John Dean Warms My Heart


I loves me some John Dean. For those of you who don’t know who the fuck I’m talking about, he’s the author of Conservatives Without Conscience, a FindLaw columnist, and former White House counsel to none other than Tricky Dick. There is no one on earth who can wield the Smack-o-Matic 3000 like a former Republican who had his ideals utterly shattered by the president he served.

His columns are always an education. Today, it was also a delight. John begins with a solid whack to Con bottoms that put a grin on my face from ear-to-ear:

Remarkably, the confirmation of President Obama’s Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, is being held up by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who apparently is unhappy that Holder might actually investigate and prosecute Bush Administration officials who engaged in torture. Aside from this repugnant new Republican embrace of torture (which might be a winning issue for the lunatic fringe of the party and a nice way to further marginalize the GOP), any effort to protect Bush officials from legal responsibility for war crimes, in the long run, will not work.

Isn’t that gorgeous? “A nice way to further marginalize the GOP.” I loves it.

But that’s not the blood and the bone of this column. No, he’s talking about the potential for prosecutions, and it’s looking good:

Bush’s Torturers Have Serious Jeopardy

Philippe Sands, a Queen’s Counsel at Matrix Chambers and Professor of International law at University College London, has assembled a powerful indictment of the key Bush Administration people involved in torture in his book Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values. He explains the legal exposure of people like former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney’s counsel and later chief of staff David Addington, former Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo, the former Department of Defense general counsel Jim Haynes, and others for their involvement in the torture of detainees at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and CIA secret prisons.

After reading Sands’s book and, more recently, listening to his comments on Terry Gross’s NPR show “Fresh Air,” on January 7, 2009 I realized how closely the rest of the world is following the actions of these former officials, and was reminded that these actions appear to constitute not merely violations of American law, but also, and very literally, crimes against humanity – for which the world is ready to hold them responsible.

Go, world! Woot!

The following is my email exchange with Professor Sands:

QUESTION: When talking to Ms. Gross you said you were not calling for such international investigations because we all need more facts. Given the fact that Judge Susan Crawford has now made clear that torture occurred, do you – and others with your expertise and background – have sufficient information to call for other countries to take action if the Obama Administration fails to act?

ANSWER: Last week’s intervention by Susan Crawford, confirming that torture occurred at Guantanamo, is highly significant (as I explain in a piece I wrote with Dahlia Lithwick: “The Turning Point: How the Susan Crawford interview changes everything we know about torture”). The evidence as to torture, with all that implies for domestic and foreign criminal investigation, is compelling. Domestic and foreign investigators already have ample evidence to commence investigation, if so requested or on their own account, even if the whole picture is not yet available. That has implications for the potential exposure of different individuals, depending on the nature and extent of their involvement in acts that have elements of a criminal conspiracy to subvert the law.

Heaven. I think I’m in… heaven.

QUESTION: Do you believe that a failure of the Obama Administration to investigate, and if necessary, prosecute, those involved in torture would make them legally complicit in the torture undertaken by the Bush Administration?

ANSWER: No, although it may give rise to violations by the United States of its obligations under the Torture Convention. In the past few days there have been a series of significant statements: that of Susan Crawford, of former Vice President Cheney’s confirming that he approved the use of waterboarding, and by the new Attorney General Eric Holder that he considers waterboarding to be torture. On the basis of these and other statements it is difficult to see how the obligations under Articles 7(1) and (2) of the Torture Convention do not cut in: these require the US to “submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution”.

This is sublime. If we don’t take these fuckers down, other countries could very easily do so. And I hope to fuck they have the political will. I count it a good sign Britain’s already got an investigation going.

Look, world. Don’t worry about the politics of this thing. Just apply some judicious pressure. Insist we try the war criminals. Poor Obama, he didn’t want to engage in “looking back,” but, y’know, there were those laws we have and the treaties we signed and all that pesky legal stuff, so we kinda sorta had to prosecute the fuckers who turned America into a nation of torturers. Darn the luck.

Really, it’ll be just devastating if you force us to hold our leaders accountable, but we’ll cope somehow.

And hey, aren’t you really doing Bush et al a big ol’ favor? Cuz they’re under a cloud and stuff, and like John says:

One would think that people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Gonzales, Yoo, Haynes and others, who claim to have done nothing wrong, would call for investigations to clear themselves if they really believed that to be the case. Only they, however, seem to believe in their innocence – the entire gutless and cowardly group of them, who have shamed themselves and the nation by committing crimes against humanity in the name of the United States.

Just so. On to the Hague!