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May 30, 2004 4:29 pm

Nixon memories

My colleague Jonathan Dresner has posted below on the opening of the Kissinger transcripts. I was at the National Archives Friday and took a glance at some of them--they make for both amusing and enlightening reading.

Two deaths within the past 24 hours of key players in the Watergate crisis. This morning, Archibald Cox died, at age 92. Cox in many ways represented the best of the political/legal tradition of the 1960s, a figure who both as solicitor general under JFK and then as the first Watergate special prosecutor defined integrity.

Yesterday, meanwhile, Sam Dash died at age 79. Dash served as special counsel to Sam Ervin's Watergate committee; known for his detailed questioning style, he uncovered Nixon's knowledge of the White House taping system during his questioning of Alexander Butterfield. Unlike Cox, however, his legacy was tarnished by events in the 1990s, when he served as"ethics advisor" to Kenneth Starr.

The passing of Cox and Dash recalls a different period in American political history, and provides a counterpoint to a well-reasoned call for a special counsel to investigate the administration's decision to ignore the requirements of the Geneva Accords by Neal Katyal, a high-ranking figure in Clinton's Justice Department and current counsel to some of the Guantanamo detainees. As Katyal notes, the 2002 Gonzalez memorandum strongly suggests that high-ranking administration officials were intent on not following the law, in this case the 1996 and 1997 War Crimes Acts--just the type of scenario for which a special prosecutor is needed. In our contemporary hyper-politicized environment, however, it seems unlikely that a Cox or a Dash will emerge any time soon.

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Richard Henry Morgan - 6/3/2004

You seem to have adopted, uncritically, the language of a Clinton Administration lawyer. Certainly, as an advocate, he says the Administration chose to ignore the Geneva Accords. Yet, the Geneva Accords clearly spell out that to gain the status of a POW, the person in question must wear distinguishing items of clothing, visible at a distance, that would mark him off from the civilian population. I submit the the Taliban and al Qaeda fail on that score. Gonzales makes clear that the determination must be a militaty board. That is correct, and as one person on this site has claimed, the captives were determined as such by JAG authorities. Admittedly, Gonzales doesn't make that claim about uniforms, but he says the the grounds may include the grounds he cited -- the determination need not be limited to the grounds cited.

David Lion Salmanson - 6/1/2004

I was fortunate enought to meet Cox when I was a junior in high school and he was running Common Cause. His ability to put personal integrity before ambition is sorely missed in this - or any other -time.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/31/2004

Like I said, we want to hear more about what you're seeing in those pages. Or are we going to have to wait for peer-review?

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