Spain Crumbles

There's pushback, it seems, against using the Spanish legal system to try US officials who conspired to commit war crimes by torturing prisoners in the war on terror. The core reason:

"If one is dealing with a crime of mistreatment of prisoners of war, the complaint should go against those who physically carried it out," Conde-Pumpido said in a breakfast meeting with journalists. He said a trial of the men would have turned Spain's National Court "into a plaything" to be used for political ends.

But this is a strange standard. It means that you only prosecute those low down the totem pole who carried out orders, while exempting the high officials who ordered it.

This is, of course, what the Bush administration has done throughout when it has been forced to concede some error. That's why all the internal reports into Abu Ghraib were instructed not to look up the chain of command to determine who was responsible for the torture. Yes: in the military, investigators were told they couldn't follow the chain of command! If anything, it seems to me that it's the architects of war crimes who deserve the most scrutiny and the severest punishment. Those who treat the rule of law as a plaything to expedite smashing someone's head against a wall or hanging them from shackles until their joints give way: they seem to me to be worth prosecuting. I regard Yoo and Bradbury as morally more culpable for this evil than those CIA agents who carried the gruesome torture sessions out.

But the Spanish are right about one thing: this should be an American concern, if this country still believes in the rule of law. We will find out today if president Obama does.