Befehl ist Befehl UPDATE: Final – Taxi to the Dark Side -by J

April 23, 2009 – Thursday

Befehl ist Befehl UPDATE: Final – Taxi to the Dark Side
Category: News and Politics

From Wiki:

The Nuremberg Defense is a legal defense that essentially states that the defendant was “only following orders” (“Befehl ist Befehl”, literally “order is order”) and is therefore not responsible for his crimes. The defense was most famously employed during the Nuremberg Trials, after which it is named.

Before the end of World War II, the Allies suspected such a defense might be employed, and issued the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), which specifically stated that this was not a valid defense against charges of war crimes.

Thus, under Nuremberg Principle IV, “defense of superior orders” is not a defense for war crimes, although it might influence a sentencing authority to lessen the penalty. Nuremberg Principle IV states:

“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

This defense is still used often, however, reasoning that an unlawful order presents a dilemma from which there is no legal escape. One who refuses an unlawful order will still probably be jailed for refusing orders, and one who accepts one will probably be jailed for committing unlawful acts, in a Catch-22 dilemma.

I have been watching all of the torture talk the last few days, it brings back all the talk over the Bush years. Cheney’s desire to “Go to the dark side”, Rumsfeld’s torture memo, a few bad apples, dripping water on people’s faces, Saddam and Al Qaeda enemies, but working together, …

In essence, this is what has come out thus far. After 911, people were scooped up in Afghanistan and else where, and they were interigated. Several died in custody.

Within weeks of 911 the CIA started using “enhanced techniques” that included, but was not limited to, waterboarding, electrodes on genitals, sleep deprivation for many days. A few months later, the “enhanced techniques” were run through lawyers in the Whitehouse, and the DOJ resulting in memos that were released days ago.

Essentially, these letters were used to justify what has been accepted through history, and through conventions which are signatories of. This was an attempt to legalize torture. It did not start at the bottom, the few bad apples, it started at the top.

Note, I wonder how badly Saddam wishes he had gotten a legal decision to approve gassing the Kurds. He might be in Miami today playing golf.

At least two Al Qaeda suspects were water boarded over a hundred times each in a month. I know what you are asking, if it works, why does it take hundreds of times, and after a few times, wouldn’t you think the suspect would say anything?

I don’t want to entertain what Cheney is trying to prove, and it seems most Republicans are also trying to prove, that the end justified the means. Or that the “enhanced techniques” provided evidence. The reason I don’t want to entertain it is that the end does not justify the means. Morals 101!

The most common example used is that one of KSM’s many supposed admitances (waterboarded 183 times in a single month, do you have brain cells left after being drowned 183 times in a month?) the planned attack in Los Angles. The problem with this is that the plot was broken up, if it ever really was a “GO” plot, a year before KSM was captured. But why be mindful of details, and why argue that torture is ever right.

Then perhaps the most outrageous part was what McClatchy reported:

“for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were…demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq…(former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi” and these techniques were seen as the quickest way to make the connection.

So, how many people were tortured, some to death, to prove what was not true, that Al Qaeda, and Iraq, two enemies who were actually working together.

Oh, and these techniques were perfected by the likes of Chinese Communist forces during the Korean War, and Pol Pot the de facto leader of Cambodia in mid-1975. One of Pol’s waterobarding devices is on display in the genocide museum.

Note, we should never forget about the Spanish Inquisition… or that some how this makes Obama a fascist?

I suggest that you all get on the right side of this issue. I know that when I was in the military, and went through military education, and throughout my career we were always taught that in part, if you are ever captured you give your name, number and rank. That is it. Sure, you’ll get a hard time, but in the end, you will be enprisoned until the end of the war, and treated humainly. That is what we signed up to do, and that is what we were supposed to do.

How can we ever be that shinning city on the hill, if we torture people?



The Junta Party

This analogy isn’t close to being complete. And it doesn’t match up at every point. But where it does connect, it’s so spot-on that I must share it with you.

In former Banana Republics, in their post-transition- to-democracy phases, you’ll often have a Junta Party. It’s an opposition party whose main goal isn’t to get elected so much as to maintain the legacy of the former junta regime, defend its record of service to the state and most of all keep its former leaders from being put on trial or shipped off to the Hague. Often the party will be headed up by the former Generals themselves. But if they’re dead or otherwise occupied in the slammer or abroad, maybe you’ll have their relatives or the one-time cronies and lickspittles of this or that el jefe of the old regime filling the leadership roles.

And today, as we watched the on-going parade of Cliff Mays on TV or Dan Burton praising waterboarding as essential to the American dream, Eric Kleefeld pointed out to me that that really is pretty much the role the GOP — at least for the moment — has taken in our present politics.

Yes, Republicans have tried to distance themselves from President Bush’s fiscal profligacy. But on the core value issues of militarism and human rights violations and keeping faith with the war criminals of the previous regime they really couldn’t be more unified or on message. If you were plopped down on earth today in front of a TV set in the United States, on the testimony of the party members themselves, you might easily get the idea that state-sanctioned torture was the main policy legacy of the outgoing administration. Sort of like Democrats looked back on late 90s budget surpluses with a proud defiance in the aftermath of the Clinton years.

I can’t be the only one who this resonates with. Who else has some examples?

–Josh Marshall

One Response to “Befehl ist Befehl UPDATE: Final – Taxi to the Dark Side -by J”

  • Kelly:

    Great post and I have been totally disgusted with the information now being released. It’s interesting to me that the Republicans seem to be vascillating in receent days between “waterboarding isn’t torture, and besides we got valuable information” and to now pointing fingers at Democrats (Nancy Pelosi) who they say were aware of what was happening and said or did nothing. I’m not sure what the truth is in this regard but it seems like they smell blood and they are warning the government not to go there, the implication being that if you do, you’ll bring down dems as well as republicans. I say let the chips fall where they may. We need to have the truth out in the open and there should be consequences for war crimes no matter who was responsible. Otherwise we do lose all credibilty in the world and our servicemen and women will be less safe when in harm’s way.

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