Sunday, March 29, 2009

In Pinochet's Company

Judge Baltasar Garzon is at it again. For those who are not big on following or remembering details, he was the Spanish judge who had ordered the arrest of Augusto Pinochet, thus escalating the Chilean dictator's atrocities to the level of crimes against humanity in violation of international law. This led to a massive investigation and prosecution, which was never brought to closure because of Pinochet's death; but what was important was that Garzon started the ball rolling at a time when everyone else seemed content to let the memory of the Pinochet years fade away while Pinochet himself enjoyed the benefits of being a senator-for-life.

As we know, Pinochet would never have come to power without the assistance of our Central Intelligence Agency, presumably with the support of President Richard Nixon and (then) National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger; but Garzon never pursued the case far enough to investigate the causal chain in greater detail. This time, however, he has key members of the Bush Administration squarely in his sights, according to a story released by Reuters yesterday afternoon:

A top Spanish court has moved toward starting a probe of six former Bush administration officials including ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in connection with alleged torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, The New York Times said on Saturday.

The complaint, prepared by Spanish lawyers with the help of U.S. and European legal experts, also names John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy.

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five Spanish citizens or residents who were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay say they were tortured there.

The other Americans named are William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay Bybee, Yoo's former boss at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and David Addington, chief of staff and legal adviser to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney.

Thus far, we have had no comment from any of those named in the complaint. Now I am sure that there are many who would like to see someone (if not Garzon) go after the biggest fish in the pond; but, like Hugo Chávez, Garzon seems to have learned from the Tao Teh Ching (of Mao Zedong's Little Red Book) that the thousand-mile journey begins with the single step. This seems like as good a choice of a first step as any.

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