In some countries, they apparently take this sort of thing seriously:
In a ruling in Madrid today, Judge Baltasar Garzón has announced that an inquiry into the Bush administration’s torture policy makers now will proceed into a formal criminal investigation. The ruling came as a jolt following the recommendation of Spanish Attorney General Cándido Conde-Pumpido against proceeding with a criminal inquiry, reported in The Daily Beast on April 16.
Judge Garzón previously initiated and handled investigations involving Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Argentine “Dirty War” strategist Adolfo Scilingo and Guatemalan strongman José Efraín Ríos-Montt, often over the objections of the Spanish attorney general. His case against Pinochet gained international attention when the Chilean general was apprehended in England on a Spanish arrest warrant. Scilingo was extradited to Spain and is now serving a sentence of 30 years for his role in the torture and murder of some thirty persons, several of whom were Spanish citizens.
Garzón’s ruling today marks a decision to begin a formal criminal inquiry into the allegations of torture and inhumane treatment he has been collecting for several years now.
Looks like European vacations are out for the Bushies. If they don’t end up in the Hague, they’ll be spending plenty of quality time in a Spanish jail. This is all to the good.
Of course, Spain may be able to stop doing our jobs for us. It seems the opinion in some circles is that if the President admits the former administration committed war crimes, criminal investigations must necessarily follow:
First up: Dem Rep Jerrold Nadler, who just told me in an interview that Obama’s comments leave the administration only one legal option: Investigate, and if necessary, prosecute.
“President Obama said, `They used torture, I believe waterboarding is torture,’” Nadler said, speaking of Obama’s comments about his predecessors. “Once you concede that torture was committed, the law requires that there be an investigation, and if warranted, a prosecution.”
Nadler and other House Dems have already called on the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to look into potential torture crimes. Yesterday’s comments from Obama, Nadler says, make it clearer still that this is the only legal path open to the administration — in part because Obama seemed to acknowledge that his predecessors had violated “international law.”
Ooo, that’s gonna get some right-wing panties in a twist. But they have a defense! Nixon told them so:
There are all kinds of problems with the “Frost/Nixon” movie, but it’s hard to miss the significance of the disgraced president saying, “[I]f the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” It’s one of those iconic phrases the political world recognizes as the height of abuses of power. Illegal acts are not made legal by virtue of a leader’s whims.
It’s the kind of thing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should probably be aware of. And yet, there was Rice speaking with some students at Stanford University, when she was asked if waterboarding is, in her opinion, torture. Rice replied:
“[T]he United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”
I was especially impressed by Rice’s use of the phrase “by definition,” since it was literally the exact same phrase Nixon used to explain why presidents are incapable of committing crimes.
Digby expands on Steve’s observation about Condi’s comments, including more snippets of Condi’s supposed wisdom. I’m sorry the students at Stanford had to be sprayed with hoses of bullshit, but that’s what happens when Bushies are invited to talk about the law. I hope everybody got a good laugh.
Once we’re done clutching our sides, perhaps we could upstage the Spaniards. Prosecutions. Now.