Sunday, May 3, 2009

Some Thoughts On Torture

Let's face it, our nation under the previous administration had a systematic program that encouraged the use of torture for intelligence purposes against individuals deemed to be our enemy. What amazes me is the silence of so many Americans regarding this practice. And even among those who are appalled, it amazes me how easily they turn into apologists for those who committed these acts, giving credence to their motives, as a way of justifying a desire to let them off the hook for crimes committed against humanity.

How often have we heard criminals justify their actions with best of intentions? Some were trying to feed their family or their habit. How many murders were "misunderstandings" gone awry. How many went along with a friend who committed atrocious acts and rather than having the courage to intervene, allowed friendship or devotion to supercede any sound moral code?

First of all, let me say, that the decision of whom to prosecute and whether to prosecute is not the President's. That should fall to the Attorney General. However, the complicated thing here, is that the A.G.'s office, though under a different administration, was a party to the criminal violations for which the evidence is ample and overwhelming. Because of the past role of his office, the legally ethical thing to do is to call a special prosecutor, someone beyond rapproach, to investigate who did what and what criminal culpability they have.

This is not a political or a partisan issue. It is a legal matter of the utmost importance in a nation that other nations look to as a role model for fair and impartial administration of the law. Politics of all kind need to be separated from this issue. The evidence of wrong-doing is public, and there are plenty of witnesses who have publicly said what happened. If our nation does not come clean on this, we'll have no moral authority in the world to combat other nations who engage in the torture of those they decide to detain.

There are maybe 6 or 7 (depending on your point of view) defining moments in our nation's history when people made the right decisions for the right reasons which defines our greatness as a nation. Failure to separate political realities on the torture issue and the war crimes that have been committed, from the legal necessities of enforcing the statutes, treaties and constitutional provisions that have been violated will either help us cement our greatness, or set a precedent that will haunt us for generations.

6 comments:

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bekkieann said...

Such true words, Obi: "...we'll have no moral authority in the world to combat other nations who engage in the torture..."

Not only is it the right and moral thing to do, but to not seek justice now will surely result in a terrible price we'll pay later.

David said...

I fully agree with what you say here except for one thing - I am not confident that we have the capacity to conduct this investigation in the non-partisan way that it needs to be done. I fear that we have abandoned the rule of law in any serious matter - instead we rely on the rule of our current passions. I would fully expect a special prosecuter to either focus on those with the most public profiles (Bush, Cheney, etc.) and make the decisions of who to prosecute and who to pass over based on what was politically and publicly desireable with little regard for the actual evidence.

I agree that digging in and bringing justice is important, but I am not sure that we are a nation that other nations look to as a role model for fair and impartial administration of the law. (Although we should behave in a way that they can look to us as such a role model.)

"If our nation does not come clean on this, we'll have no moral authority in the world to combat other nations who engage in the torture of those they decide to detain." I would be surprised if even coming clean on this would restore that moral authority (yes, I believe we have already lost it). I'm not saying that we shouldn't come clean, I'm just saying that I'm not sure we have the necessary integrity to do so and I am not sure that the rest of the world would believe it even if we did have that integrity.

Obi wan liberali said...

David, I still believe there are people in the legal profession who can put politics aside and principle on the front burner. If not, we are truly in trouble as a nation. I prefer to be hopeful.

Yes, we have lost much of our moral authority. But righting what we have done also sets a positive example. Doing nothing exposes us as the hypocrites that most of the world sees us as.

rmwarnick said...

There are 2.3 million Americans behind bars right now. If the new standard of justice is to not dwell on past misdeeds, why not turn them all loose?

David said...

Obi,

I agree that there are people in the legal profession who can put politics aside and principle on the front burner - my skepticism is that I don't think those are the people who would be chosen by politicians to conduct any investigation into the wrongdoing of the past administration. (And yes, for those people who would believe otherwise about me, I have no doubt that there was plenty of wrongdoing taking place for the last 8 years.)