Below is today’s brief column in the Los Angeles Times where I joined other writers on how each of us believes President Obama can earn the Nobel Prize, here. For civil libertarians, Obama’s selection is the ultimate triumph of hope over experience. My suggestion is probably predictable for people on this blog.
Appoint a prosecutor for war crimes
To truly earn the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama needs to transform himself from a barrier to a beacon when it comes to human rights and international law.
The most obvious start would be to fulfill our obligations under treaties and international law to appoint a special prosecutor, without limitations, to investigate and prosecute any war crimes committed by U.S. officials. Obama already has acknowledged that waterboarding is torture and that torture is a war crime, yet his administration is blocking investigations that are the prerequisite to justice. Obama has promised CIA employees as a group that they would not be prosecuted for torture for following orders, despite the long-standing finding from the Nuremburg trials that “just following orders” is no defense for a war crime. Appointing a special prosecutor would show that Obama will not continue to circumvent principle for politics. He could further demonstrate his commitment to international law by dropping his opposition to the release of photographs and other records showing our abuse of detainees.
Doing the right thing often demands decisions that are neither popular nor easy. If Obama wants to show that the peace prize is more than the superficial triumph of a cult of personality, he can start by showing that his own country is willing to pay the price demanded by the law of nations.
Jonathan Turley is a law professor at George Washington University and has served as lead counsel in various major national security and constitutional cases.