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The Abritrary Torture Tautology

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Discussing the recent whining of Alberto Gonzales who, like Jay Bybee, wants it known that he’s one of the real victims of the arbitrary torture regime he helped conceive of and implement, Dahlia Lithwick points out that according to reasonable, moderate, thinking man’s advocate of arbitrary torture Michael Mukasey there can never be any basis for holding people involved in said arbitrary torture regime accountable:

Those who distorted and upended the legal rules during the Bush era have hermetically sealed themselves inside a legal tautology that provides that lawyers cannot be held accountable for merely offering legal advice, and nonlawyers cannot be held accountable because they believed that what they did was legal. But now we are poised to drown in an even more dangerous tautology—first offered up by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey—which holds that the Bush administration lawyers made mistakes because they were the victims of the “difficulty and novelty” of the legal questions before them, and then victimized again by “relentless,” “hostile,” and “unforgiving” critics who would hold them responsible for their decisions. Under this view there can be no legitimate criticism of the Bush lawyers—no matter how well-intentioned or how well-reasoned, such criticism is partisan and political and vengeful. There is no law. There is only your team versus mine.

Nice racket if you can get away with it. And, alas, they can.

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  • DocAmazing

    lawyers cannot be held accountable for merely offering legal advice, and nonlawyers cannot be held accountable because they believed that what they did was legal

    It’s time for a Mafia lawyer to float that as a defense. It might even work in the current climate.

  • c u n d gulag

    Look, as I was getting in the car to go to the bank with him, when he asked me, I told him that he would probably get away with it if, when he robbed the bank, he killed all of the witnesses and the guard.
    I never thought for a second that he’d take my advice! So, it’s not MY fault he robbed the bank and killed all of the people there. What did I have to do with it?

  • Malaclypse

    lawyers cannot be held accountable for merely offering legal advice, and nonlawyers cannot be held accountable because they believed that what they did was legal.

    I sincerely believe that it is legal to kick all torture advocates in the jimmies whenever you see them, and I advise everybody to act on this belief whenever possible.

  • jeer9

    Unfortunately, Catch 22s tend to be sickening. “Yossarian comes to realize that Catch-22 does not actually exist, but because the powers that be claim it does, and the world believes it does, it nevertheless has potent effects. Indeed, because it does not exist there is no way it can be repealed, undone, overthrown, or denounced. The combination of force with specious legalistic justification is one of the book’s primary motifs.”

  • efgoldman

    Wait a minute!

    Wasn’t Mukasey a fnking judge??

    In the fnking federal courts??

    Gawd!

    • Mirounga

      Bybee is now a judge on the 9th Circuit. As Wikipedia reminds us:

      One senator remarked that “the fact that Jay Bybee was confirmed during one of the most contentious periods in the history of the United States Senate in terms of judicial nominees is a credit to his experience and integrity.” Democratic Senator Charles Schumer noted that he supported Bybee’s confirmation specifically because the judge’s conservative views would help to moderate “the most liberal court in the country.”

      • Malaclypse

        Democratic Senator Charles Schumer noted that he supported Bybee’s confirmation specifically because the judge’s conservative views would help to moderate “the most liberal court in the country.”

        Funny how you never see Republicans trying to liberalize conservative courts.

  • Stag Party Palin

    Fuck them all and let
    Gloria Steinem
    sort them out

    Burma Shave

    (note to Certain People: this is highly complex and beneath my dignity to explain)

    • SeanH

      In comment threads
      An odd regression
      Ancient memes
      Find new expression
      Burma-Shave

      (hat-tip)

  • howard

    that’s fine: i’m perfectly happy to detain bybee and gonzalez indefinitely without having to have a discussion….

  • nutellaontoast

    Tautology is the entirely fucking wrong word…

    A tautology is a tautology.

    It’s a contradiction; It’s not a contradiction.

    SEE THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE?????

    Jesus Shit Christ, why do I keep reading the internet.

    • Scott Lemieux

      There’s no contradiction; the reasoning is circular. Hence, a tautology.

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