Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Free John Demjanjuk

Deported by the United States, retired autoworker John Demjanjuk was carried in a wheelchair onto a jet that departed Monday evening for Germany, which wants to try him as an accessory to the murders of Jews and others at a Nazi death camp in World War II.

Demjanjuk, 89, arrived in an ambulance at Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport after spending several hours with U.S. immigration officials at a downtown federal building. Airport commissioner Khalid Bahhur confirmed Demjanjuk was on the plane and that its destination is Germany.

The deportation came four days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Demjanjuk's request to block deportation and about 3 1/2 years after he was last ordered deported.

The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-YAHN'-yuk) is wanted on a Munich arrest warrant that accuses him of 29,000 counts of accessory to murder as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. The legal case spans three decades.

I really don't see how we can allow Demjanjuk's prosecution to go forward.

Would it not be unfair to "prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect (their country) for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by (their government)"?

Surely we can agree that Demjanjuk was "pressured by (his) fear, by (his) sense of duty to a fearful nation, led by a (government) awash in fear—all of this swimming in (his) head and clouding that moral compass—acted in good faith, from (his) perceptions." Under such circumstances, “no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the (Ministry) of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished.”

WWII was, of course, a "dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

Indeed, "the current spectacle of self-righteous condemnation not just cowardly but hollow. It is one thing to have disagreed at the time and said so. It is utterly contemptible, however, to have been silent then and to rise now ... to excoriate those who kept (their country) safe ..."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Torture in three grafs

As awful as The New Republic can be, this is brilliant in its economy:

First, there's no such thing as a government policy of "torturing terrorists. " There's only a policy of torturing people the government thinks are terrorists. Many of the suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, subjected to agonizing stress positions, turned out not to be terrorists--not because the soldiers who captured them were venal, but because they were human.

Second, torture is designed to force prisoners to provide an answer the interrogator already knows. The torturer relents when his subject provides the "correct" answer. Intelligence gathering, by contrast, is designed to garner answers the interrogator does not already know.

Finally, yes, we can imagine ticking-time-bomb situations where regular interrogation methods work too slowly and extreme measures might prove helpful. But this premise bears the same relationship to the question of legalizing torture as the morality of stealing a loaf of bread to feed your starving family does to the question of legalizing theft.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Pass the popcorn

Prison guards jailed for abusing inmates at the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq are planning to appeal against their convictions on the ground that recently released CIA torture memos prove that they were scapegoats for the Bush Administration.

The photographs of prisoner abuse at the Baghdad jail in 2004 sparked worldwide outrage but the previous administration, from President Bush down, blamed the incident on a few low-ranking “bad apples” who were acting on their own.

The decision by President Obama to release the memos showed that the harsh interrogation tactics were approved and authorised at the highest levels of the White House.

Some of the guards who were convicted of abuse want to return to court and argue that the previous administration sanctioned the abuse but withheld its role from their trials.

In other words, the patsies want another go at the "only following orders" defense -- the same one folks who set up the patsies now want to use themselves.

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