Dahlia Lithwick, a lawyer and senior editor at Slate, spoke with Cenk Uygur about returning the rule of law to thus country now that Osama bin Laden is dead. She calls for President Obama to fulfill his campaign promises to close Guantanamo, end military tribunal in lieu of Article III trials. In her article at Slate she discusses “Closing Pandora’s Box” ending the euphemistic “was on terror”:
The killing of Osama bin Laden has, for a brief instant, united an America that seemed permanently torn in two over birth certificates, the deficit, and the Donald. We can debate whether there should have been a trial, whether Americans ought to be dancing in the streets, whether it was legal to kill him, or even whether it matters whether it was legal to kill him. But we all appear to basically agree that the world is a far better place because the man responsible for one of the most vicious attacks in U.S. history is no longer in it.
So now what? Legally speaking, there are two broad lessons to derive from the Obama administration’s latest salvo in the war on terror. One is that it shows the need to continue operating outside legal norms indefinitely. The other is that it allows us to declare a symbolic victory over terrorism and return once more to the pre-9/11 regime in which the rule of law is inviolate.
About all we can say with certainty is this: We tortured. We live in a world in which we must contend with information obtained by torture. We now need to decide whether we want to continue to live that way. Writers from ideological backgrounds as diverse as Matt Yglesias and Ross Douthat argue that it is time to return to the paradigm abandoned after 9/11. Let’s put the 9/11 attacks and the existential threat it created behind us. With Bin Laden’s death, let’s simply agree that the objectives of the Bush administration’s massive anti-terror campaign have finally been achieved, and that the time for extra-legal, extra-judicial government programs-from torture, to illegal surveillance, to indefinite detention, to secret trials, to nontrials, to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay-has now passed. There will be no better marker for the end of this era. There will be no better time to inform the world that our flirtation with a system of shadow-laws was merely situational and that the situation now is over.
Although, I agree with Ms. Lithwick that President Obama has a grand opportunity to fulfill some of his campaign promises ending many of the extra-legal abuses of the Bush administration and his own, I disagree on others. Without prosecuting US war criminals — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, all the lawyers and military commanders — the United States will never regain the stature it once had in the world in Human Rights. Pretending it never happened not going to make all the violations of International and US law go away. It is unrealistic to think it will.