The the current Iraq war happens. And our troops who were severely abused as prisoners of Iraq's Saddam Hussein now get a cold dose of illogical U.S. injustice.
Sadly, along came the Abu Ghraib scandal, setting aside this historic tradition and the professional judgment of our military JAG officers and State Department experts. As is now well known, one effect of the abuse scandal was to undermine deterrence against the torture of American POWs in future wars (this, along with its catastrophic political cost to the Iraq war effort and, more broadly, to our nation's reputation). But, in a perfect storm of bad news for future American POWs, while the now infamous abuse decisions were still policy, the Justice Department went into court to erase the POWs' judgment and its message of liability for torture. Judge Roberts dismissed the government effort as "without merit," but, on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia set aside the judgment on a technical issue neither raised nor briefed by the parties. Even the infamous Korematsu decision in World War II, legalizing the shameful incarceration of Japanese Americans, was not reached by simply ignoring the law and pleadings in its zealous support for a wartime executive branch—as did the Court of Appeals here.
The Justice Department even cited cost in dropping pursuit of the POW case. COST!!! While the real result is to erase a legal precedent for punishment of torturers. What is Justice trying to condone?
It is wrong to seek to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq on the backs of American POWs brutally tortured by Iraq. It is wrong to place our nation in violation of the important POW convention, and it is wrong to interpret away the intent of Congress in adding a crucial new tool in the war on terror: that of threats of substantial judgments against terror states. Most of all, however, it is an abomination to treat real American heroes, who have given so much for their nation, with the disdain the government has shown in this case.
This has Alberto Gonzales written all over it. The Justice Department naturally wanted this case to die, and not for reasons of funding. Setting a precedent of legal action against torture undermines the philosophy of the Bush/Gonzales rationalizations of our own mistreatment of prisoners.
Our nations own actions in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo endanger our troops. And failing to uphold their legal recourse against their torturers further undermines the safety of our troops should they be captured.