House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to fend off criticism over her knowledge of the Bush Administration’s plan to torture detainees. Pelosi has adopted a highly lawyered exclamation that she was briefed on the plan but never told that they were implementing the plan. It is a distinction lost on civil libertarians. She was still briefed on a war crime and did not act to stop it.
So, here is the analogy. Someone briefs you on their conclusion that they are allowed to burn down buildings, but you are not responsible unless you personally see the smoke or you are told about the arsons. I was not aware that asserting the right to commit war crimes was not a concern for congressional oversight. So, the Bush Administration went to all the trouble of securing formal opinions to allow it to torture people and to brief high ranking democrats, but Pelosi did not consider it a matter of sufficient concern to call for action from the Committees. This occurred at the same time that Bush and others were calling for rough treatment of detainees and publicly questioning the application of things like the Geneva Conventions.
Notably, lawyers are required to act when a client tells them that they are considering an action that could result in physical injury or death in other individuals. Yet, when Pelosi is told about the Administration belief that it can commit war crimes, she feels no compulsion to act until after the war crimes are committed.
Pelosi stated “In that or any other briefing…we were not, and I repeat, we’re not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation techniques were used. What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel … opinions that they could be used.” Hmmm, so the Bush Administration went out of its way to brief you on their belief that they could torture people, but that was not cause for action by the Democratic leadership — which was campaigning on their superior commitment to civil liberties. Indeed, as many of us were criticizing the known torture program, Democratic leaders like Pelosi did virtually nothing to investigate the allegations or denounce the practice. Pelosi herself blocked any effort to investigate George Bush for war crimes or to allow even an investigation into a possible impeachment for such crimes. She insisted to the very end of the Bush Administration that she had not heard of a single possible crime committed by George Bush that could be used to impeach him. She then said that she could not allow impeach if Bush would not go along with it, here.
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