No Comment — May 7, 2009, 9:51 am

Bolton’s Spanish Delusions

In an op-ed published yesterday in the Washington Post, John R. Bolton—the man that a Republican Senate refused to confirm as Bush’s U.N. ambassador—discusses the pending criminal proceedings in Spain concerning the Bush torture policies. The piece provides evidence once more that Post op-eds are not fact-checked. Let’s take a look at Bolton’s misfires:

  • “Although he immunized intelligence operatives who conducted the interrogations, morale at the CIA is at record lows.” That perfectly explains the rock-star reception that Obama received when he went to Langley to address the agency. Take a second to watch it and form your own conclusion about how demoralized CIA agents are by their new president.
  • “Spanish Magistrate Baltasar Garzón opened a formal investigation last week of six Bush administration lawyers for their roles in advising on interrogation techniques.” Not quite. In fact, Garzón opened an investigation into unidentified persons who were the “intellectual authors” of the Bush torture policies. My bet would be that the Bush Six are in there, but it’s still too early to say definitively. What Bolton neglects to tell the readers is that the probe focuses on two or more Spanish subjects who were tortured while in U.S. custody at Guantanamo—as the Spanish Supreme Court found in a judgment of June 2006. There is a criminal complaint involving the Bush Six, pending before Judge Eloy Velasco, who has not opened a formal investigation into it, yet. He did, however, just formally inquire whether the U.S. was investigating the same matter, and it is clear that the Spaniards will suspend their investigations if the Americans open one. But that’s just the outcome that has Bolton all worked up. He’s not really concerned about what will happen in Spain; he’s concerned about a U.S. prosecutor—or at least he should be.
  • “Under Spain’s inquisitorial judicial system, Garzón is essentially unaccountable, whatever the views of Spain’s elected government.” Actually, under the Spanish system, exactly like the American system, judges do not answer to orders issued by politicians about how to conduct proceedings before them. We call that an “independent judiciary,” obviously a wholly alien concept to Bolton. An independent judiciary is a central pillar of democratic society. It’s how citizens protect their rights against overreaching by the state. It’s how political figures are kept accountable before the law. And Garzón is absolutely accountable for his conduct—the decisions he makes are subject to review and appeal, just as is the case in most court systems. Why is Bolton so frightened about independent judges? (Clever use of the word “inquisitorial,” by the way. The Inquisition or Holy Office was an ecclesiastical court which was shut down in the Napoleonic era, largely because of public outrage over the use of torture tactics–stress positions and waterboarding, in particular. These are tactics that the Bush team approved and introduced over the opposition of career military and intelligence officers. The tools of the Inquisition are defended by John Bolton, not Baltasar Garzón.)
  • “If Obama is attempting to end the Garzón investigation, it is one of our best-kept secrets in decades.” This is only a well-kept secret for people who don’t follow the news. In an interview with CNN Español, President Obama openly acknowledged that his administration had been in talks with the government of José Zapatero about the Spanish court’s investigation. And the results became apparent within forty-eight hours of his statement. Spanish attorney general Cándido Conde Pumpido, a member of Zapatero’s cabinet, overruled career prosecutors, instructing them to oppose the investigation. As I reported based on Spanish government sources, this shift occurred in response to an appeal from the Obama administration. But I hope that Barack Obama takes note of Bolton’s comment. It shows that Obama can strain to try to bail out the Bushies, but he shouldn’t expect anything other than contempt in response.
  • “Obama appears to be following the John Ehrlichman approach, letting the U.S. lawyers ‘twist slowly, slowly in the wind.’” Who could better respond to that whopper than John Dean, the man to whom Ehrlichman uttered those words. Here’s what he had to say:

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  • Then we come to the point of Bolton’s rant: Obama must “pronounce unequivocally that Spain should take whatever steps are necessary to stop Garzón.” Let’s see, Obama persuaded Zapatero to oppose the investigation. What else does Bolton want? To send a hit squad to gun the judge down? Bomb the courthouse? Lest you consider that speculation absurd, remember that Bolton once suggested taking out ten stories from the Secretariat Building in midtown New York.

John Bolton’s problem isn’t with Judge Garzón, it’s with the notion of accountability of political actors before the law. The Bush Administration gave a green light to torture, Spanish subjects were victims of this policy, and now a Spanish court is investigating what happened to them. Why is Bolton afraid of that? Because he knows that they were tortured, and that the trail leads straight to the White House. As his op-ed says: “Although the six lawyers are in a precarious position, they are only intermediate targets. The real targets are President Bush and his most senior advisers.” Given his insider position in the Bush White House, Bolton would obviously know much better than Garzón where the torture trail leads.

Perhaps with the help of Bolton’s boosterism, Baltasar Garzón is gathering a following in the U.S. these days. Visit the Fans of Baltasar Garzón Facebook page here.

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