A story from December refuses to die, and once again it’s popping up in a few liberal Facebook groups I belong to. Headlines from Addictinginfo.org and Liberalamerica.org both claim that Germany is filing war crimes charges again former president George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and members of the CIA for their part in the administration’s torture program. Needless to say, quite a few liberals are picking up the stories and happily spreading them around as if a day of reckoning is finally coming for an administration that they despised – but is it true?
Here’s what Ryan Denson from Addicting Info said (most of the article is just copy and pasted paragraphs from Democracy Now with a couple of sentences from the author tossed in):
If President Obama won’t do it, someone else will. Thankfully, a human rights group in Berlin, The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, has begun the process of indicting members of the Bush Administration by filing criminal complaints against the architects of the Admin’s torture program. (Source)
Sounds like a human rights group is going to indict members of the Bush Administration, right? Not quite. Now here’s how Tiffany Willis from Liberal America spun it, heavily sourcing her friends and former colleagues at Addicting Info:
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has filed a criminal complaint against U.S. torture program architects and members of the Bush Administration. The organization has accused CIA director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of war crimes and they’ve called for a German prosecutor to conduct an immediate investigation.
This move follows the release of the damning Senate report on CIA torture that includes the case of German citizen Khalid El-Masri, who was captured in 2004 by CIA agents in a case of mistaken identity. The report revealed the shocking contrast of democracy and corruption.
Bizarrely, the only person involved with the CIA torture program who has been charged with a crime is the man who exposed the war crimes — whistleblower John Kiriakou. (Source)
Now here is the original story from Democracy Now:
A human rights group in Berlin, Germany, has filed a criminal complaint against the architects of the George W. Bush administration’s torture program. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has accused former Bush administration officials, including CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of war crimes, and called for an immediate investigation by a German prosecutor. The move follows the release of a Senate report on CIA torture which includes the case of a German citizen, Khalid El-Masri, who was captured by CIA agents in 2004 due to mistaken identity and tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan. So far, no one involved in the CIA torture program has been charged with a crime — except the whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed it. (Source)
The problem with the stories from Ryan Denson and Tiffany Willis (besides from being very misleading and using large chunks of the original text with a couple of words changed) is that human rights groups don’t have the ability to indict anybody for war crimes. The German government could take up the case as this group has requested, but doing so would jeopardize German relations with the United States, which is a strong ally and fellow member of NATO. In addition to that, Brookings points out that indicting anyone for war crimes and attempting to prosecute them creates diplomatic issues that have to be taken into careful consideration.
Also, a civil lawsuit by an Iraqi woman was filed against the Bush Administration a couple of years ago but it was dismissed by a judge in December of last year. So if even a civil suit against the architects of the CIA torture program can’t succeed in court, there’s zero chance of any of them appearing before the International Court of Justice at The Hague on war crimes charges.
So why would two popular independent liberal websites intentionally misrepresent the facts, lift large chunks of text from the original source and change a couple of words, or even go so far as to lie about the actions of a foreign government? Sadly, it’s all about getting people to click through to their website, which equals more ad revenue. Without corporate sponsors, independent bloggers like myself rely on web traffic to pay the bills. The problem is that far too many people like Tiffany Willis from Liberal America, Ryan Denson from Addicting Info and other writers on all sides of the political spectrum sacrifice the truth in order to make a bigger check every month. This is why we’ve called them out in the past for lying about comments made by Ted Nugent or claiming that Bobby Jindal blamed racism on minorities not acting more like white people.
As I’ve said before, if we don’t call out people on the left when they exaggerate or tell outright falsehoods, then it makes us hypocrites when we criticize conservatives and Fox News for failing to do the same thing.
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