Obama & Holder Trash Nuremberg Principles (updated)

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

A dark, dark day for America.

“They were only following orders.” This is the opinion of Eric Holder, as offered in his statement today, describing the decision to release four Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel memos. (The memos have just been posted, and link is here.)

And so the United States government, 64 years after the end of World War II, adopts the infamous slogan of “Befehl ist Befehl” (literally “orders are orders”), otherwise known as the Nuremberg Defense.

Furthermore, Holder pledges the U.S. government will defend any CIA torturers before any tribunal, domestic or international, pay any fines,  and make every effort to assert “any available immunities and other defenses”.

“It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department,” Holder said.

No matter how you try to spin it. No matter how enraged you are at my making a comparison to of U.S. governmental leaders to Nazi war criminals, there is no getting around it. Torturers are absolved by this administration. And the way they did was by using the defense made popular by the Nazis at their war crimes trials, and thoroughly rejected by the United States at that time.

In taking this position formally, the Obama administration has discarded the principles enumerated in the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, where Articles 7 and 8 state (emphasis added):

Article 7. The official position of defendants, whether as Heads of State or responsible officials in Government Departments, shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment.

Article 8. The fact that the Defendant acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the Tribunal determines that justice so requires.

“Mitigation of punishment” sounds a hell of a lot different than what Holder is proposing, which is an all-out defense of those who claim who were “only following orders” (quotes for irony, not Holder’s). Perhaps Holder should consider this statement, from the Nuremberg IMT’s Trial of the Major War Criminals:

Crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced.

Or both Holder and Obama can consider what the U.S., as a High Contracting Party, or signatory, to the Geneva Conventions says about the duty to prosecute war crimes, such as torture (emphasis added):

Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. It may also, if it prefers, and in accordance with the provisions of its own legislation, hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party concerned, provided such High Contracting Party has made out a prima facie case.

Geneva III POWs, art. 129, Geneva IV Civilians, art. 146; see also 18 USC 2441(c)(1).

Evidence of the crimes committed by CIA officers, agents and/or contractors in perpetuating torture are documented in a number of sources, but none as authoritative as the recent report by the International Committee of the Red Cross on CIA abuse and torture of “high-value detainees” in its custody. The failure to seek prosecutions of war criminals, and now by formal pronouncement, puts high officials of the U.S. government in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Additionally, and no less outrageously, when Eric Holder or Barack Obama tell you the U.S. government does not condone torture, they do not tell you the truth. The government maintains a classic form of torture within the current Army Field Manual, combining partial sensory deprivation, isolation, sleep deprivation, harsh use of fear and dread, all while instilling a sense of hopelessness in prisoners, which is the same sort of psychological torture perfected by the Stalinists of various countries, and advocated in the CIA’s own counter-intelligence interrogation manual from the early 1960s, known as the KUBARK Manual.

Those who are so inclined may wish to watch this concluding section of the famous film, “Judgement at Nuremberg.” The quote that follows is from Spencer Tracy’s speech. As you watch, consider how far subservience to the military and intelligence agencies has acted as an acid to undermine all that this nation once believed and fought for.

The principle of criminal law in every civilized society as this in common: any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime, is guilty….

Before the people of the world let it now be noted in our decision that this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.


The release of the memos by OLC justifying torture are up for anyone to view. The link is at the top of the diary. I’ve looked at the Aug. 1, 2002 memo from Jay Bybee (and any helpers) to John Rizzo at CIA. It’s an extraordinary document, and everyone should take a look.

It authorizes the use of ten abusive interrogation techniques: attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap (insult slap), cramped confinement, wall standing (should be called slamming), stress positions, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box (!), and the waterboard.

The connections between SERE techniques and use CIA operational use of same is made clear throughout, as is the collaboration with medical professionals and SERE military psychologists. Notably, Bybee claims the OLC decision was vetted with interrogation experts, SERE experts, and “outside psychologists”. One wonders who the latter were, and I would like to see the American Psychological Association ask for an immediate investigation of who these “outside psychologists” were.

Throughout the document there are blacked-out sections, mostly those that obviously relate to names and identities. But not entirely, as there are whole paragraphs blocked out in sections that evidently go into more details than DoJ wished to release.

As you read these documents and their bogus claims of authority to torture, imagine you are one of the interrogators getting these orders (place insects in a confinement box! waterboard!). And remember, finally, that the CIA and/or military used torture prior to the authoring of these memos (also see this link), so Holder’s “they were only following orders” defense is pure BS from top to bottom.

Also posted at Invictus


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    • Valtin on April 16, 2009 at 23:17

    I’d love to see this get recommended, to spread the word far and wide, re what a lawless society we have become.


    • Viet71 on April 16, 2009 at 23:26

    so powerful it’s a kind of fuck-you weapon…we can do whatever we like.

    Otherwise, why would Obama be throwing away one of our most valuable national assets, moral authority?

  1. … emotionally from reading Obama’s remarks over the memos — praising the CIA and not even mentioning those who have been tortured.  I don’t know why this has hit me this way and brought me to tears.  I can’t explain it.  His speaking of reflection over retribution, as though we would be bloodthirsty beasts who only care for revenge if we wish real accountability.  As though we have not reflected on this.  Argh.

    Things are in a state of real fluidity right now.  I haven’t come to any conclusions yet on what this latest news of CIA immunity means when it comes to prosecutions.  I don’t think this is the end of it yet.

    I do find, however, the praise of the CIA ludicrous in the extreme.

    Sorry, Valtin, I just can’t think politics or even justice right now.  I’m so flabbergasted at Obama’s missed opportunity to show his own feelings on torture.  As a nation, I truly believe we need to see those feelings.  Any true “reflection” must lead to profound remorse.  And that’s not going to happen with the kind of remarks Obama just gave in the face of the memo I’m about to read.

    I hope he remedies this very soon and really speaks to the American people about what has been done to other human beings by our government.

    Again, sorry for this silly ramble.  I’ve rec’d you over at the Orange, hope this gets a lot of attention.

    And I wonder how many folks quit the CIA because of this.  How many refused to torture.  I wonder how their morale is doing.

    • Arctor on April 17, 2009 at 00:55

    international crimes that no government has the right to supercede. Obama and Holder are both trained lawyers, one taught constitutional law, they know better. Their is no legal support for their blanket decision not to prosecute. And has the President now instructed the military to stop instructing recruits that they must not obey an illegal order or has the military ceased teaching that precept any longer?

  2. There’s this big long involved examination of the desire to introduce insects into the guy’s cage and whether it will cause him mental pain. How in the name of the nine mothers of Heimdall on pogo sticks that bullshit artist managed to write himself into believing that an interrogation technique SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED to trigger a person’s phobia of insects would NOT cause that person mental pain…

    Oh, and get this, slamming the guy into a wall won’t cause him physical pain, either.

    ON WHAT PLANET?!?!??!?

    I am stunned by the sheer level of amoral stupidity in these memos, but that section took the fucking cake.

  3. I was driving to court and heard excerpts of Holder’s statements on NPR.  What I don’t understand: why did he decide to say this?  There was nothing about releasing the documents that required a grant of prosecutorial immunity to anybody.  In fact, far to the contrary.  Why didn’t he just release the memos, and wait for the low level interrogators to come running to his office to say who ordered what and when?  Unless, of course, the reason for the statement was to protect all of those up the chain of command…  Sigh.

  4. for your undying loyalty to these issues and relinquishing (some “vacation” time).  

  5. The plan is called the Illuminati Plan to Destroy America.  Rather ensure that America, what it used to be, the principles we used to claim to live by, never see the light of day again.

    Having “us” pay neo-con penalties for neo-con war crimes fits right in with the globalist’s plan.

  6. Actually after reading your Alternet article, it’s more like getting kicked in the ‘nads

    An email just sent to my honorable (?) Congessional delagtes, thanks to your excellent reporting.

    Has the United States of America slipped so far as to condone and defend torture? Have we as a nation accepted Nazi Germany’s defense of “orders are orders”. Do We The People believe that no one is guilty because of “legal opinions” issued from a basement room in the Pentagon? Have we as a people lost ALL sense of justice, of International Law, of humanity, of nobility, of honor, of decency?

    The Golden Rule states ” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

    Do you, as my elected, respected, and honored representative in the Congress of the United States of America, want to be: water-boarded; stuck in a box with unknown insects; get slammed into walls; get slapped around; hung from the arms; constrained into joint dislocating positions; be kept awake for days with noise of literally hearing impairing volume; be threatened and attacked by guard dogs; be threatened with violence to your family, your children; be sexually intimidated and assaulted; your religious beliefs belittled and mocked.

    Do you, Hon. Senator Murray, Hon. Senator Cantwell, and Hon. Representative Larsen want these things to be done to you, or in your name? Do you want to be in the position of defending anyone who would do such dispicable, vile and illegal acts?

    Please act with the respect for human life, human dignity, and International Law and condemn, and prosecute any and all elected officials who have committed such unbearably vile acts, and those who would defend them, up to and including the President of the United States, both past and present.

    Very respectfully,   Jim Davidson

    Thank you for your time and effort on these issues Valtin, it is immeasurably important.

    Be well  

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