THE IMMUNITY QUESTION

Of course, one critical reason that Dick Cheney will not relent in maintaining his right to order torture, even though he is increasingly isolated within the administration and has isolated the United States even further from its allies and friends around the world is … his concern for immunity from prosecution for past actions and decisions. The truth is that crimes have been committed against detainees – and those crimes were sanctioned all the way up the chain of command. If we agree to end the torture and abuse, the question then emerges of actually holding the really guilty men accountable. Pathetic show-trials of grunts, like the Abu Ghraib disciplining, won’t wash. Those thugs were obeying orders. Those orders came from their commanders and those commanders were given the green light from the very top – or at the very least were acting in a meltdown of confusion that their superiors created. There will undoubtedly be pressure from the White House to trade their own immunity – and immunity for the top brass – in return for new legal bars on torture and abuse. In my view, such a trade would be deeply wrong. After we stop the torture and abuse, there will come a time to hold officials in the executive branch responsible for what they have done and enabled. No deal, Mr Vice-president. You sanctioned these actions; and you need to take responsibility for them. If not now, then later.

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