Thursday, April 16, 2009

In A Disgraceful Decision, Obama Administration Overrules Nuremberg And Holds That "I Was Only Following Orders" Is A Complete Defense To War Crimes.

"Befehl ist Befehl." Memorize it. Inscribe it on the flag. "Order is Order." "I was only following orders" is apparently a complete defense to charges of international war crimes or even murder. Boy are we going backwards.

The Nuremberg Defense is a term that refers to the efforts by some Nazi war criminals to defend themselves from war crimes charges by claiming that they were only following orders of their superiors. The Nuremberg courts rightly held that was not a defense. Each individual is responsible for his own conduct, and must be held accountable if he participates in war crimes.

The United States as well as most of the anti-Nazi nations during World War II preempted this anticipated defense when they issued the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, which specifically held that a claim of "following orders" was not a valid defense against war crimes charges. Nuremberg Principle IV:

"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

But today President Obama has apparently decided that U.S. citizens may participate in international war crimes, torture, even murder, without any fear of subsequent prosecution or other liability for their conduct. Bush and Cheney used their office to essentially hold people down while they were tortured or murdered, and Obama turned his back on the pleas of the victims, and allowed the criminals to escape. Well they didn't really have to flee. They're sitting in D.C., getting a paycheck from taxpayers, in air-conditioned offices, laughing their asses off.

I fundamentally disagree with this decision. President Obama says he wants to move forward. I say that if we do not have open hearings and tribunals, charge those who have committed crimes (war crimes and financial crimes), prosecute them, imprison them, stand up to the world, stand up for the people of this nation, and say we are a nation of laws and those laws are enforced against the rich and powerful as well as the weak and powerless, then our democracy is lost. Our constitution is just a quaint yellowed piece of paper to be paraded out on July 4th, but otherwise ignored. This is a disgraceful decision.

Because of this decision, the next time the Republicans get into office (and they inevitably will) they will not only kidnap, torture and murder people from other countries, but they will do the same to American citizens. After all, they can now cite to the liberal President Obama to support their immunity from any liability for their conduct.

A.P. "Seeking to move beyond what he calls a "a dark and painful chapter in our history," President Barack Obama said Thursday that CIA officials who used harsh interrogation tactics during the Bush administration will not be prosecuted. "

"The government also released four memos long held secret by the Bush administration in which its lawyers approved in extensive and often graphic detail the tough interrogation methods used against 28 terror suspects, the fullest and now complete government accounting of the techniques.
The rough tactics range from waterboarding — simulated drowning — to using a plastic neck collar to slam detainees into walls."

"Even as they exposed new details of the interrogation program, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, offered the first definitive assurance that those CIA officials are in the clear, as long as their actions were in line with the legal advice at the time."

"We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history," the president said. "But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."


  1. I keep hearing the defense that the torture yielded results that protected us, as if the ends justify the means. It's o.k. to break the law if there is a benefit is their argument.

  2. Jeff: The alleged crime isn't "Torturing Without Getting Information." It's just Torture. The law prohibits or forbids torture.

    Cheney is raising this argument because if he is criminally charged for directing torture, he will demand that the U.S. Government must turn over to him all the information they obtained from any source, from any prisoner, which information may be valuable. The government will refuse on the grounds the information is top secret. He will ask the court to dismiss the charges since the government refuses to give him the information he needs for his "defense."

    When Cheney came out this week and "demanded" Eric Holder release all the information, he was sending a message to Obama and Holder: if you charge me, I will get off.

    That's why it's so important that we begin to explain, in every possible forum, that "getting information" is not a defense to the charges. The people who have run the U.S. assault on the middle east -- kidnap, torture, murder, invade, bomb, attack, steal the resources, kill all the nonwhites -- they would always claim they got information that "helped" them to accomplish their goals.

    Hillary Clinton was quoted today as saying the people in Iraq who keep blowing things up and fighting are "rejectionists." That's funny, I thought they were Al Queda in Iraq, Terrorists, Jihadists. I can't keep straight all the names. Or maybe they're just patriots who will fight to the death against any other country that invades and takes over theirs. There's a thought.

    The fact that we should never have been in Iraq is a small point that we seem to keep ignoring. As Obama takes on the Lyndon Johnson role of making it his war, it appears that the only way the U.S. will get out of this terrible situation is if the people get loud and demand withdrawal. Out Now.