Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama's Duty to Prosecute

Here are two articles that clearly spell out Obama's duty to prosecute those who committed or authorized war crimes in the form of torture:

"Obama Stands Nuremberg On Its Head" by Mike Farrell.

"Not the Better Part of Valor: Obama's Duty to Prosecute Torturers" by Marjorie Cohen.

Here's my response to the first article:

I am a graduate of the military’s SERE program, the well-documented source of torture techniques used by the CIA. For me, it is obvious that what the CIA did was torture, and therefore a war crime. SERE was set up to train soldiers and flyers to resist torture in case they ever found themselves captured. The whole idea of the program was to teach this type of “resistance” (the R in the name). The techniques used by SERE cadre came from Chinese torture techniques used in the Korean War (and from the sadistic imaginations of “hell week” trained cadre). We all knew these techniques were torture; that was the point.

The parallel with Nuremberg is not the severity of the crime; the parallel is that a war crime was committed and the legal question is whether someone should be held accountable for that crime if they were following orders. I am confident that the torturers in question were trained, as I was during SERE training, on the Geneva Conventions, and that they knew they were torturing. They also knew that they had a legal obligation not to commit war crimes, not to torture. My training made this abundantly clear.

I am not trained as a lawyer, but the question for me is whether Obama is putting himself above the law by *deciding* not to uphold the constitution when war crimes were obviously committed. It seems to me that Obama is legally obligated to uphold the constitution, and therefore legally obligated to prosecute potential war criminals, including the CIA agents, the lawyers who helped justify their crimes, and those who gave the ultimate orders: Bush and Rumsfeld.

I supported Obama in the election, so it saddens me to think that his *decision* to put himself above the law in this way may be an impeachable crime. Of course, it gets really messy if we consider that many democrats have been guilty of such crimes, of not upholding the constitution, for a while now (Pelosi and Reid) for not prosecuting these war crimes earlier: keeping such prosecutions “off the table” for political reasons. This is all unclear to me because I am not a lawyer, but Bush put himself above the law (with the help of Yoo and friends) by ordering torture (and wiretapping). I felt he should have been impeached for it long ago, and I feel he still should be prosecuted.

We need a big reminder that kings aren’t allowed here in the US. Presidents can’t *decide* whether or not to follow and/or uphold the law. If they *decide* not to uphold the law, to betray their oath (botched or not) for political expediency, they should be impeached. Doesn’t Obama, a constitutional scholar of sorts, understand what his duty is here? He has a duty to uphold the constitution first and foremost. He is not fit for the job if he doesn’t do his duty.

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