By Dennis Loo
In his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, Leon Panetta, Obama’s pick for the CIA directorship, “said there is no intention to hold CIA officers responsible for the policies they were told to carry out. CIA interrogators who used waterboarding or other harsh techniques against prisoners with the permission of the White House should not be prosecuted.” (Pamela Hess, “Panetta: Obama won’t ok ‘extraordinary rendition,’” The Daily Transcript, February 5, 2009.)
"Individuals,” Panetta said, “who operated pursuant to a legal opinion that indicated that that was proper and legal ought not to be prosecuted or investigated."
This declaration echoes what Eric Holder, the new U.S. Attorney General said in his Senate confirmation testimony: ‘[W]here it is clear that a government agent has acted in ‘reasonable and good-faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions’ authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full-blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.”
As I pointed out recently, legal memos from the likes of sycophantic lawyers such as John Yoo and Jay Bybee saying that the president could order a child’s testicles to be crushed if it was in the defense of America, are as weighty legally as fairy dust.
The Nuremberg verdict on Nazi war criminals – whose legal defense was that they were “only following orders” – held, as everyone knows, or ought to know, that “following orders” is no excuse.
Barack Obama is a constitutional lawyer who has no doubt heard of Nuremberg. Eric Holder is now the chief legal officer of the United States. Leon Panetta is likely going to be the new CIA Director.
These men want Americans to believe that “following orders” to commit crimes against humanity entitles those who did this to get off scot-free for their heinous acts.
This is “change we can believe in”?
Obama, Holder and Panetta want us to believe that those in the Bush White House, beginning with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice who promulgated these monstrous policies of torture, were acting in good faith when they ordered that prisoners be tortured and in some instances beaten or suffocated to death.
If Obama and his crew get away with this sleight of hand trick of claiming on the one hand that they will not torture, but that those on the other hand who did torture must not be prosecuted, then the Obama Administration will have overruled Nuremberg and put themselves irrevocably in the infamous camp of those who enable grievous crimes against humanity.
Does anyone among us doubt that any future American president can get some willing attorneys to give them a “legal” opinion that whatever they do is kosher, as long as it is wrapped in the red, white and blue?
No one in the future could be prosecuted for grave crimes since Bush and Cheney et al got away with it.
The rule of law will be a dead letter. It is now, as a result of the Bush regime, on life support, with the Obama Administration starting to pull the plug out of the wall.
It doesn’t matter how many times President Obama and his cabinet declare solemnly “no one is above the law.” They could say it a million times and it won’t matter.
Will Americans allow Obama and his people to commit this atrocity and allow the Bush gang to go unpunished for their terrible deeds?
Matters of this momentousness cannot be left to others. They must be taken hold of by people of conscience with both hands and not relinquished till hell freezes over.