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Torture lawyers Ought To Be Disbarred

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

President Obama considers U.S. use of torture as an instrument of national policy is best relegated to the past, unpunished - even though a web of international treaties and laws, and U.S. statutes, obligate the executive branch to prosecute the guilty. It has been left to a coalition of activist groups to pursue some small measure of punishment for the 12 Bush lawyers that conspired to make torture, legal. The coalition has filed complaints with state bar associations to pull the torture lawyers' licenses.

Torture lawyers Ought To Be Disbarred

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Former Attorneys General John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey might lose their license.”

Barack Obama is a Constitutional lawyer, but he certainly doesn’t behave like one. In fact, no citizen that believed in the rule of law would say that the U.S. government should, in effect “move on” rather than “dwell on the past” when serious crimes have been committed. Yet that is the president’s effective position regarding torture. The problem is, Obama doesn’t have the legal option to take that position, any more than a district attorney can refuse to prosecute a clear case of homicide simply because doing so might cause some people to get upset.

In the case of use of torture as an instrument of U.S. policy, the United States is obligated by a web of treaties, international law, U.S. criminal law and American military law to prosecute war crimes – one of which is torture. The obligation to prosecute falls to the executive branch of government. That means the buck stops with the president – and he can’t pass on it for domestic political convenience. To do so amounts to violation of myriad laws and treaties. That is, the president himself becomes a criminal when he fails to carry out his duty to enforce the laws.

Unfortunately, the United States thinks it is above the law – a kind of law-free zone. In a sense, the United States is like one big Dodge City, making up the law as it goes along. Its presidents enforce or break the law, as suits them. This applies as much to Barack Obama, as to George Bush, as is shown by Obama’s unilateral forgiveness of torture crimes.

One would think that a Constitutional lawyer – of all professions – would be most anxious to protect that document from being stepped on, especially by fellow attorneys. But, Barack Obama considers the misdeeds of other lawyers in justifying torture and other war crimes to be so much clutter that he’d prefer to be rid of.

Barack Obama doesn’t seem to grasp the monstrousness of the offense.”

So, the citizens are left to their own devices in the case of the torture lawyers – the 12 men who mangled and mutilated the law to make that which was illegal, legal, on behalf of their boss, George Bush. A coalition of organizations with more than one million members has filed ethics complaints with state bar associations seeking to have Bush’s lawyers’ licenses taken away. Three of the twelve are former U.S. Attorneys General: John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey

The coalition calls itself the Velvet Revolution, and includes various anti-war and progressive groups. Their lawyer, Kevin Zeese, provides this legal analogy: “Just as the bar would suspend an attorney who advised a police officer to torture and brutalize a detained immigrant or criminal defendant, the bar must suspend these attorneys for advocating and causing the torture of war detainees.” If Bush’s lawyers wind up being disbarred, they would be getting off easy. A report by human rights researchers says dozens of detainees died during or after interrogation sessions. At least eight were tortured to death. That’s a direct link to capital war crimes. Barack Obama doesn’t seem to grasp the monstrousness of the offense. To him, its just politics. He has abdicated his legal responsibilities in the matter, and lost all moral standing.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20090520_gf_DisbarTorturers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02am EDT