It’s OK, Ma, They’ve Stopped Beating Their Wives.

· long story short

It has been widely reported and openly acknowledged that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld issued orders to employ “harsh interrogation techniques”–orders that were later rescinded. A similar sequence occurred later in Iraq, with respect to interrogation orders issued by General Sanchez.
In both cases, the orders were reversed on legal advice that the techniques authorized looked to be illegal. And, at this point, their illegality has been all but publicly admitted. But, the tone of these reports, and of the surrounding discussions, has been “Oh, that’s alright then, the situation was corrected.” The idea is that, even if the techniques were criminally abusive, it doesn’t matter, because (as they claim) the orders were never carried out. “No harm. No foul.”
I don’t get that. I am not a lawyer and this is just my home-spun interpretation, but these orders seem to me in the nature of (or analogous to) criminal solicitation, “To entice or incite to illegal action.” Solicitation remains a crime, even if the solicited action does not ensue. Private-enterprise gangsters who put out a contract on someone cannot say, “Oh, that’s OK, I rescinded the contract a month later. Hey, I let the guy live.”
Acting “under color of law” only makes such solicitation more grave. If Secretary Rumsfeld and General Sanchez did issue orders to criminally abuse prisoners, then subsequently rescinding those orders does not absolve them of their crimes.