Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, July 11, 2009 8:21 pm

Oh, please, oh, please …

I’ll grant right up front that the odds of this happening at all aren’t great and the odds of its happening to the extent that I would like it to are probably nil. But if you’re a law-and-order conservative, this bit of information about Attorney General Eric Holder should warm the cockles of your heart:

Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama’s domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. “I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president’s agenda,” he says. “But that can’t be a part of my decision.”

Do it, Eric, do it. And that prosecutor needs to follow the trail wherever it leads, to Republicans and Democrats alike, to those who carried out torture and those who ordered it and those who could have intervened but instead stood by and let it happen. Document the crimes. Prosecute the criminals. Atone for this national sin.

One other thought, about the political ramifications: Obama’s biggest political problem so far hasn’t been Republicans, although they certainly have been a problem. It has been the disappointment of his own base, who have felt let down by Obama’s failure to embrace not just their own ambitious agenda but even some issues on which Obama himself campaigned (e.g., open government).

That’s even more the case for the Democratically-controlled Congress, whose low approval ratings are directly attributable to the disappointment of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. (Moving to the left isn’t going to make Congress any more unpopular with Republicans than it already is because that would be pretty much impossible.)

In any event, this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human rights and the rule of law. It’s about ensuring that we haven’t walked, and will never walk, away from the honorable standards we set at Nuremberg.

It’s about doing the right thing. Politics be damned.

UPDATE: And while you’re at it, Mr. Attorney General …

After a mass killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war by the forces of an American-backed warlord during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Bush administration officials repeatedly discouraged efforts to investigate the episode, according to government officials and human rights organizations.

American officials had been reluctant to pursue an investigation — sought by officials from the F.B.I., the State Department, the Red Cross and human rights groups — because the warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, was on the payroll of the C.I.A. and his militia worked closely with United States Special Forces in 2001, several officials said. They said the United States also worried about undermining the American-supported government of President Hamid Karzai, in which General Dostum had served as a defense official.

“At the White House, nobody said no to an investigation, but nobody ever said yes, either,” said Pierre Prosper, the former American ambassador for war crimes issues. “The first reaction of everybody there was, ‘Oh, this is a sensitive issue; this is a touchy issue politically.’ ”


UPDATE: Here‘s part of the reason why I don’t think much will come of this.

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