Now six years after Iraq started, nearly one hundred days into the new presidency, more and more information is coming out about the involvement of the Bush people in Iraq-related criminal acts. The legal memos and the statements of tortured detainees are only the beginning of what will soon be a flood of information.
The legal machinery is starting to build, case by case, a rejection of Bush's legal theories.
Today's decision from Federal Judge John Bates of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that those detained in Afghanistan will have access to American courts builds on the recent cases that allow Guantanamo detainees access to the federal court. Judge Bates rejected both the Bush administration's view and the recently articulated view of President Barack Obama that habeas corpus is not available to imprisoned non-Afghans who are arrested beyond Afghanistan.
We are seeing a pattern in the Washington federal courts. The judges are not shying away from tacking tough issues. The concept that a man sitting in Baghram has a right he can enforce in an American court seemed impossible a few years ago. The constant rat-a-tat of the media, with pictures of the tortured prisoners clearly influences judges along with the rest of the population. Judges respond also when the president too set a higher standard.
Attorney General Eric Holder is the one who must start the criminal process against Cheney, Gonzales, Yoo and the others. He does not shy away from difficult choices, given backing that lets him know he is not alone. He can, and has, taken positions that are ahead of Obama.
He has taken on the hardest public and legal fights, "a nation of cowards" racism, the recent admission in the Stevens case that many members of the Justice Department acted wrongfully obtaining a wrongful conviction. An attorney general's admission of wrongdoing by prosecutors is rare. Prosecution of high and low level government officials for these kinds of criminal acts is unprecedented.
Holder's decision today is easier than it was yesterday, and as more and more stories of brutalized prisoners come out, it will get even easier. Judge Bates, and the judges before him, including the Supreme Court, have rejected the rationale of Bush's Attorney General and supporting lawyers that gave the President "unitary powers."
The public should let Eric Holder and the president know they support criminal prosecution of the Bush people.