Email this article to a friend

The ITT List

Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009, 2:56 pm

Bush, War Crimes and ‘Murder One’

By Jeremy Gantz

Email this article to a friend

American airwaves, newspapers and websites are now full of calls for torture accountability. Some have called for a "truth commission," while others, deriding that option, have called for a special Justice Department prosecutor to look into Bush administration torture crimes. But supporters of either option have tended to focus on investigating (and charging!) those who did the torturing or those who wrote the infamous "torture memos" released last week – John Yoo, Steven Bradbury, Jay Bybee, etc. Perhaps that's understandable, given how explosively memorable the memos are.

But Editor Mark Karlin pushes the debate forward (or should I say upward) today in this post, calling for charges of murder to be brought against Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney et. al...

Even for progessives, the news cycle has been shortened to a nano-second; and right now the focus is on the legalese used in the just-released memos to justify torture. And the Bush defenders are countering with an allegation that the torture of two or three suspects produced important information (which thus far has not been proven by any facts).

But in some ways, the focus on two or three Al Qaeda leaders has taken attention away from an organized system of torture that resulted in untold deaths, also known as murder.

For these murders, George W. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld -- who have always had a mean streak of sadism running through their blood, as they micro-managed torture and personally reviewed torture tapes -- should be charged and tried for War Crimes -- and Murder One.

If we do not bring justice to their deaths, who will?

Murder charges will never stick, of course: Bush and others at the highest posts never actually killed anyone with their own hands, nor did they approve policies that allowed the killing of detainees. Still, Karlin's thoughts are useful: We need to remember that by overseeing and approving the creation of an official system of torture that resulted in the deaths of detainees (Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff testified before Congress last year that a minimum of 25 people died in U.S. detention as a result of homicides), those at the top are just as guilty as those executing the policies for numerous deaths by torture.

Here's George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley's incisive take on why a "truth commission" is a ridiculous idea and why a special prosecutor ought to be appointed now:

Jeremy Gantz is a contributing editor at the magazine. He is the editor of The Age of Inequality: Corporate America's War on Working People (2017, Verso), and was the Web/Associate Editor of In These Times from 2008 to 2012.

View Comments