(Least of all, George W. Bush and his band of merry torturers).
When we found out via WikiLeaks that the Obama Administration had pressured Spain to drop its investigation and prosecution of the so-called Bush Six, a team of lawyers who slimily wormed their way out of the Geneva Conventions and gave the thumbs-up for W. to authorize the torture of Gitmo detainees, there was outrage. We knew Obama had said prosecuting the previous administration for its war crimes was off the table in the interest of moving forward - but we never guessed he would be pressuring the rest of the world to ignore international treaties, too. So a consortium of human rights organizations will be delivering a petition to the government and people of Spain on Monday, urging that the prosecution go forward. Here is the request for signatures/ text of the letter:
The Obama administration declared last year that it would not pursue prosecutions, ignoring the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Recent documents released by WikiLeaks demonstrate that the Obama government has been heavily pressuring Spanish authorities not to pursue prosecution.
Add your name to our letter to Spain.
To the people of Spain
From the people of the United States of America
We are writing to thank you and to ask for your support as your courts consider cases to bring American officials to justice for the crime of torture. A Spanish judge, acting under international law, will soon decide whether to investigate U.S. officials' roles in authorizing torture. We hope you agree that such cases must go forward, despite pressure from the Obama administration to drop them.
The organizations signing this letter represent hundreds of thousands in the American public who believe the U.S. government must be held to the same rule of law as other countries. We are profoundly disappointed that our own government refuses to prosecute former officials, despite open admissions and government documents showing that they approved torture.
It will take a public show of support for the case to withstand pressures from Washington. WikiLeaks cables show the extremes to which U.S. officials have gone to thwart any attempt by Spain or other countries to uphold justice. We applaud the courage shown by Spanish officials who insist on giving priority to the rule of law.
Despite earlier assertions by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder that waterboarding is torture, former President George W. Bush publicly stated three times last year that he authorized waterboarding and added proudly that he would do it again. In a TV interview aired on November 8, Bush said he considered waterboarding legal "because the lawyer said it was legal." Waterboarding and other forms of torture were banned by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by the United States in 1994.
If international law is to serve any useful purpose, other countries must condemn violations "by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment," in the words of the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg.
We sincerely hope that the citizens of Spain and its judiciary will dispel the notion that any country is above the law.
The timing of the petition's delivery is deliberate. Valentines Day is an important holiday in Spain.
Among the many organizations backing the effort are CodePink Women for Peace, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, High Road for Human Rights, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and Progressive Democrats of America. To sign the petition, go to RootsAction.org. March 1 is the deadline set by Judge Eloy Velasco on his decision whether or not to prosecute the Bush Six.
The case stems from the role of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five government lawyers in authorizing the torture of five Spanish detainees then held at Guantanamo. The other potential defendants are Federal Appeals Court Judge John Bybee, then an assistant in DOJ; Dick Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington; University of California Law Professor and former deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo; former Defense Department Counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II; and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith.
At least one other country - Switzerland - has an indictment pending against Bush, who recently cancelled a speaking gig in Geneva for fear of being arrested.
Here is what the people of Spain will be seeing in newspapers and on billboards. After Obama's waffling on Egyptian democracy and growing social unrest here at home, we hope he is taking notice that the people are taking notice. We hope signs like these will soon be popping up within our own borders. As late historian Howard Zinn told that most humanistic of New York Times columnists, Bob Herbert, change always comes from the bottom up.