If the US prosecution system wasn’t so generally competent. I would advocate referring the US to the international criminal court so that senior figures in the Bush administration could be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity, in particular the use of torture.
But it is competent, although it has been hamstrung by the clever legal footwork of the Bush administration plus the use of the presidential veto—as with the recent veto of legislation that would have required the CIA and all intelligence services to abide by the restrictions contained in the US army field manual on holding and interrogating prisoners.
We all know that the US practices torture against terrorist suspects—waterboarding, or simulated drowning, clearly constitutes torture—and we assume that when a new president is elected, given the clear statements of the remaining three candidates, the practice will stop. What we don’t know is if a new president will have the guts to open the windows in the justice department and allow the fresh air of the rule of law to blow in. If he or she does, unless congress declares an amnesty, then senior figures in the Bush administration will be hauled into court, just as senior figures in the Nixon administration were hauled into court and sent to prison in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
A recent Associated Press story on the decision-making that led to torture being authorised appears to suggest that the net of culpability will be spread wide—embracing not only hardliners such as Dick Cheney and former attorney general John Ashcroft, but more liberal figures including Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor as secretary of state, Colin Powell.
These were the participants in White House meetings that led to the infamous memos of the office of the legal council of the justice department that in 2002 and 2003 laid out the justification for tough interrogation tactics. According to AP, “At times CIA officers would demonstrate some of the tactics to make sure that the principals could understand what they planned to do.” ABC television, covering the same story, quoted Ashcroft as saying at the time, “Why are we talking about this in the White House?… History will not judge this kindly.”
Neither will the US military. Even under Bush, the military has investigated hundreds of service members for abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan. It takes great pride in teaching its soldiers civilised rules of…