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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/6/09

Serious Lapse in Judgment Indeed

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Here's a bit of change we didn't bargain for:
DOJ: Torture Memos Just "Serious Lapses of Judgment"
New York Times - An internal Justice Department inquiry has concluded that Bush administration lawyers committed serious lapses of judgment in writing secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations but that they should not be prosecuted, according to government officials briefed on its findings. (Full Story)
If this DOJ judgment stands, civics and political science textbook publishers will only have until Fall to correct their texts to reflect this new measure of bad behavior. Among the events currently treated by history books as crimes and crimes against humanity requiring a serious downgrade to simply "serious lapses of judgment include such events as:

Japan: Ordering the "Rape of Nanking"
Germany: Ordering the "Final Solution"
Iraq: Ordering the gassing of the Kurds
Rwanda:  Ordering the Rwandan Genocide
Vietnam: Ordering the My Lai Massacre
Palestinians: Ordering the Munich Massacre
Bosnia: Ordering the Srebrenica Genocide

Of course, it's a lot easier to change the judgment of history than to apologize to the dead but, if the DOJ's newly minted criminal behavior yardstick for those in charge sticks, we've got some apologizing to do to.  Because we executed or sent to prison a whole lot of folks after WW II for ordering actions the DOJ's would now apparently consider just "serious lapses of judgment."

For example:
"After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan's military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding."... As a result of such accounts, a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war." (More)

And, hey, if Richard Nixon's actions now known as, "Watergate," weren't "serious lapses of judgment," I don't know what is. So we need to set that injustice right as well.

Gawd, I don't know if the DOJ realized what a Pandoras Box of past injustices they opened with this new standard. The list of the people we've wronged over the years is almost endless; poor Bill Clinton and Monica, Scooter Libby, OJ Simpson, Blogo, Charles Manson, John Edwards' cancer-free mistress, Halliburton/KBR's  serial taxpayer screwings, Charlie Keating, Bernie Madoff -- each guilty only of "serious lapses of judgment" yet we treated them like common criminals. Shame on us.

And of course there's the MOTHER OF ALL SERIOUS LAPSES OF JUDGMENT -- ordering the 9-11 terrorist attacks. (We can only breathe a collective sigh of relief that poor, besieged Osama bin Laden survived long enough to benefit from DOJs new thinking on such matters.)

Finally, just as it took a staunch anti-communist conservative, Richard Nixon, to soften America's views of Red China, it took a liberal Attorney General, Eric Holder,  to soften America's views of crimes against humanity. (I mean, imagine if a Republican AG tried this! We'd all be up in arms about it.)

Anyway, I feel a great weight lifted from my shoulders. Because, even though I've never personally committed anything even close to the the kinds of "lapses of judgment," listed above, who knows? Stuff happens.
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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a Pulitzer.

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