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Richard Haass, Torture, and the Rule of Law

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Message Thomas Riggins

Thomas Riggins

Last Friday Richard Haass published an op ed in the Wall Street Journal (5-1-2009) entitled, "The Interrogation Memos and the Law" in which he maintains that it would be a bad idea to prosecute the Bush administration people in the Justice department who wrote the memos justifying torture. He was himself a member of the Bush administration at one time and is now president of the Council of Foreign Relations, one of the foremost imperialist think tanks.

His reasoning leaves much to be desired as the following few examples indicate. Prosecuting the torture mongers "would have a chilling effect on future U.S. government officials", he says. I should hope so! Future officials need to know they are not above the law and if they engage in criminal activities they will treated accordingly.

Haass thinks future officials will be afraid to come up with "daring proposals" that might be "judged illegal." This is baloney. The U.S. is party to treaties that already outlaw the use of torture. Bush administration cronies guilty of violating already existing laws should have no special immunity. Torture is certainly a "daring idea" but not one we really want our government officials to come up with-- it's illegal.

Haass says that prosecution would discourage people writing memos on "controversial matters." This is ridiculous. Torture should not be "controversial"-- it is against both domestic and international law and those who engaged in it and promoted it should face the consequences of their actions.

Haass also says prosecution would also distract us from more serious problems-- as if having top officials in the government and justice department promoting and justifying torture is not a "serious" problem.

The "best and brightest" won't want to serve in government, Haass says, if they might be prosecuted for criminal activity at a later date. Haass has to be one the few people these days who thinks the people in the Bush administration were the "best and brightest." Quite the opposite I should think.

"If we are not careful," he warns, about scaring off the "best and brightest" then "we will get the government we deserve, but not the government we need." Well Bush gave us a government we neither deserved nor needed.
If prosecution can keep Bush types out of government-- Good!

Thomas Riggins is associate editor of Political Affairs online

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Thomas Riggins, PhD CUNY, is a retired university lecturer in philosophy and ancient history and the former book review editor for Political Affairs magazine.

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