So, it's hardly news 'round these parts that there's what one might call a distinct possibility the United States (alongside various allies, my own country, the UK, amongst them) may have been naughty and made a boo-boo with regard to its obligations to not commit war-crimes. However, what is new is that, through the clear implication of his words today, we may have a new case for asking the support of one Barack Obama in investigating such incidents, not to mention following-up on any findings of such investigations.
Backing up a tad, between evidence that the ongoing sojourn in Iraq constitutes a war of aggression, that the treatment of detainees at various sites has on numerous occasions crossed the torture threshold, as well as a few other less prominently-known examples, it doesn't appear to be too much of a stretch of the imagination to reach the conclusion that some such charges just might have merit. Indeed, the leaked ICRC report linked to above concludes that
"The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."
However, whilst Congress has at least made some modest, perfunctory efforts to begin proceedings on these matters, including the recently-failed proposition of a Truth and Reconciliations Commission and the even more recent talk of requesting a special prosecutor, the administrative branch has at least appeared to be, if anything, even less inclined towards such proceedings.
However, today, whilst in Prague, President Obama made a speech, and an excellent speech it was, addressing a variety of pressing international issues. Near the end of his oratorical tour-de-force, however, my ears really pricked up when he stated that "America broke the rules... Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent..."
Alright, alright, you caught me, my fellow fact-checking Kossacks, the President didn’t actually say that – well, not quite, at any rate. He said most of it, and I truly don't think I've significantly altered the logical or legal foundations nor progression of his argument. What you may have noticed, however, is that I did rather fudge the subjects of his quotation. The President was, of course, referencing the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons and the country in violation of the rules in question was North Korea.
I think that it's entirely fair to write to President Obama and ask in which respects his arguments regarding the necessity of obeying international law and the necessity to stand in opposition to those who would violate it, are not applicable to the question of war crimes committed by members of the Bush administration, and to request that he follow both his words and his conscience in asking Attorney-General Eric Holder to look into these matters. Failing that, it might make a decent premise for a LTE submission to some of your newspapers – preferably by someone better skilled with words (or at least succinctness) than I.
I appreciate that President Obama is only a few months into his term, I appreciate that this is an extremely delicate issue, politically, I appreciate that he may in fact agree with us and want to take this matter on but is waiting for the public to, as one of his predecessors famously put it, "...now make me do it." However, if that is the case, we need to, y'know, make him do it, and if it's not, then, well, we need to make him do it in that case as well. If this idea plays even a teeny-teeny-tiny </Rachel-mode> part in helping that to occur then I'll be a very satisfied bunny indeed.