Obama’s reluctance to hold the aiders and abetters of torture, and the deciders of torture, to account is all the more puzzling because polls show that the American public strongly supports such an accounting:
A new USA Today poll finds an overwhelming majority – 62%-34% – want an investigation of torture. Among those supporting an investigation, most want a criminal investigation, rather than a Truth Commission as proposed by Sen. Pat Leahy and Rep. John Conyers.
President Obama may not be willing to lead on this. But he’s not even willing to follow?