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June 20, 2004: The Issue is Actually Raised by Over Four-Hundred Legal Scholars

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Pesky Lawyers



Seems someone thinks that if you don’t play be the rules, you ought be asked to leave the game.

See Legal scholars say condoning abuse could be impeachable offense
Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press, Wednesday, June 16, 2004

What’s up, Lolita?


WASHINGTON- More than 400 legal scholars from across the country urged Congress Wednesday to consider impeaching President Bush and any high-level administration officials who approved the Iraqi prisoner abuses.

In a letter released by two Harvard Law School professors, scholars asked Congress to identify everyone who should be held accountable for the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, and determine what sanctions are appropriate.  The sanctions, they said, could include "impeachment and removal from office of any civil officer of the United States responsible."

… In the letter, scholars said the prosecution of low-level military personnel for the abuses is not enough.  Harvard law professor Christine Desan said Congress would have to determine if the abuses rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors which would be punishable by impeachment.

… The prisoner abuse, made public in photos and video, is being investigated by military and Justice Department officials.  And Congress is looking into administration memos that could have laid the legal groundwork justifying the abuse.

… The letter was signed by a host of legal notables, including former O.J. Simpson defender Alan Dershowitz and the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, a former Massachusetts Congressmanmember who teaches at Georgetown University Law Center.


Congress is urged to “consider” this?

And just which party controls both house of congress?

And presidents are impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.  Not for being a tad overly zealous in their patriotic fervor to protect Americans.  Mistakes were made?  Perhaps, although no one in administration will allow for that possibility.

But even if mistakes were made, our intentions cannot be questioned.

And we do not break laws.

Of course Pentagon officials told NBC News that late last year, at the same time U.S. military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held “off the books” — hidden entirely from the International Red Cross (ICRC) and anyone else — in possible violation of international law.

But don’t blame Donald Rumsfeld – George Tenet made him do it.


"I was requested by the director of central intelligence to take custody of an Iraqi national who was believed to be a high-ranking member of Ansar al-Islam, and we did so," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon press conference.

"We were asked to not immediately register the individual and we did that," he said.

The prisoner, who was not identified, was secretly held for more than seven months at a detention facility for high value prisoners near the Baghdad International Airport until last month when a senior Pentagon official decided he should be returned to the general prisoner population, officials said.

Before that, he had been held by the Central Intelligence Agency for about four months at an undisclosed location outside of the country, an intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The prisoner was turned over to the military in Iraq following legal guidance that as an Iraqi he should be held in Iraq, the official said.



The Geneva Conventions sort of kind of does require prompt registration of prisoners of war, as quaint as that seems.

Dan Dellorto, the Pentagon's deputy counsel is quoted as saying, well, "We should have registered him much sooner than we did.”


Yeah, sorry about that.

And Rumsfeld just isn’t saying why Tenet asked that the prisoner be held secretly.  When asked why Tenet wanted that?  "Ask him.  It's a classified letter.”


That’s a very nice way of saying go pound sand.  Tenet has resigned and he’s busy packing up his office.

As you might recall, Major General Antonio Taguba (yes, he’s a Philippine-American West Point guy whose father survived the Bataan Death March) - the guy who wrote the unfortunate report on “abuses” at Abu Ghraib - reported in March that some detainees were kept off the rolls there and he denounced the practice as "deceptive, contrary to army doctrine and in violation of international law."  (Background at May 16, 2004 - Responsibility - Military Style... and legal issues.)

A violation of international law?


That depends on how you interpret the law.

Dellorto and the dudes at the Pentagon are now arguing that a prisoner could be held for a period without being registered "for purposes of imperative military necessity."  Well, there’s no such exception in any law to which we’ve agreed and thus to which we are bound, but that is a pretty cool idea.

Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.

So by the direct order of the President’s Secretary of Defense… this guy didn’t exist.  No one could see him if he didn’t exist, and certainly not the ICRC which sort of takes as its job making sure people aren’t tortured and abused and such.

Gee, I wonder why he was not reported, why he wasn’t in the system.  Duh.

But this one prisoner probably wasn’t tortured.  They, well, lost him.

Intelligence officials asked about the prisoner in January but were told by the military that he could not be located.  AFP quotes a fellow who doesn’t want his name used - "Frankly, it's a case where people lost track of him. The normal review procedures that would kick into play didn't in this instance. And it fell between the cracks.”

And now they cannot find him anywhere in the system.   Oops.

One suspect he’s no longer alive, and Donald and George are smiling.

Nothing to see here folks.  Move on.

All this legal stuff.  Does it all rise to the level of impeachable offense?


Don’t know. It’s not about sex.


So how about a little perspective from William Pfaff last week (11 June) over at The International Herald Tribune - and yes, that paper is owned by the New York Times (east-coast liberal monsters, of course) and published in Paris (which is still in France last time anyone noticed) –

All of this is a ghastly scandal, one of the worst in American history.  It is evident cause for impeachment of this president, if Congress has the courage to do it, and for prosecution of cabinet figures and certain commanders.  However in view of the partisan alignment in Congress, quite possibly nothing will happen before the November election.

What then?  It also is quite possible that George W. Bush will be elected to a second term.  In that case, the American electorate will have made these practices its own.  Now that is something for our children to think about.


If Bush wins, by a clear popular count this time, yes, we all own this.



Some folks are actually taking a stand.  The Senate voted without dissent on June 17 to require the Bush administration to “issue guidelines aimed at ensuring humane treatment of prisoners at U.S. military facilities and to report any violations promptly to Congress.”


But note this too.  Passage of the proposal came by voice vote.  Why?  Because a good number of Republicans, seeing they were going to lose this one, didn’t want any record with a roll call – as they didn’t want their constituents, voting in November, to be able to see they were going all soft on the evil doers.  They know their voters in their conservative districts rather like what has been going on – bad guys and folks who might be bad guys (one never knows) are getting it good, and some are dying from it.  And these voters feel good when they know that (and of course they don’t have to do any of the beating and torture stuff themselves). 


Thus a voice vote in the senate - these senators who answer to these voters would like to stay in office.

It gets tricky.


Bob Patterson’s perspective came in an email –


Impeachment?  Let's arrest the members of Congress who speak of it.


Isn't it time for a big pro Bush rally at night with the always impressive "Cathedral of Light"?


Can Michael Moore get the credentials to film it?  Lenni Riefenstahl recently passed away.


"That which does not feed me; destroys me."   If anyone makes a move to start Impeachment proceedings, they may have to be put in "protective custody" where they can't cause any harm.


To be continued …


Well, impeachment talk is in the air.  Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton…


Probably not George Bush.  What he has done, or has allowed to be done, brings too much emotional satisfaction to folks who are angry and don’t like everyone in the world hating us and saying we’re being dangerously foolish.  Bush hits back.  That just feels too good.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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