Here is Fred Kaplan summarizing the recent allegations in the New Yorker and Newsday:
Read together, the magazine articles spell out an elaborate, all-inclusive chain of command in this scandal. Bush knew about it. Rumsfeld ordered it. His undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Steven Cambone, administered it. Cambone’s deputy, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, instructed Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who had been executing the program involving al-Qaida suspects at Guantanamo, to go do the same at Abu Ghraib. Miller told Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the 800th Military Brigade, that the prison would now be dedicated to gathering intelligence. Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, also seems to have had a hand in this sequence, as did William Haynes, the Pentagon’s general counsel. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, learned about the improper interrogationsï¿½from the International Committee of the Red Cross, if not from anyone elseï¿½but said or did nothing about it for two months, until it was clear that photographs were coming out. Meanwhile, those involved in the interrogations included officers from military intelligence, the CIA, and private contractors, as well as the mysterious figures from the Pentagon’s secret operation.
That is how it looks, though I’m still waiting for confirmation on some of the details. Kaplan is curious about what this means for Bush. I’m curious about what it might mean for certain high ranking administration figures in their life after government. It’s only a matter of time before, say, Cambone passes through Belgium or Spain. It is only a matter of time before someone in one of these countries decides that taking “universal jurisdiction” seriously means that he can be charged with war crimes. And then we will find ourselves in the middle of a whopping diplomatic mess.
I would not underestimate the tenacity of the administration’s critics in going after U.S. officials they believe are war criminals. And I would not – ever – underestimate the intensity of the response within the U.S. when that eventually happens. It may be that the real diplomatic fallout of the Iraq War is yet to come.
UPDATE: OK, I took the dog for a walk and mulled it over a bit more. It occurred to me that I really ought to know more about the relevant legal issues here. These get complicated awfully quickly. There are legal questions about the International Criminal Court that I don’t know the answer to, and there are also interesting issues about possible prosecutions outside the ICC but drawing on the notion of universal jurisdiction. And different legal issues arise at different levels in the chain of command. If anyone knows enough about the legal issues to predict the likelihood of an attempt to prosecute a high-ranking Bush administration official in the next few years, please do let me know. As things are now, I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone seriously discuss this possibility. So my question is: Is that because it isn’t at all plausible or because we’re so used to thinking that prosecutions for war crimes are reserved for countries like Yugoslavia?