Philippe Sands, Doug Feith and damned lies


The New York Times reports today that the "good guys" in the Justice Department – the guys who sought an end to torture and other Bush administration excesses – deemed torture legal, but unwise and immoral:

WASHINGTON — When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal.

It names a few of the heroes of the anti-Bush narrative, the ones who fall under the "conservatives-with-integrity" rubric in that way of retelling the last eight years, James Comey and Jack Goldsmith, among them.

I’m interested in this because the Spanish judge who is seeking the prosecution of the "Bush Six", the Bush administration lawyers who allegedly laid the legal justification for torture, is including Doug Feith among them. And, he’s apparently basing it on a book by British journalist and lawyer, Philippe Sands.

In this earlier post, I outline why the case against Feith is a crock (although not necessarily against the other lawyers): Feith is, yes, by training a lawyer, but he was not a Bush administration lawyer. He was a policy adviser. That should count him out, according to the precedents Sands cites, of post-Holocaust convictions of Nazi-era lawyers who helped shaped the justifications that regine’s abuses.

Not only that, although Feith decreed the torture legal, he advised against it, according to the evidence Sands himself cites.

It’s as if your house is on fire, and five drunken firefighters are dealing with it with flamethrowers. A sixth guy — a former ambulance driver, which qualifies him as a former first responder, but one who doesn’t really know anything about firefighting — passes by and says, appalled, "Uh, fellas, I’m sure what you’re doing is by the book, but don’t you think hoses would be more effective?"

And you sue him too. Why? Maybe because you don’t like the way he looks. It seems as rational as that.

So now the New York Times says that Goldsmith, Comey and Daniel Levin essentially did the same thing – except they were active firemen, and in a position to know better.

Does it now become the "Bush Nine"?

If not, what the hell is Feith doing on that list?

Sands, meantime, digs himself further into disgrace with his lies and bullying.

Why? Well, who knows. But Sands has also been a legal activist against the Iraq war. Feith was one of its architects.

If Sands wants that fight, he should have it in the open. Pinning torture on Feith makes a farce of the struggle to make the real torturers accountable.

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