Saturday, February 12, 2011

I'm Still Wishin for a Spanish Inquisition

(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  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.


annenigma said...

Good point, but why worry about the past when we have the Patriot Act authorizing the same stuff, and worse, to happen in the present and future, right here in America against American citizens? We should demand that the Patriot Act be abolished. Now.

We will never have a better opportunity to demand this. First of all, Obama wants to win re-election in the WORST way. Second, he is a weak President. He bends to pressure. Right now that is only coming from the Right for their tax cut extensions and more.

We have made no demands of this President, simply because he was supposed to be a Democrat. Right now he thinks our votes are a foregone conclusion. Not mine.

Couldn't this be one item that right, middle, and left could agree on? I see no greater threat to our freedoms and to Democracy than the Patriot Act. As long as the Patriot Act exists, our rights are at enormous risk, existing at the pleasure and whim of the sitting President, whoever that may be. Now THAT is scary.

Anonymous said...

I can see a grater threat to our freedom. That would be trying and succeeding in getting any international agencies or god forbid the U.N. any authority over U.S. citizens on American soil.

Anonymous said...

It' interesting that you hope for another Spanish Inquisition. It's equally interesting that your group of "human rights experts" picked Spain a country with one of the worst records involving torture and human rights in the world for your campaign. However you overlooked the opportunity of having someone channel the shade of General Franco to support your cause. The General was somewhat of an authority on the subject of torture and death squads too.

God's speed in your work the world desperately needs a new Spanish Inqisition.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymouse,

We did not "pick" Spain to prosecute the war criminals. Its justice system had already undertaken that effort, and some of us are just giving it a little encouragement.

It is indeed ironic that a nation with a long sordid history of murderous imperialism and human rights abuses seems to have turned the page. It even prosecuted the monstrous Chilean dicator Pinochet when nobody else would touch him. And now they are targeting a group of war criminals who have channeled Torquemada and Franco into their own collective psyche. Even the pacifistic Swiss, known for their neutrality and shielding of the secret bank accounts of criminal financiers, are taking a stand and drawing up papers against Bush.

Karen Garcia

Anonymous said...

The Swiss are not pacifists they are armed to the teeth, believe in universal military service and the reservists keep their automatic weapons at home. The Swiss are neutral, there is a difference, ask the Germans!

The Spanish government 35 years after Franco still has not prosecuted their own death squads and torturers or done much for the dead and tortured including identify them. While you all are at it possibly you can get them to clean their own house too. The toll is placed at more than 450,000 dead That is like putting Iran on the U.N. Women's rights commission!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about this, it's good to know that someone is doing something about this. So what if Spain isn't perfect. Who on earth is?
That whole "looking forward" idea from Obama was irresponsible. And typical. He will not have my vote.

Anonymous said...

Once again Obama can't win. He masterfully steers the Egyptian revolt to a successful conclusion. Mubarak gone and civilians working with the army yo run the country, but Obama gets zero credit. The Republicans will never acknowledge his positive role that is accepted. The liberal Democrats however are surprising. I think they feel that after slamming his cautious and moderate approach, they can hardly celebrate the stunning success of this approach. So, a cone of silence was descended over Obama's moment of triumph. A dam shame.

Anonymous said...

You might want to wait a bit to see what happens in Egypt. They have had the army running the country since 1952. The army may play the it's us or the Muslim Brotherhood card and they might be right.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous comment from 5pm feb 14: "He masterfully steers..."
Are you kidding? The administration wasn't steering, kid. It was desperately swimming after a boat that had already left the dock.
You might have noticed that over 300 Egyptians lost their lives while Obama fusted about the Oval Office, wondering what to do. What little progress was made is due to the brave Egyptian people, and not that cool poseur in the White House.
I'll be voting for Spitzer, thank you.

DreamsAmelia said...

Dear annenigma,

Be assured, if Bush & Co were serving behind bars in repentance for torture (made no less despicable no matter how much time passes), The Patriot Act would be rendered moot like so much water under the bridge....

The Patriot Act is the natural over-sweep of a country that does not prosecute its torturers. All sorts of legislation restoring the rights of ordinary people from unlawful search and seizure, torture, and rendition would spring up if we actually prosecuted those who tortured in the last decade.

Currently, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of our government dance a minuet of unified over-reach against us, the ordinary people, who would prefer, thank you very much, not to have our hard drives confiscated and copied every time we travel to Haiti.

But landing Bush and Co in jail would be removing the chink that would cause the whole wall to crumble. Ain't gonna happen from the politicians. It takes _US!_: ordinary people who understand, not only are "we all Egypt," we are also "all anonymously rendered and tortured suspects" who still rot in Guantanamo and "black sites" around the world with no accountability from our government or the media. We could remove that chink if we wanted to.

Ask Egypt.

Anonymous said...

Aren't all of you getting a little out in front of yourselves? don't we usually indite someone, and have a trial prior to declaring them guilty and putting them in jail? Although the Communist party in both the CCCP and China did do things your way, jail and the verdict first and the trial later or not. After all if your in jail you must be guilty right?

Walter said...

Sign me on to prosecute those who are guilty of torture. The US initiated the Nuremberg Trial of Nazi war criminals. The US must do the same if there is ever a closure for those who died needlessly in the invasion of Iraq based on lies.