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The 'New' New Spanish Inquisition: Garzón v. Bush 'Torture' Advisors

At The Weekly Standard, a new article is well worth your time today. The New Spanish Inquisition: Judge Launches Gitmo Crusade v. Bush Administration.

The Spanish Inquisition was established in the late 15th century to stamp out heretical deviations from Catholicism. By the time it petered out in the early 19th century, the Inquisition had expanded to cover political deviants. It is this latter tradition that Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón--scourge of dictators, Basque terrorists, and democratic politicians everywhere--has made a career of reviving.

Garzón won fame in 1998 when he issued an arrest warrant for the aging Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet, then still holding office as senator-for-life, and on travel in Britain. The British government refused the extradition, but not before the House of Lords decided to sanction it. People wondered how soon it would be before such a prosecution was turned on American officials. The answer came in the summer of 2003, when the Belgian government was embarrassed to discover that one of its courts might indict General Tommy Franks on crimes against humanity for leading the invasion of Iraq. The squirming Belgians quickly repealed the enabling statute, but the genie was out of the bottle, and a rash of sham proceedings followed in the wonderland of Europe.

The latest chapter in this fantastical tale began last week when Judge Garzón decided to forward a complaint against former Bush officials to the prosecutor of Spain's national trial court. The prosecutor is said not to care much for Garzón, and given the diplomatic embarrassment for the Spanish government, the case is not likely to proceed much farther--but a dangerous precedent has already been set.

The complaint alleges that the defendants--six former administration officials, all lawyers, including former attorney general Alberto González and former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith--were instrumental in creating the "legal framework" used to establish the Guantánamo detention facility as well as the allegedly illegal interrogation practices used there. With all the hyperbole and vagueness of a typical Spanish legal document, the complaint strings together a bunch of familiar myths into a conspiracy theory: The Bush administration's lawyers indispensably facilitated its supposed crimes against humanity.

They key line is that "the case is not likely to proceed much farther--but a dangerous precedent has already been set." The second part of that sentence is why you should go and read the entire article by Jeremy Rabkin & Mario Loyola.

Also see Jules Crittenden from last week, who coined the current usage of the phrase. Jules knows a thing or two about Spanish Inquisitions. A few of his friends were witch-hunted by the Spanish courts over the Palestine Hotel incident during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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