On accountability for war crimes

PHOTO: London during the Blitz

Former president George W. Bush in 2003:

“War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, ‘I was just following orders.'”

Versus Obama this month:

“In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.”


During last night’s press conference Obama reiterated his position that waterboarding was in fact torture, but avoided the direct question of whether or not the Bush administration ordered committed war crimes. This is not the first time Obama has said waterboarding is torture, and torture is a war crime under international law that we helped establish.

Obama was also pushed to defend his decision to ban torture in the military and CIA. To prove his point, he brought up a great WWII story that Andrew Sullivan mentioned on his blog a few days ago.

“I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees,” said Obama. “And Churchill said, ‘We don’t torture,’ when the entire British — all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.”


When New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleney was called on by Obama  last night this is what he asked:

During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about
this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office?
Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?

Boxers or briefs, Mr. President?

Not to draw any meaningful conclusions from one question, but:

New York Times Co. fell the most in almost 22 years in U.S. trading after reporting a 27 percent drop in first-quarter advertising revenue and saying that the rate of decline won’t slow until at least the second half.

The net loss expanded to $74.5 million, or 52 cents a share, from $335,000 a year earlier, the newspaper publisher said today in a statement. Sales fell 19 percent to $609 million, trailing the $634.3 million average of four analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

One Comment

  1. Ian

    So the comment by Bush should serve as a warning, more than anything. I mean politicians say things they don’t necessarily mean all the time, and they are allowed to change their minds. So for how opposed Obama says he is now, it doesn’t mean he can’t turn around just like Bush did. We need actual laws put into place that clearly define certain acts as torture (not just international ones). They also need to outline the punishments for doing so. There needs to be no wiggle room either for these guys to be able get away with it.