Quote of the day--miscreants with publishing deals edition

>> Thursday, September 01, 2011

[Dick Cheney's] developed an angst and almost a protective cover, and now he fears being tried as a war criminal so he uses such terminology as "exploding heads all over Washington" because that's the way someone who's decided he's not going to be prosecuted acts: boldly, let's get out in front of everybody, let's act like we are not concerned and so forth when in fact they are covering up their own fear that somebody will Pinochet him.
-Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, quoted in
"Ex-Powell aide: Dick Cheney fears
prosecution for war crimes"
, MSNBC.com,
August 31st, 2011

And well he should. Pinochet, you may recall, spent almost a year-and-a-half detained by the British for war crimes charges filed in Spain, before finally getting all pending charges there and in his home country, Chile, dismissed through the cunning legal stratagem of dropping dead. (If there is in fact a Hell, as some faiths claim, I'm sure the good general may be found burning there.) The United States will never follow its legal obligations under international treaty, but there's always a chance that someone else in the world might take action. (A subject that I previously discussed at some length in at least two earlier pieces quite a long while back: "Mr. Bush, homebound" and "Tonight the part of Baltasar Garzón will be played by Baltasar Garzón", if you're interested; I won't rehash the whole thing here.)

While Colonel Wilkerson's jabs are trenchant, they're also, regrettably, personal: Col. Wilkerson was an aide to former Secretary Of State Colin Powell, who came out on the worse end of an internal power struggle in the G.W. Bush White House, and he seems to have had his own personal falling-out with Cheney on top of that. It might be nice if we were hearing something along these lines from somebody who didn't have an alleged personal or partisan stake in these things. Indeed, a big problem here is that I'm sure Wilkerson's observation will be too-eagerly dismissed by people who think that a discussion of Dick Cheney's possible criminal culpability is political theatre and too-quickly embraced by people for whom a Cheney prosecution would be political theatre. Wilkerson's jabs are, rather, pointed because Cheney, like George W. Bush, has put himself and his country in the rather awkward position of having to deal with or ignore violations of Federal law and international treaty or ignore them; worse yet, we're talking about violations of a treaty that the United States actively pushed because it seemed so self-evidently consistent with our values and revulsion at torture. That America does not torture (or didn't until after 9/11) was a principle so basic that a far-lefty like myself could agree that joining the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was a clear and undeniable achievement of President Ronald Reagan, foremost icon of the modern American right; if Ronald Reagan and an unrepentant socialist like myself agree on something, wouldn't you agree it's pretty basic?

Also like G.W. Bush, Cheney has put himself in an interesting position legally insofar as he's evidently written a book that all but challenges a prosecutor somewhere in the world to indict him with it and use it as evidence against him if the case proceeds to trial. I say this without having read either gentleman's memoir, based on what I'm seeing in excerpts and reviews, which appears to be that Cheney is now taking credit for the "tough decisions" regarding rendition and treatment of detainees that Mr. Bush has already accepted responsibility for. An oddity here is that (at least as far as I can tell from those excerpts and reviews) Mr. Bush appears to be doing so with an eye towards actually inviting a trial while suggestions are that Mr. Cheney is doing so with a certain degree of arrogance; that is, Bush possibly deserves some dubious credit if his hope is that he will in fact have a day in court to defend his actions in office and be vindicated as a hero or go down as a martyr, while it's sounding like Cheney may, as Wilkerson says, be blustering and doesn't think anyone has the cojones to take him on. The one attitude is brave, at least; as to the other, Mr. Cheney may find out he's mistaken. Of course, take all this with mounds of salt: I confess I don't intend to read either of these volumes and that probably disqualifies anything I've said in this paragraph.

Just not the rest of it: look, whether Pinochet would in fact have ever stood trial remains an unknown. Chilean authorities went through years of back-and-forth-ing over Pinochet's legal status, mental and physical health; granting and revoking immunity from prosecution; dismissal and reinstatement of charges; a whole round-and-round over whether or not he was immune to extradition. And then he kicked the bucket and it was all over but the burying and dancing on the grave (which, I believe, was commenced posthaste). But regardless of how it might have turned out if everything had gone forward, don't lose sight of the fact that Spain indicted a Chilean national who was then arrested and held in Britain for sixteen months while the Brits decided how to get rid of him while pissing off as few of their allies as possible; meanwhile (it's worth keeping in mind, too) there were at least three other countries--Belgium, France and Switzerland--supporting Spain's extradition request and the Spanish request was backed by the United Nations.

The point being, as I said back in 2009, that Cheney (and G.W. Bush) probably shouldn't plan on leaving the country, if there's the possibility Spain (or somebody) will indict them under universal jurisdiction principles and then they might be arrested by a third party state and held for some indefinite period of time while nations bickered over who gets to habeas their corpus. And considering this possibility isn't nearly as unrealistic or unimaginable as some readers might think, the additional point might be to wonder why Messrs. Bush and Cheney aren't perhaps lying low and keeping low profiles (going fishing or, perhaps, pursuing interests like clearing brush or shooting attorneys in the face) instead of issuing implied challenges to the rest of the world to do something about their orders to illegally detain and waterboard various people.


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