Thursday, April 30, 2009

Condi Rice Needs A Lawyer...

Because the "it's-not-illegal-if-the-president-tells-you-to-do-it" defense does not work. Ask Nixon officials.

There's a lot of BS and specious reasoning to unpack here. The three points that really stand out, though, are her implication that Al Qaeda was a more significant threat after 9/11 than Nazi Germany was during World War II because Al Qaeda attacked our "homeland", that the Guantanamo was a model prison, and that waterboarding is not torture because the President said it would not be so defined.

As to the first point: yes, Nazi Germany did not attack the "homeland", but her ally Imperial Japan did. Or is Hawaii too exotic to count? The Nazis also tried to develop nuclear weapons, and would have used them given the opportunity. Oh, and between the two of them, Germany and Japan controlled nearly half the world, not a few caves in an ungovernable corner of the world. The Axis really did pose an existential threat to the United States; Al Qaeda does not. Frankly, this is an embarrassing argument for a professor of international relations to make.

Her claim that Guantanamo was a model prison is laughably disingenuous. As Scott Horton points out, the OSCE report Rice cited that described Guantanamo as a "model medium security prison" referred only to the physical facilities. The same report referred to the treatment of the prisoners as torture.

Reviving the Nixonion "it's-not-illegal-when-the-president-does-it" defense is pathetic. That the president got unscrupulous lawyers to write a memo saying that torture is not torture does not make it legal. If this is the best justification she has for assenting to the torture archipelago the Bush administration instituted, then she needs a lawyer. And she should probably stop giving interviews - especially to non-media people who will actually ask tough questions.

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