But it's not as if it lacked drama; it was "Judgment at Nuremberg" turned upside down. Specialist Graner's defense lawyer, Guy Womack, explained it this way in his closing courtroom statement: "In Nuremberg, it was the generals being prosecuted. We were going after the order-givers. Here the government is going after the order-takers."
. . .While Mr. Womack's client, the ringleader of the abuses seen in the Abu Ghraib photographs, deserved everything that was coming to him and then some, there have yet to be any criminal charges leveled against any of the prison's officers, let alone anyone higher up in the chain of command. . . . Maybe we don't want to know that the abuses were widespread and systematic, stretching from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to unknown locales where "ghost detainees" are held. Or that they started a year before the incidents at Abu Ghraib. Or that they have been carried out by many branches of the war effort, not just Army grunts. Or that lawyers working for Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales gave these acts a legal rationale that is far more menacing to encounter in cold type than the photo of Prince Harry's costume-shop armband.
As Mr. Danner shows in his book, all this and more can be discerned from a close reading of the government's dense investigative reports and the documents that have been reluctantly released (or leaked). Read the record, and the Fort Hood charade is unmasked for what it was: the latest attempt to strictly quarantine the criminality to a few Abu Ghraib guards and, as Mr. Danner writes, to keep their actions "carefully insulated from any charge that they represent, or derived from, U.S. policy - a policy that permits torture." The abuses may well be going on still. Even as the Graner trial unfolded, The New York Times reported that a secret August 2002 Justice Department memo authorized the use of some 20 specific interrogation practices, including "waterboarding," a form of simulated drowning that was a torture of choice for military regimes in Argentina and Uruguay in the 1970's . . . The practice of torture by Americans is not only ugly in itself. It conjures up the specter of defeat. We can't "win" the war in Iraq if we lose the battle for public opinion in the Middle East. At the gut level, Americans know that the revelations of Abu Ghraib coincided with - and very likely spurred - the ruthlessness of an insurgency that has since taken the lives of many brave United States troops who would never commit the lawless acts of a Charles Graner or seek some ruling out of Washington that might countenance them.
History tells us that in these cases a reckoning always arrives, and Mr. Danner imagines that "in five years, or maybe sooner, there will be a TV news special called 'Torture: How Did It Happen?' " Even though much of the script can be written now, we will all be sure to express great shock.
For the past few weeks, we have been treated to a number of statements from Democratic Senators such as Schumer, Dodd, Biden and Feingold regarding the level of deference a President is accorded in the formation of his Cabinet. These Senators, among others, have argued that the standard of review for a Cabinet position nominee is lower than that applied to a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, especially the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Senators making this argument are good Democrats, trying to do what's right. Moreover, I agree with their view that the deference owed a President in choosing his Cabinet is much higher than that owed to a President's appointments to the federal bench, especially the Supreme Court. But higher deference is not the equivalent of a free pass. Some standards remain. Otherwise there would be no role at all for the Senate.
Alberto Gonzales can not, by any measure, meet the minimum standard required to approve his confirmation as Attorney General of the United States of America. Many would quibble about his qualifications - Gonzales' record as a transactional attorney at Vinson & Elkins, his short stint on the Texas Supreme Court, and his performance as counsel to the President are fairly thin for qualifications to be Attorney General. Others would point to his stonewalling the 9/11 Commission. Still others focus on his shoddy work reviewing clemency appeals from death row inmates for then-Governor Bush in Texas. All of these matters raise serious questions about Gonzales' fitness for the post of Attorney General.
But one issue unconditionally DISQUALIFIES Gonzales as an acceptable choice for Attorney General - his indefensible role in providing a legal apologia for torture as official policy of the United States. More in Extended.
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