Guest Post: Cheney Admits to Being a War Criminal

Preface for Naked Capitalism readers: This is on-topic because torture is bad for the economy.

As I have pointed out periodically since 2005:

The War Crimes Act of 1996, a federal statute set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 2441, makes it a federal crime for any U.S. national, whether military or civilian, to violate the Geneva Convention by engaging in murder, torture, or inhuman treatment.

The statute applies not only to those who carry out the acts, but also to those who order it, know about it, or fail to take steps to stop it. The statute applies to everyone, no matter how high and mighty.


Indeed, even the lawyers and other people who aided in the effort may be war criminals; see also this article, this one, and this press release.

As Robert Parry – the reporter who broke the Iran-Contra story for the Associated Press and Newsweek – pointed out last week:

Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II…

He answered with an emphatic “yes” when asked if he had opposed the Bush administration’s decision to suspend the use of waterboarding – after it was employed against three “high-value detainees” sometimes in repetitive sequences. He added that waterboarding should still be “on the table” today…

Speaking with a sense of impunity, he casually negated a key line of defense that senior Bush officials had hidden behind for years – that the brutal interrogations were approved by independent Justice Department legal experts who thus gave the administration a legitimate reason to believe the actions were within the law.

However, on Sunday, Cheney acknowledged that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render. In other words, the opinions amounted to ordered-up lawyering to permit the administration to do whatever it wanted.

This is not entirely surprising. In 2005, e-mails revealed that Cheney pressured the U.S. Department of Justice to approve torture:

Dick Cheney and his lawyer, David Addington, pressured the Department of Justice in 2005 to quickly approve a torture memo that authorized CIA interrogators to use a combination of barbaric techniques during interrogations of “high-value” detainees, despite protests from former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, according to several of his e-mails released over the weekend.

Indeed, Cheney is the main guy who pushed for torture in the first place.

Cheney is also the guy who made the pitch to Congress justifying torture.

A former director of the CIA accused Cheney of overseeing American torture policies. And Colin Powell’s former chief of staff stated that Dick Cheney is guilty of war crimes for his role in facilitating torture.

Under any definition, Cheney ordered torture, knew about it, and failed to take steps to stop it. Therefore, beyond any shadow of a doubt, Cheney has violated The War Crimes Act of 1996.

Cheney is a Fugitive

As I wrote in 2005:

18 U.S.C. § 2441 has no statute of limitations, which means that a war crimes complaint can be filed at any time.

The penalty may be life imprisonment or — if a single prisoner dies due to torture — death. Given that there are numerous, documented cases of prisoners being tortured to death by U.S. soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan (see for example this report), that means that the death penalty would be appropriate for anyone found guilty of carrying out, ordering, or sanctioning such conduct.

That means that Cheney could be rounded up as a fugitive as long as he is alive, just like those old Nazis you see on the news.

Meanwhile, Back In The Real World …

The mainstream media has repeatedly interviewed Cheney and let him say that torture works without challenging him with tough questions.

That’s no different than interviewing Charles Manson and letting him argue – without challenge – that murder is a great thing.

In the real world – unlike in Cheney’s bizarro parallel universe:

  • Torture has been used throughout history as a form of intimidation, to terrorize people into obedience, not for gathering information
  • The type of torture used by the U.S. in the last 10 years is of a special type. Senator Levin revealed that the U.S. used torture techniques aimed at extracting false confessions (see this, this, this, this. and this)

The United States of Torture

Unfortunately, Cheney is not alone.

An FBI email declassified in December 2004 states that Bush signed an Executive Order authorizing torture (here is the list of documents obtained through a freedom of information act request, and take a close look, for example, at this one, which mentions the “executive order”).

An expert on Constitutional law said that only Bush could have authorized the torture which has occurred.

The general in charge of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq said that Donald Rumsfeld and other top administration officials ordered that inhuman treatment and torture be conducted as part of a deliberate strategy. Pulitzer prize-winning Seymour Hersch agrees.

And torture is apparently still continuing under Obama.

By failing to demand that torture stop and those who ordered it – like Cheney – be held to account, Americans are complicit in war crimes, just like the Germans who failed to stand up to Hitler were complicit in crimes against humanity.

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About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. Poopypants

    It really leads one to wonder what exactly can be done with a government that is out of control, and a public that is more interested in TV, football and the latest fashion rage, then in giving a damn.

    Isn’t it the AG’s job to prosecute this type of criminal activity? Does Eric Holder actually do anything?

    It’d be nice to see the whole gang from the Bush era, along with Obama, Biden and especially that smug bastard Emanuel all hauled into court for violating the stature banning torture.

    1. Campbeln

      So… by this logic what was done in Nazi Germany was, let’s say defensible?

      Simply because the rabble “supports” (or in our case “doesn’t care”) doesn’t make it defensible. What was the founding fathers said… something about “tyranny of the masses”?


  2. bob goodwin

    The center of the electorate disagrees with you that our government crossed the line on interrogations.

    1. Andrew DeWit

      Respectfully, it does not matter whether “the centre of the electorate” disagrees with the law on torture, the facts on evolution, the reality of climate change, or whatever. The centre of the electorate matters in American elections, and even then only to the extent that they can be sold on “change” or “drill, baby, drill.”

      Moreover, Cheney remains a very active figure in US politics. That fact gives his criminality added import, especially in this context of “horrible economic news and financial armageddon.”

      Show us the best of American governance, or lose yet more ground to the Chinese.

      1. bob goodwin

        Respect returned. Yes it does matter what the center of the electorate thinks. I image that the center of the electorate is against murder, but not so much against marijuana use and gay marriage and abortions (all of which were illegal in the past).

        1. Richard Smith

          Perhaps you’d better explain *in what sense* you think it matters what the centre of the electorate thinks about torture. The analogy with gay marriage and marijuana use is unintelligible, so far.

          1. bob goodwin

            I am making the case we live in a democracy, and what the center believes has a great bearing on outcomes (per the examples). contrary to the comments that what the center believes is irrelevant to the debate. You cannot credibly prosecute, much less make them look evil, when the both the law and public opinion are where they are. That is true on all of the other issues as well

          2. Richard Smith

            I’m assuming that you agree that torture is illegal, immoral and a national disgrace.

            Do you think there is, or ought to be, a better way to decide which bits of the law are respected, and which not, other than by some finger-in-the-air plebiscite?

          3. Earl O'Mar

            Mr. Goodwin — you could not be more wrong. The political and social views of the center-public do not define the law. Our forefathers recognized the inherent instability that would come with such a system, where laws changed and shifted with the whims of the public.

            American history is filled with examples of the Constitution and our system of laws rejecting “central” social views of the time. The most prominent examples being around the rights of Blacks in this country.

            And, if you look back in history, it is the periodic repudiation of current central societal norms (slavery, racism, McCarthyism, etc) by the legal system that has propelled us forward as a nation and placed us back on the path towards the moral high ground that the Framers envisioned. The country would be well served if we were to see that same repudiation aimed at the Cheney White House and it’s choice to use torture in our name.

            Finally, if one questions the seriousness of Cheney’s actions, they only need to read Supreme Court Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Hamden vs. Rumsfeld where he clearly warned the Bush Administration that they had gone over the line and could face war crimes charges.

            “…See, e.g., Article 3 of the Geneva Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949, [1955] 6 U. S. T. 3316, 3318, T. I. A. S. No. 3364. The provision is part of a treaty the United States has ratified and thus accepted as binding law. See id., at 3316. By Act of Congress, moreover, violations of Common Article 3 are considered “war crimes,” punishable as federal offenses, when committed by or against United States nationals and military personnel. See 18 U. S. C. §2441. There should be no doubt, then, that Common Article 3 is part of the law of war as that term is used in §821.”

            It’s no coincidence that soon after the Supreme Court handed down this ruling Congress passed a law granting carte blanche immunity to anyone who may have order or participated in the criminal acts of torture.

        2. wunsacon

          >> You cannot credibly prosecute, much less make them look evil, when the both the law and public opinion are where they are. That is true on all of the other issues as well

          The law and your opinion differ. You enabler, you.

    2. George Washington Post author

      The center of the electorate has been confused with lies that torture is a necessary evil.

      But all of the top interrogation experts say it doesn’t work (please read linked essay).

      1. Doug Terpstra

        And of course Nazi atrocities were justified by the tacit endorsement of the German center. Similarly, Israeli war crimes in Gaza and the WB today are justified by majority citizen support.

    3. Eagle

      So your opinion that it is, of all things, democratic to consistently ignore laws you disagree with, rather than work to pass legislation to get them changed?

      1. bob

        What happens when the laws get changed and there is no one to enforce those laws?

        More laws mean more government.

        1. Eagle

          So what’s your opinion on this issue – that we don’t have enough bureaucrats employed to make sure we don’t torture?

  3. Memory

    Me, I would like to see Cheney prosecuted for violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, as long as we’re living in the fantasy world where law is actually applied to and enforced upon successful right wing American politicians.

  4. Countrygenius

    With all the horrible economic news and financial armageddon around the corner, you drag up silliness such as this.

    This article is hurtful in our tormentors eyes and shows them idiotic thoughts of war justice. To say most tortured were innocent is an opinion and not a fact.

    Move on to something more important and save that valuable brain power of yours for a cause that will truly make a difference.

    Comparing Cheney torture skills to Hitler’s is likened to comparing Oral Roberts healing powers to Jesus Christ’s.

    Move on and give us some of substance and quit inciting the pin-heads and hairy backed numb skulls of the world into a mob like frenzy.

    1. LeeAnne

      It takes honesty and courage to be explicit on the subject of American war criminals as this post has been.

      Thank you Yves and all for your decency –because, after all the governing history of the US is erased, decent people -ordinary decency will put things right again.

      If the US can’t handle its war criminals, others will.

    2. Holly Martins

      Could not agree more.

      I am not a Cheney fan in any way but jesus you all sound like idiots – tilting at windmills. Please at the very least spend as much time protesting all the other evils in the world – to do otherwise reveals your lack of seriousness while showing what matters to you most – your political POV. Nothing more and nothing else.

      1. bystander

        “I am not a Cheney fan in any way but jesus you all sound like idiots – tilting at windmills.”

        Sorry to sound like an idiot. You may be right that clamouring for the enforcement of law is quixotic. But you might want to reflect on where that conclusion leads you.

        “Please at the very least spend as much time protesting all the other evils in the world”

        An impossible demand – with more than a whiff of concern trollery about it.

        “to do otherwise reveals your lack of seriousness while showing what matters to you most – your political POV.”

        Nah. Torture of innocents is as serious as it gets, and its rejection should be common ground for Americans of all political affiliations. If anything, assuming that the motivation is partisan displays your own frivolity.

  5. abelenkpe

    I’d like to see Cheney prosecuted if only to get his ugly sneering face off the television. He scares my kids.

    1. Skepticus Maximus

      Dear KPres,

      You seem confused. Let me enlighten you:

      First, most of them were innocent. That’s why the vast majority were eventually released.

      Second, it was against the law. Period.

      Third, probably the best way to get someone to want to harm you is to torture him or his family/friends. This is shown by the fact that a bunch of former sheep herders who were completely innocent of anything got rounded up, tortured, and then, AFTER this happened to them, went on to become militants. Here, let me make it spell it out for you: Torturing someone makes him, and his entire family/clan/tribe your enemy for life. So, the more people you torture, the more enemies you will have. Does your little brain understand this obvious concept?

      The only people who are intelligent, informed, AND support torture are the ones who WANT the US to have a lot of enemies, because they are in the pay of the military industrial complex. They are in the business of creating enemies, that’s what justifies their existence and earns their keep. They want a forever war, and so they push for policies that would ensure it. In this, they are quite similar to the jihadis. It is perverse, but in the end, the neocons and the jihadis need each other for the own self-interests. Unfortunately, it’s the rest of us that end up paying.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Yeah and people who are against torture are just like that giant coward Gen. George Washington. He had a standing order to execute people he suspected of committing torture against foreign occupiers. He sure sounds un-American to me unlike St. Cheney.

      1. Cujo359

        Yeah, but what was he up against? All he was doing was leading an ill-equipped rebel army against the most powerful country in the world. Hey, if Washington had to face down a band of religious fanatics who were living in caves halfway around the world, he’d probably run and hide or something.


        It’s sad how low we’ve sunk over the years.

    3. i on the ball patriot

      Could be … you never really know …


      “Small penis syndrome may be describing something more than simple anxiety and depression issues in some cases. The degree of rigidity of beliefs about the penis and about the rejecting nature of women is very high in some of these men, suggesting something akin to a personality disorder, or, more simply, a developmental delay that some of these men may have experienced in terms of their social maturity, perhaps as a consequence of the trauma of their shame over their small penis. It appears that in some cases, these men’s view of women remains cast in the relationship of boy to mother (or, if you prefer, worshiper to goddess), rather than adult man to adult woman. There is little sense of these men believing they are in peer relationships with women and so they lash out at other males by engaging in torture and sexual humiliation of them. It is believed that a number of US neo-con politicians, Cheney, Bush, et al, who favor torture and sexual humiliation, all have small penises. It is also rumored that in private gatherings they wear women’s panties on their heads and so have come to be known as the panty-cons.”

      More here …

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    4. your tiny balls

      We hanged a couple Japs for doing it, too. That’s because controlled drowning induces air hunger. When air hunger sets in with lung cancer patients they just fuckin kill em. Lethal dose of morphine, stat. If your Mom was thrashing around with it, you’d whack her in two shakes of a lamb’s tail and say whew. By subjecting you to controlled drowning I could make you convert to Islam. I could make you bow to the UN flag. I could make you blow me and fulsomely compliment my girth. Maybe I will.

    5. wunsacon

      Is it okay if you suffer one day for crimes you did not commit but which your detainers believe you did or knew about?

    1. Earl O'Mar

      I could not agree more. We’ve lost our way when political expediency triumphs over rule of law.

      However, FWIW, my understanding is that Atty. General Holder, much to the dismay of the administration, continues to support a full investigation and prosecution of these crimes. Despite Rahm’s contention that we need to move forward and not look back, Holder seems to understand that the prosecution of any crime is, by it’s very nature, an exercise in “looking back”.

  6. tz

    Ah, but both perjury and sexual harassment are illegal, but our new elder statesman, husband of the secretary of state, goes around with honors.

    Another blogger I follow says several times every week “Where are the Cops?!”. Usually in reference to all the fraudulent activity with the derivatives market.

    But you cannot have a nation of laws and not of men if the rules are always bent if not actually broken and you don’t mind if it happens to be something to your benefit.

    Where are the cops? Not looking into AIG/GS/Timmy&Ben, not looking into the ex-prez who couldn’t keep his zipper closed, and most certainly not to the vice-ious number two.

    Until there is a call for no pulled punches, no excuses, no exemptions, no exceptions, this will go on.

    Though I do hope Cheney travels to a foreign country who is a signatory of the various treaties – I think the one Pinochet made the mistake of visiting – and ends up in Milosovec’s old cell where there will be technical problems with his pacemaker.

  7. michael

    I back you on every single sentence of your article!
    (Thanks also to Richard Smith and George Washington.)

    Cheney, Bush, and all the other central figures pushing for torture need to be put to trial.

  8. goodrich4bk

    I’ve often heard conservatives put up the “24” defense to justify torture, i.e., if you knew a terrorist had information that could save a city, wouldn’t you torture him?

    Here’s my reply, which has never been successfully rejoined:

    1. Let’s assume that I “know” I’m dealing with a terrorist who has such info.
    2. Let’s assume I believe that torture will get me good, actionable info, even though most studies say otherwise; and
    3. Let’s assume the guy breaks and I save a whole City.

    Okay, in this perfect, make-believe fantasy scenario, here is the answer:

    YES, I would torture the dude. And, YES, I would admit that I broke the law and I would NOT put up a bunch of yes-men attorneys to claim that it wasn’t torture, that I had diminished capacity under all that stress or any other crap defense. Rather, I would accept any punishment for my crime, just as every soldier risks his life every day in combat to support our constitutional democracy. In short, I don’t blame Cheney for chosing to torture, I blame him for attacking our Constitutional democracy by suggesting that the President can do whatever he damn well pleases.

    Oh, and if I was wrong about the dude and he was innocent? Well, I suspect my punishment would be a tad bit more harsh.

    1. the norns

      Exactly right. When Liddy broke the law he took his medicine. Olly North took his medicine. Cheney needs to take his lethal injection or his nice short life sentence in a foreign prison. But he’s a coward. Addington, coward. Gonzales, coward. Yoo, coward. They’re all praying to nonexistent baby jesus that they’re not the one that Hamas picks to make an example of.

  9. Jim Haygood

    oBOMBa’s amped-up drone assassinations in Pakistan are just as illegal and atrocious as Cheney’s torture.

    The U.S. is a dying, grossly insovent empire, run by an odious bipartisan axis of Depublicrat war criminals.

    Wave goodbye — this sadistic, debt-fueled freak show ain’t gonna last much longer. Let it bleed …

  10. Colonel Kurtz

    Correct me if I am wrong but I was under the impression that the Geneva Convention protected uniformed combatants.. The CRAP PIGS we are fighting do not have the balls to put on a uniform and fight a traditional war nor do they want to because they would not have a fighting chance.. I say bury every suicide bomber, benladen loving, or any other non uniformed muslim combatant in a box with a pig… Coat every bullet with bacon grease, and feed the captives nothing but pork. THIS is a WAR and those of you who try to harbor the attackers with that Geneva BS lie have no understanding of the true meaning of HORROR. Would you torture someone to save your wife or daughter… Well, be honest…would you? If not then you do not understand what it take to survive and you are a poor excuse for an AMERICAN.

    1. the norns

      You wouldn’t dare torture a Bratz doll, you cowardly sleeve. American pussies like you lose it when shit happens. In civilized countries with balls they charge em, they try em, they lock em up. Then they got on with their lives without your comical squeaky hysterics.

    2. wunsacon

      After millions of hours of intel, you neocons couldn’t even get the facts right on WMD. What makes you think the people you’re torturing ahead of trial are guilty of anything?

      You’re an embarrassment.

  11. sam hampster

    A clear pattern has emerged since the Nixon administration: scandals of the past are dwarfed by the scandals and crimes of the following administrations. As bad a Cheney is, we can expect far worst to come.

    The Republicans have tapped into instincts that, while they successfully subdued this continent for the white man, are no longer suited for our progressive age. “Only upity elites care more for terrorist, than they do for real Americans!” goes out across thousands of media circuits to the Republican base. It is not good for peace, but it is great for war and for getting elected by the uneducated majority.

    Our drone attacks in Pakistan, which is really just genocide given that it occurs in a lightly populated area,
    may already have taken us to the next magnitude of crime. If not, at the very least it confirms the trend of growing, national brutality and America’s love affair with it.

  12. eric anderson

    This is February. We’re supposed to be getting new episodes, not reruns. Yet we are being tortured with this broken record harangue on Cheney. Folks, you got your non-torturing President who wants America to be as ashamed of itself as he is. Can’t you be satisfied now? You know Cheney is not going to be prosecuted. Dare I say it? Let’s just “move on.”

    Frankly I don’t know who to believe. Some say we got “actionable intelligence” through these techniques, and some say information gathered this way is unreliable. Actually, both positions could be true. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. “Unreliable” does not mean categorically false. It just means uncertain.

    @goodrich4bk: Essentially you’re saying you’re OK with torture under certain circumstances, but only if we punish the people who actually saved our hides by conducting it. There’s a kind of legalistic consistency there. And yet at the gut level, my reaction is one of repugnance. Does our hypothetical Jack Bauer deserve a medal? Perhaps not. Yet I would find it hard to convict him for making the evil suffer so that the good might survive.

    1. bystander

      “Folks, you got your non-torturing President…”

      No we haven’t, necessarily. Continuities between this president and the last one certainly include a) shamelessness b) continued operation of establishments that were torture houses under the preceding administration.

      “…who wants America to be as ashamed of itself as he is.”

      A pretty wild projection, given Obama’s already well-documented shamelessness.

      Now then, are you ashamed to be a citizen of a country that tortures the innocent, or not?

      1. eric anderson

        It depends on your definition of torture. Waterboarding was used in three cases, and they were not innocents. I will accept that waterboarding is torture, loosely defined. But I am not terribly distressed about the manner in which it was employed. KSM is still with us, after all.

        I can live with the fact that our country incinerated innocents in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Hamburg, Dresden. It wasn’t nice. It was war. War is hell.

        The Bible says, “The way to peace they know not.” Until that changes, I accept that nations feel compelled or forced to commit such acts.

        I believe America is not innocent, but it has been more reserved in committing evil acts than most of our enemies. Whereas the Germans bombed civilians on the very first day of the war, American military command continued to wrestle with it — throughout the war.

        All things are relative. Until all men accept the spirit of the Prince of Peace, we will have these evils. It is inevitable. If America increased its use of hard coercive techniques beyond what they have done, yes I would be more concerned. And ashamed. Right now, no. Sorry.

  13. scharfy

    War is hell.

    Some people think certain political parties are more inclined to it? Humorous.

    America is the most vile evil empire ever? Not even close.

    We are falling far short of our ideals, far short.

    But even the most cursory reading of Japanese, British, German, Russian, Chinese, Cambodian, French, Mongol, Byzantine, Turkish, Roman, Ottoman Jewish, Aztec, or Bosnian military history would unearth human rights violations on par, and IMO far exceeding the United States’.

    Anybody remember Bataan death march? Mao and Stalin killing millions a piece? Mongol Raids? Boer Wars? ? The Holocaust? The French in Algeria? Somolia, Rwanda, and Sudanese genocide? Bangladesh wars of 1971 ? Idi Amin?

    The Chinese Government slaughtering innocent Tibetans in 2007!!!? check out youtube they have great videos of it?

    Even the lovable Aussies slaughtered many Tasmanian Aborigines.

    A little perspective please. Every nation on this earth has vicious unspeakable horrors in its past.

    At least look up Genocides in history on wikipedia before you award America the most hated nation status.

    Drones flying over Pakistan are inhuman. Yes. But make no mistake, America has no monopoly on man’s inhumanity to man.

    We are not the greatest, just the latest.

  14. Ok Yves, answer this then

    If torture was so useless, why do two different US commanders in chief with very different, perhaps opposite point of views, still endorse or allow it?

    If you want to comments on crimes against humanity, why not devote a few articles every day to the insanity of radical Islam? Start your education here:

    Your credibility just dropped by 50% with me, and I used to recommend your site to coworkers, no more.

    1. Skippy

      For all you petards that get your rocks off on others getting flayed, drugged, raped, water boarded etc, prepare your self for some of the same. Historically this de-evolves until the very population that justified it, suffers it (check it out please).

      Number one, we messed with them and not the other way around, hundreds of years of intrusion will make anyone pissed off, they only responded to our aggressive actions.
      Let us take care of our patch and not covet others eh.

      In the end things do happen on the battle field although but, it is entirely different to grab people when bounty’s are offered and apply barbaric applications which have been shown to be counter productive.

      Skippy…all the yeh’s just like it, full stop, pay back for shit they don’t even understand, bunch of yahoo’s with issues.

    2. bystander

      “If torture was so useless, why do two different US commanders in chief with very different, perhaps opposite point of views, still endorse or allow it?”

      Because they’ve both lost their moral compass. Just like you.

      “If you want to comments on crimes against humanity, why not devote a few articles every day to the insanity of radical Islam?”

      WTF? It should be blindingly obvious that if one’s opposed to torture, one’s opposed to all torture. Though that might not be so blindingly obvious to a complete hypocrite, I suppose.

      “Your credibility just dropped by 50% with me”

      That really doesn’t look like a particularly worrying development.

  15. Don Loritz

    Torture is ubiquitous in empires. Each year, 45,000 Americans die in the gutter outside the hospital that is the U.S. health care system. They die there slowly and in full view of their family and friends. They die there crucified as a public display of the power of the powers that will crush them for being useless to the generation of profits accumulating in Swiss banks. Further down the gutter the newly-foreclosed and homeless stand, waiting their turn. The path to riches runs through rivers of blood.

      1. di

        yes, in fact, the u.s. (basically the entire western hemisphere) was born and created of torture, white supremacist racism, slavery, genocide, theft, lies, myths, etc. it’s not real or legitimate. we just go on pretending.

  16. Dan Duncan

    So you begin this post with the infantile statement: “This is on-topic because torture is bad for the economy”.


    Then, as a source of support for this trenchant analysis, you link back to your own freaking blog!

    Then, when the reader actually follows the link, to get your reasoning for making the jump from “torture= bad economics”….he finds an article that reads: “The Military-Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy”.

    GW, torture is not the same thing as the dreaded “Military-Industrial Complex”. Of course, your loyal readers haven’t made this connection, because you’ve never even defined what you mean by torture. Torture means whatever you want it to mean; thus you get to make your spurious connections like torture=our vast military-industrial complex.

    If you’re going to write about torture, then give us your working definition, so we don’t have to read this equivocating, pandering bullshit. And, please, for the Love of God…stop referring back to your stupid blog as a source of support for your inane ramblings on this blog.


    “George Washington is an utter Buffoon. A Complete Moron. For proof, see THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS and THIS.”

    [And each THIS, offered as support, is a link back to other writings by the very same author in that author’s blog.]

    What a joke.

    “Oh, thank you Yves and George for this valuable information! Oh, this is so important!”

  17. michael m.

    A lot of things are appalling about a lot of the comments here – I guess the one that strikes me is that a lot of these people don’t even have any regrets that innocent people ended up tortured. That is, they don’t even say something like ‘it is truly terrible that innocent people probably ended up tortured, but we are in a desperate situation, etc. etc.’

    I agree Americans are certainly not worse than other people who have been in the position of running empires – which sadly just shows that there is a very big rotten streak in our species in general.

  18. mobutu's cancerous prostate

    If you’re a foreign investor gauging a country, you can’t avoid considering the rule of law. If you’re a domestic investor trying to keep from getting skinned, it’s good to realize how the rule of law has just collapsed here. That makes it very hard to cordon off politics from markets because it’s all about who you have to bribe or please and what might happen if you don’t.

  19. m

    If the USA were truely a nation of laws, Richard Cheney would have been apprehended as a war criminal a long time ago.

    The very fact that he is still roaming around in plain view makes a mockery of the United States as anything other than a banana republic.

    And, 2 comments deserved to be rebuked:

    1) about “most were innocent.” True. As most have not been successfully convicted. But even NC readers and commentors can be oblivious to this principle of fundamental law.

    2) about Cheney VS Hitler. Hitler was an over-rated under-achiever. He had nothing on the methodical madness of the Reign Of The Vice-Presidency.

    To summarize, the USA are truely a decadent society that’s lost itself, and is dragging the world down the rabbit hole in its wake while flushing down the drain.

    And there are still plenty of blighted Americans that stand by and make themselves complicit, just as the german people were in 1945.

  20. Alfred

    Thank you Yves, for this great post and harking back to this important topic. Bush admin torture and war crimes were not quite news lately, there were ‘more importnt’ things, and this post is therefore even more remarkable.

    The trial of the 9/11 mastermind is on schedule shortly. There should be a simultaneous trial of the Bush admin war crimes. For every trauma to heal needs closure. 9/11 changed the lives of all of us, whether we believe it or not, inside and outside America.

    But like almost everybody in this forum I am all but certain that justice will not prevail in this case. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that IMC creates its own enemies. It happens to be Islamofacism since the cold war era has ended. I am not sure but i think never before in history did a nation, a king or a dictator mobilize an army to fight enemies without a face. ‘War on terror’ is truly a new twist on that whole war thing by our leaders. If there weren’t such terrible consequences it would be almost comical.

    I hope you keep up the good work in reminding us from time to time that we all still have good reasons besides Wall Street and the economy to be concerned about. I truly believe that our leaders are about to abandon us, if they haven’t done so already.

  21. RobBonzetti

    Waterboarding is NOT torture buy any stretch of the imagination. This is pure fever swamp politics. The justification for posting this nonsense at NC is both disingenuous and wrong on the face of it. I am a recent frequent visitor to NC, but this post seriously undermines the credibility of the site. If I were interested in this sort of leftist claptrap, I’d go to dailykos or DU.

    1. bystander

      Try Googling “waterboarding”: plenty of people have an imagination that stretches far enough to be comfortable describing waterboarding as torture, amongst them John McCain, and any number of other Republicans. Possibly including Cheney…but not you.

      That would worry me, if I were you.

      Anyhow, makes your ‘fever swamp politics’ and ‘leftist claptrap’ charges look quite empty.

      1. RobBonzetti

        Your appeals to authority are not compelling. I don’t care what John McCain or “any number of other Republicans” have to say about it. I’ve read what is involved in waterboarding and I know the meaning of torture. I know that waterboarding is NOT torture by any stretch of the imagination. I know that reporters have volunteered to be waterboarded. I know that the military trains certain categories of soldiers by waterboarding them. I don’t believe the military tortures its soldiers. Moreover, unlike John McCain who really was tortured, I’m pretty sure KSM has experienced no residual bodily harm. The leftist fever swamp constantly conflates unpleasant (and effective) with torture.

        If you really want want something to worry about, it would be your herd-like approach to making moral judgements. Authority appeals are weak and simple-minded, especially when the “authority” is the herd.

        1. bystander

          Ah, apologies, I thought when you said “buy any stretch of the imagination”, you meant, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.

          I offered evidence (note: not an appeal to authority, evidence) that plenty of people were capable of stretching their imagination that far.

          But you were just confessing that your own imagination wasn’t up to the task of imagining how waterboarding might be torture. That’s a pity.

          “Authority appeals are weak and simple-minded” – well, yes, which is why I offered *evidence* (not an appeal to authority – you don’t seem to grasp the difference) that not everyone who thinks waterboarding is torture is a leftist.

          You are still free to use Google to discover the other Republicans that I alluded to. But do you know, I don’t think you’ll bother.

        2. Evelyn Sinclair

          actually waterboarding was a tried & true torture technique at least as far back as the Inquisition. Look up the Malleus Meleficaum or “Hammer of Witches” which is the manual for the Inquisition. There are even pictures online (I’ve googled images) of the waterboarding apparatuses, some photos of them in museums, some plates from ancient books. They called it torture.

          Using waterboarding and other torture techniques,the Inquisitors were qble to get Witches to confess to their broomstick-flights through the air to sabats where they committed obscentites with demons and Satan, and to using magic to hex cows and cause illnesses.

          Some of the modern uses of these sme techniques have been eqully effective in encouraging equally satisfactory confessions.

          If torture were a tiny bit less illegal, no one would bother disputing whether the waterboarding technique, suddenly, now, is NOT torture.

  22. Amit Chokshi

    So what? Cheney is a war criminal utter scumbag like Bush and John Yoo and the others entrenched in this. Cheney is flipping the bird to the DOJ and the world because he’s flat out saying hey I torture and even though it’s a crime, NOTHING will happen to him. There’s no justice in this world for scum like Cheney or the upper echelon of the industrial/financial titans.

    More so, as some comments here indicate, people don’t care. That’s a bad reflection on those people because it shows one of the founding principles of this country/society can be so grossly violated but due to lack of intellectual horsepower, apathy, ignorance, and fear many people are fine with it. Many people don’t know that many of those in GB are innocent, many people have no clue about haebeus corpus, etc. More so they have no interest in educating themselves beyond what scum like Beck and Limbaugh tell them or scummy “centrists” like Lieberman have to say.

    What the US has become is an abomination due to men like Cheney but the common people are just as guilty. We watch “24” and think that’s how to solve problems. We are uneducated serfs so there’s no real chance at this point.

  23. chuck

    You forget the fact that these terrorists are not covered by the Geneva Convention, which covers UNIFORMED soldiers fighting under the flag of a nation. No Geneva Convention protection, no war crime. PERIOD. THE END.

    1. bystander

      Totally wrong, Chuck.

      The Third Geneva Convention covers protections to soldiers; the Fourth Convention covers protections to civilians (and is stricter about treatment BTW, as you might expect).

      What’s more, as of 1958, “There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law”.

      So they’re either PoWs or civilians: pick one.

      1. chuck

        Sorry, they are not civilians when they are attacking us. KSM, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was one of the few who was waterboarded, masterminded 9/11. Now it is arguable whether the attack on the twin towers was an act of terrorism, or a act of war. The attack on the Pentagon was a act of War. He, and the rest of Al Queda fall into the catagory of unlawful combatants, that is, not in uniform, and not fighting for an established state. You do kow that it is lawful to execute any soldier fighting out of uniform, don’t you? We executed Germans who landed in the US to commit sabotage during WWII.
        Personally, I don’t give a damn what happens to these people. KSM personally cut the head off Daniel Pearl, and people are all upset because he thought he was going to drown?
        I believe people are using this issue as a way to vent their hatred for GWB and DC.

        1. bystander

          Oh dear, chuck. Which part of “There is no intermediate status” did you not understand? Civilians or PoWs, those are the choices. Pick one.


          a) The GCs were signed up to after WW2 so those precedents are irrelevant.

          b)”Personally, I don’t give a damn what happens to these people.” I can see that but it’s not relevant to the conventions that the US has signed

          c) “I really don’t know for sure, but I believe both parties must be signed up for it to count.” Well I know for sure and you are wrong. Check out common article 2 and common article 3.

      2. chuck

        One more thing, Al Quaeda is not a signer of the Geneva Convention. I really don’t know for sure, but I believe both parties must be signed up for it to count. At the very least, both sides must fight under the same rules.

        1. bystander

          If it’s any consolation, your homework is of an equal standard to that of former Attorney General Gonzales.

          1. chuck

            I’ll have to apologize for not knowing every nuance of the Geneva Convention, some of us do have a job, not many, but some. I just stumbled upon ths article while reading a financial article. From looking at the above post, things are obvious:
            1: Too many people have forgotten that this is really a fight to the death with Islamic radicals who will stop at nothing to kill us. Personally, I would annilate all the bastards, or enough that the rest would leave us the hell alone.
            2: Too many people here belong to the”blame America for everything wrong in the world” crowd.
            3: Some of you need to get away from the keyboard and out into the sunlight. You need to get a life.

  24. Chaim Kaufmann

    I have read the CBS and ABC transcripts for Sunsay the 14th and cannot find Cheney acknowledging that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render.

    Can Yves, the guest author, or anyone tell me where I can find him saying this?

    1. Walter

      No kidding. This post has nothing to do with economics, and the silly first sentence doesn’t change that.

      I normally enjoy this blog, but this post was completely off topic and belongs on a different blog.

      1. sangell

        as does most of this man’s posts.

        I would add that the real “George Washington’, not the internet buffoon version, no doubt saw and condoned things far worse than ‘waterboarding’ as a British officer during the French and Indian wars

        1. Chaim Kaufmann

          In 1754 the real George Washington had French officers who approached under flag of truce murdered–resulting in the deaths of most of his force including Colonel Braddock, his commander, and in the turning of the Anglo-French crisis over the Ohio country into the Seven Years’ War. Might have become a war anyway, but GW made it certain.

  25. Ron C

    This article assumes that waterboarding is torture. Actually it has been debated extensively the verdict is still out.There’s a lot of difference between scaring someone like crazy by waterboarding and genuine torture techniques.

  26. Paul Tioxon

    I don’t bother reading the posts after the article, I barely skim them, war is hell flashed by, I think. I can tell you my father survived Bataan, among other places in his 20 years with USN from 1940-1960. One of the items he carried in his wallet was the Geneva Convention Accords stating his rights as a combatant. Please don’t waste your time responding with your armchair theories. I don’t care about your opinions on the matter. It is a matter of law. I can tell you that up until my fathers death, at the age of 94, he still would have nightmares from the WWII. It never goes away, the military never treated it. Post traumatic, yea, that what it is, but his generation got nothing for it. Fortunately for him and me, he was a physical specimen. I thought he was bullet proof and would out live me. My father escaped torture, except for being on a sunken ship, swimming for hours while men drowned all around him and then those who thought they would at least not drown were burned to death by the fire from the fuel, floating on top of the waves, creating a lake of fire. Other than experiences like that, no torture. But the water boarding, the beatings, the splinters hammered into your body, stuff like that, I am glad he did not have to endure. Like McCain, I just don’t want to hear your opinion on breaking the law that will turn soldiers into slaughter house meat. You can read other relevant texts on the matter. Suffice it to say, even far short of physical torture, if you upset someone bad enough with almost any threat, they will tell you almost anything. Whether it is the truth or not, whether it will actually save 100 or 1,000,000 lives or not, is difficult to know in the moment. But we do know for a fact that the hundreds and thousands and millions of soldiers in all of the wars who become POW’s, if tortured, will probably die. We will just trade their lives, for whatever imagined gains there may or might not be. The Geneva Conventions, at least provide some small shield for many POW’s, I would urge all the people who read this to respect that, and demand that the rule of law be upheld.

  27. Evelyn Sinclair

    Hi Yves, I needed to add to the “Thank you” pile.

    You provide links to articles on polar bears, modern day cave men and othe interesting things out there on the web. I enjoy and share some of them with friends.

    You provide fuzzy antitotes, which I also appreciate, and sometimes share with friends.

    Whether or not this post was “off topic” you have every right to put it here. Your blog! If someone isn’t interested, tney can skip to a post they want to read. I don’t read each and every one, and sometimes I skim.

    Trolls are, kind by definition, the ones who go to the trouble of coming here and posting their disagreeable, in some cases sickeningly vile comments.

    I haven’t posted any comments in quite a while, but sometimes you gotta stand up and say — yeah, this is worth talking about.

    What the silence from Obama does is add one more confirmation that there is no “change we can believe in.” He isn’t going to prosecute predecessors for crimes that continue on his watch. He’s anothe War Prez, hasn’t rescinded or stopped tortures or extraordinary renditions. He expanded the war zone. (If you call an attack and occupation like this a “war,” speaking of fighting against, you know, armies in uniform rather than sloppily slaughtering a whole lot of civillians and a few suspected insurgents.)

    So the old Military Industrial Complex is alive and VERY healthy, and is joined at the trough by an even more extatic Goldman Sachs Vampire Squid type thing, and the only thing bothering the MIC is that, dang, they are SO much less efficient at bleeding wealth out of hte US; they have to actually DO things to get that wasteful wealth-flow going past their pockets.

    Maybe in the future they’ll still have “wars” but they’ll be like the fillibusterless filibuster — no one will actually have to go fight them. They can just sell War Derivatives or swap insurance on the victim. The designated enemy can choose to surrender to the WTO or to the US army — take its pick of who appropriates its natural resources and privatizes its water and electricity.

    Maybe Goldman and Halliburton will merge.

    Oh wait — there was the carrlyle Group. We’re close there!

  28. Blissex

    «vigilante and mob justice should replace the Constitution of the US.»

    This happened some hundred years ago… See appended quotes from Tocqueville.

    As to the stupid arguments about the Geneva convention’s applicability, torture is also a crime under USA law. The law of the USA, as enacted by Congress under the Constitution, forbids torture, in any case without any exceptions. The USA constitution also forbids explicitly punishment before conviction, and any “cruel and unusual” punishment even after conviction. Torture is absolutely unconstitutional even for convicted criminals, in every case.

    Of course all this matters not at all, because many if not most voters, that is “public opinion”, just want safety at any price, as long as the price is paid not by them but by brown skinned nobodies they could not care less about.

    My usual quotes from de Tocqueville on the lack of rule of law in USA politics, an ancient tradition:

    «When a man or a party suffers from an injustice in the United States, to whom can he turn? To public opinion? That is what forms the majority. To the legislative body? That represents the majority and obeys it blindly. To the
    executive power? That is appointed by the majority and servers as is passive instrument. To the public police force? They are nothing but the majority under arms. To the jury? That is the majority invested with the right to pronounce judgements; the very judges in certain states are elected by the majority. So, however unfair or unreasonable the measure which damages you, you have to submit.
    A striking example of the excesses which the despotism of the majority may occasion was seen in Baltimore during the war of 1812. At that time the war was very popular in Baltimore.
    A newspaper opposed to it aroused the indignation of the inhabitants by taking that line. The people came together, destroyed the printing presses and attacked the journalists’ premises. The call went out to summon the militia which, however, did not respond to the call. In order to save those wretched fellows threatened with by the public frenzy the decision was taken to put them in prison like criminals.
    The precaution was useless. During the night the people gathered once again; when the magistrates failed to summon the militia, the prison was forced one of the journalists was killed on the spot and the others were left for dead. The guilty parties, when standing before a jury, were acquitted.»

    «I said to someone who lived in Pennsylvania: “Kindly explain to me how, in a state founded by Quakers and celebrated for its tolerance, free Negroes are not allowed to exercise their civil rights. They pay their taxes; is it not fair that they should have the vote?”
    “You insult us,” he replied, “if you imagine that our legislators committed such a gross act of injustice and intolerance.”
    “Thus the blacks possess the right to vote in this country?”
    “Without any doubt.”
    “So, how does it come about that at the polling-booth this morning I did not notice a single Negro in the crowd?”
    “That is not the fault of the law,” said the American to me. “It is true that the Negroes have the right to participate in the elections but they voluntarily abstain from making an appearance.”
    “That is indeed very modest of them.”
    “It is not that they are refusing to attend, but they are afraid of being mistreated. In this country it sometimes happens that the law lacks any force when the majority does not support it. Now, the majority is imbued with the strongest of prejudices against the blacks and the magistrates feel they do not have enough strength to guarantee the rights which the legislator has conferred upon them.”
    “So you mean that the majority, which has the privilege of enacting the laws, also wishes to enjoy the privilege of disobeying them?”»

    1. Richard Smith


      Thanks for pointing to the ancient rot.
      (BTW glad to see you haven’t gone for good).

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