Monday, October 09, 2006

The Legacy of Nurenberg

Poster scribe on TalkLeft said something very profound:
For those who were disputing over why the Administration took some revenge on Commander Swift, by forcing him from the service, the following quote is revelatory :

These [the Admin's] lawyers adopted a mantra, namely, to quote Alberto Gonzales, that the Geneva Conventions were "quaint" and "obsolete," and did not apply to a "new kind of warfare." In so doing, they thoughtlessly moved in the same paths traversed by lawyers in Berlin sixty years earlier. Indeed, at the General Staff trial, the world public learned for the first time of the valiant struggle of Moltke when one of his memoranda was put into evidence. It pleaded in forceful terms for respect of the Geneva Convention rights of enemy soldiers, civilians and irregular combatants on the East Front, mustering a series of arguments that bear remarkable similarity to a memorandum sent by Colin Powell to President Bush sixty years later. And in the margins, in the unmistakeable pencil scrawl of Field Marshall Keitel, were found the words "quaint" and "obsolete." This was cited as an aggravating factor justifying a sentence of the death against Keitel.

The Bush Administration apparently assumed that the court system would toe the political line they had drawn. It was clearly taken by surprise when the Supreme Court, in Hamdan, knocked the legal props out from under the Administration's detainee policy, validating the positions taken by the senior legal officers of the nation's uniformed military services and the State Department, which had opposed the Administration on this grounds.

So, when Justice Kennedy mentioned the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act in his Hamdan concurrence, he was (as I and others noted at the time) making a pointed reference and warning to the Administration. His warning was that the policy they chose (not created - the Nazis had done that, and the Repugs were merely following their footsteps) was taking them down a course to where these members of the Admin would, some day, place their lives on the line for their actions.

It's just that simple - because Commander Swift had the courage - moral and physical - to take on his case and defend his client, he's shown the Admin not only to have no clothes, but to be in truth a criminal enterprise. And that, to these folks, is intolerable.

For standing up for the principles of law, Moltke was murdered by the Nazis. For standing up for the principles and letter of the law, Swift's career was murdered, no less surely, by the Admin. And Haynes, Bybee and others, wrongdoers all, were rewarded.

This also puts more context to the browbeating Haynes gave to the heads of the various services' JAG Corps, demanding they sign on to supporting the Torture Bill and locking them in a room until they did. Like in a criminal gang, where one has no standing until as an initiation the gang members hand one a gun and point out a target. Kill the target, become a member of the gang through complicity in the crime. Refuse to kill the target, the gang kills you.

That is what passes for a governmental administration today - the morals and ethics of a street gang or, as John Dean has noted, La Cosa Nostra. A fine pass we've come to, and, I worry, there is yet worse to come.
I think the reference to La Cosa Nostra is very apt. This administration acts just like a crime family straight out of "The Godfather" or "The Sopranos". If you don't do their bidding, they threaten your livelihood, then they threaten your life. If you don't think that lives have been threatened, then you have your head in the sand. Troops who question the status quo are sent into "killing zones" where there is very high troop mortality ratios. Emails sent immediately prior to a soldier's death state very clearly that this had occurred.

At least La Cosa Nostra had a code of ethics, unlike criminal gangs these days.

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