There's lots of talk these days about prosecuting Bush and Cheney for authorizing torture. Questions are floating around like, should we do it? can we do it? will we do it? And plenty of arguments pro and con.
But one thing is getting lost in this discussion. As Bush made clear in one of his exit interviews, he went well out of his way to get legal counsel and legal backup for every bit of torture he authorized.
Now we all know that a so-called Nuremberg Defense doesn't cut it any more. In the Nuremberg Defense, the one who commits war crimes knows they are illegal, but he maintains he was forced to commit them anyway. But war crimes can't be excused any more on grounds that, "He made me do it."
But Bush has a new defense. His defense is, "The lawyers told me it was legal." He maintains, "I asked them specifically, 'What can I do that is legal?', and this is what I was told."
Well, we all know who were the lawyers that Bush consulted: John Yoo, David Addington, Alberto Gonzalez, and the rest of that crew.
You remember John Yoo, don't you? The one who said the Geneva Conventions are "quaint"? The one who said torture is only treatment equivalent to major organ failure or death?
John Yoo and Co. were the enablers of the torture crimes of Bush and Cheney. If this were a bank robbery, John Yoo drove the car. If it were a murder, John Yoo provided the weapon, knowing full well what it would be used for.
So that raises the question: Shouldn't any prosecution for torture go right after John Yoo and the other lawyers who gave the green light? Just because they are lawyers "merely" giving legal advice, does that somehow let them off the hook? Or are they just as culpable as the people who authorized torture and the people who committed it?