Friday, April 17, 2009

The healthy man does not torture others

I feel a little sick to my stomach. It's not as though many of the facts contained within the recently released Bush-era torture memos are new to us. Several of the techniques described within had already been admitted to, sometimes rather flippantly, by the last administration and its officials.

Still, seeing so many of them spelled out with such clinical--and often blatantly hypocritical--language is difficult to absorb without being left with some nausea.

I applaud the ACLU for doggedly pursuing the release of these secret memos, and I applaud the Obama administration for going ahead and making them public, despite heavy pressure from vested interests like Gen. Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey and several others who claim the move will harm the country's ability to gather intelligence.

But I am more committed than ever to making sure those people who ordered and justified these disgusting and illegal interrogation methods are held accountable for their actions. I can understand Obama's decision to "assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution."

After all, prosecuting individual operatives for these actions would be both time-intensive and not at all a way to get at the root of the problem. So I sincerely hope that the rumors are true, and neither Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder's statements on the matter close the door on going after those people truly responsible for these reprehensible techniques. Obama specifically said:
This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.
If he's just talking about the individual CIA agents, fine, but I would have to vehemently disagree that "nothing will be gained" by properly investigating and, if need be (and I suspect there will be a great need), prosecuting those officials responsible for ordering, drafting, and justifying torture.

What a farce we'd make of the rule of law if we simply let bygones be bygones is cases as egregious as this. These memos strongly implicate those behind them of war crimes, and there can be no hope of regaining any moral authority in the world if we do not hold the appropriate people truly accountable.

Glenn Greenwald, as usual, lays it out quite well:
But the decision of whether to prosecute is not Obama's to make; ultimately, it is Holder's and/or a Special Prosecutor's. More importantly, Obama can only do so much by himself. The Obama administration should, on its own, initiate criminal proceedings, but the citizenry also has responsibilities here. These acts were carried out by our Government, and if we are really as repulsed by them as we claim, then the burden is on us to demand that something be done.
You can sign a petition urging Holder to assign a Special Prosecutor for this case here.

And you can speak out against the use of torture, the tricky linguistic maneuvering used to justify certain types of torture as not really being all that bad (I'd like to see Cheney volunteer for a nice waterboarding session), and allowing those responsible to get off scot-free.

If we're going to bother having standards in this country, why not do everything we can to hold to them?

(photo courtesy remuz [Jack the Ripper] on Flickr)


apc said...

What exactly is justice if not laying blame for the past? If justice is going to be served for those who were tortured and murdered in our name, then some blame's going to have to land somewhere.

This goes to the root of who we are. Are we a nation of laws or not? Are we just going to say, again, that a president is above the law?

Anonymous said...

i agree that it would really be a waste of time to go after the actual interrogators who were acting on executive orders that they believed were legitimate. it was bad judgment obviously on their part, but we really need to continue to pressure our congresspersons, and send emails/letters to the AG and even the president about not backing down from investigations and prosecution of the people who were responsible for the orders. this includes, but is not limited to Bush/Cheney, John Yu(sp), and Alberto Gonzalez

Emily said...

apc & Skittles: Couldn't agree more. Thanks for commenting.

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