Please Investigate War Crimes Now: Please

General Michael Hayden

General Michael Hayden

The Obama Administration is beginning to remind me of a woman I dated some years ago who developed a drinking problem. Not only did she refuse to admit having trouble, discussing her addiction was taboo, off-the-table, “it’s not up for discussion” and, once, even pleading with me, “Let’s just think about the future.”

But her alcohol problem grew worse and led directly to the end of our otherwise spectacular relationship.

Like my former girlfriend, The White House has a serious issue it won’t confront – not about drinking too much but about doing too little about the grievous and growing trouble brewing over not investigating likely war crimes committed by senior Bush Administration officials. And like my former Great Love, President Obama will discover that avoiding the subject won’t make things go quietly into that bad night.

Easily Understood
The evidence grows almost daily that far too many senior Bush people are likely war criminals. They indicted themselves with their own written words.

One of the most chilling – and nauseating – facts revealed in the latest round of torture memos released by the Justice Department, is that senior officials in the Bush White House and administration approved waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 and 83 times for Abu Zubaydah in August 2002. It is right there in black-and-white on page 37 of the May 30, 2005 memo from the Department of Justice’s Steven Bradbury to John Rizzo at the CIA, complete with parenthetical id and op cit references like some scholarly law review article.

Firedoglake did the math:

“Two two-hour sessions a day, with six applications of the waterboard each (equals) 12 applications in a day. Though to get up to the permitted 12 minutes of waterboarding in a day (with each use of the waterboard limited to 40 seconds), you’d need 18 applications in a day. Assuming you use the larger 18 applications in one 24-hour period, and do 18 applications on five days within a month, you’ve waterboarded 90 times – still just half of what they did to KSM.”

No wonder former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and ex-CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden went all apeshit in the Wall Street Journal on Friday when Obama released the memos. The two men are complicit in committing at least 266 separate counts of war crimes. Nuremberg hung men for less.

(By the way, has anyone else noticed that opinion pages of the WSJ are sounding increasingly unhinged, reading more and more like Michelle Malkin and Anne Coulter but with better writing? Any day now, I expect to open the paper and find an Op-Ed piece from Glenn Beck.)

Like Dick Cheney before them, Hayden and Mukasey raise the bizarre “ticking time bomb” scenario that’s straight from a 24 script to claim Pres. Obama is “tying his own hands” in ruling out torture – excuse me, harsh interrogation techniques. But if their assertion is true, why did it take 183 trips to the waterboard in a single month to get what they claim is cooperation out of KSM – which, it turns out, was actually just a bunch of what spies call “chicken feed” non-information that was either false or out-of-date?

And why is there an increasingly long line of former CIA and military interrogators coming forward to state unequivocally that torture in any form is the worst way to get reliable information from a captive?

Oh. And besides being ineffective, it is illegal in the United States and in every country that signed the Geneva Conventions.

All of this is easily understood by ordinary folks without law degrees. Why is it so hard for President Obama to grasp?

Can’t Look Forward
President Obama keeps talking about wanting to look forward. Fair enough. But as a semi-professional student of history – as every journalist must be – I know we cannot look forward without confronting, addressing and repairing the past, and taking concrete steps to ensure what the loyal Bushies did never happens again in America.

I appreciate the political minefield Obama is trying to avoid. It’s very real and the fact that not a single Senate Republican will join Sen. Patrick Leahy’s repeated calls for a Congressional investigation shows what the administration is up against. But the president’s remarkable ability to explain bad things to good Americans ought to be brought to bear in bringing the country on-side. To hell with a GOP that puts party loyalty above the national good.

Sorry. I forgot I’m talking about Man Tan Boehner, Mumbles McConnell and the entire Fox News line-up of anchor models and prime time buttheads. They put party first every day, on every issue.


I truly believe that Americans are smarter and wiser than The White House is giving us credit for at the moment. The President has an obligation to us and to the oath he swore in January. Doing so is his legal and moral obligation. State the facts. Lay out the justification. Appoint an independent prosecutor whose integrity is unquestioned, whose independence is well-established and whose fairness is well-known.

Please, Mr. President: Investigate war crimes now. Please.

Charley James

The Progressive Curmudgeon

LA Progressive


  1. Evelyn Goodman says

    I do believe that Obama is caught between a rock and a hard spot, in that, yes, Big Corporation money helped to get him elected, (which is the case more often than not, unfortunately,), but he is trying to implement some good things that go under ths radar system
    If he doesn’t ‘play ball’, he will be destroyed whether physically or politically.
    Let’s hope the good outweighs the bad, in the long run—-but, still, we must keep up the pressure for him to do more of the former.

  2. says


    All of us who have been pushing for an investigation of war crimes under Bush may be making headway.

    Earlier this afternoon, Pres. Obama told reporters he will not rule out charges against those who wrote the opinions justifying the methods used on captured terrorism suspects, which human rights groups call torture.

    “With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that,” Obama said after meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah.

    Whether you are a blogger, part of the MSM, a member of a human rights and civil liberties organization or a concerned citizen, keep up the pressure. It seems to be working.

  3. says

    I think you are exactly right.

    Without acknowledging the problem and making sure that the people who caused the problem are never in any position of responsibility again, we are condoning and belittling capital offenses. In any other context the idea that we should just move forward would be laughable. Imagine a serial killer’s lawyer arguing that his client should go free because all of his mistakes are in the past?

    I can’t imagine that Obama thinks that this country can recover its moral standing while letting the criminals go free, and not even investigating the extent of the crimes. Considering that the vast majority of the victims were Muslim, how is sweeping their abuse under the rug going to play in the Muslim world? Without there being consequences to criminality, where is the disincentive? Why would whistleblowers come forward when the subjects of their accusations will not only go free, but stay in positions of power (and retribution).

    The idea that criminals like John Yoo has not been disbarred and are being employed in our educational system is a terrifying message about how far our Republic has fallen, and where it is going.

    Obama needs to realize he is at a moral crossroads, and one path leads us out of the mire of lawlessness and the other into a tar pit of oligarchy where the privileged class can do anything with no consequences.

  4. says

    >> URGENT UPDATE – April 21, 2009 <<

    Last night, Rachel Maddow reported that lawyers in the Justice Dept. – including AG Eric Holder – are not as sanguine as The White House appears to be about investigating allegations of war crimes against former Bush Administration officials. In fact, Maddow interviewed Newsweek‘s Michael Isakoff who learned from DoJ sources that lawyers continue to collect evidence.

    In fact, The White House is legally prohibited from stopping any criminal investigation.

    So the rule of law may yet hold sway. A number of inquiries into possible war crimes are due to report in the next few weeks, including those from the DoJ itself, a Congressional study and one from a White House-appointed group.

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