Glenn Greenwald presents another compelling argument today at Salon that the 1988 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment legally obligates the Obama administration to prosecute Bush administration officials who authorized or participated in the use of torture:
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture. . . .
1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture..
Greenwald urges that, based on its treaty obligations, the U.S. has no prosecutorial discretion and must, as a matter of law, proceed to bring those who authorized torture to justice.
In the waning days of this Administration, its highest officials, including the President and Vice President themselves, have virtually lined up to preemptively - and unrepentently - acknowledge their roles in the direct authorization of so-called "enhanced interrogation methods."
It seems pretty clear this parade of admissions was coordinated in a parting effort to define the parameters of the debate that may follow. It may or may not work, particularly if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has her way on investigations.
Once the dust settles, I'd suggest that America will come to acknowledge that its standing in the world - and in its own eyes - will largely be determined by how it addresses the Bush legacy of torture.
As new information emerges as to the unimagined extent of these practises - and it will - the U.S. will have to decide a simple question that may well define the nation for generations to come:
Are you with us, or with the torturers?
In the meanwhile, the good news is that Bush, Cheney and their cronies appear to be already gone.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
UPDATE - January 20, 2009
See Keith Olberman's Special Comment on this topic: They're guilty of this, Mr. President-Elect. They're guilty as sin