Monday, July 27, 2009

Not done on the torture front...

Still catching up on what was happening in the world the last few weeks while I was working on changing the Episcopal Church. ...

On July 14, Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, was interviewed on Fresh Air about disclosures of novel government misconduct under the Bush regime that keep leaking into the light.

The New Yorker journalist made a wise observation:

[DAVE] DAVIES: You know, with the revelations that have come out over the past, you know, days and weeks, do you think the balance has shifted in terms of the pressure on President Obama to more aggressively investigate alleged wrongdoing during the Bush days, or will he stay on the course that he has charted so far, to do as little as possible?

Ms. MAYER: You know, I just don't know that he can stay on this course. I understand very much why he wants to do it. This - you know, he doesn't want to tangle his presidency up in endlessly trying to deal with the problems that the former president created in the war on terror. And you know, clearly President Obama's got his own positive agenda. ... The country probably agrees with his priorities in many ways, yet there is something about these legal problems that are coming out of the Bush years that you can't just sweep under the rug.

And I've been interviewing a number of experts on this area who say it's very much the experience that other countries have had when they've had scandals that involved allegations of torture. Frequently, everybody wants to just fix it and move on, but it doesn't go away - that these allegations are so serious, and they strike so much at the core of our values that people don't feel comfortable just letting perpetrators off the hook. And so it just keeps bubbling up and bubbling up until there's some kind of either a truth and reconciliation commission or some kinds of prosecutions or some way of just opening up what happened here because, you know, we're an open society, and torture is a major crime. So it's very hard to forget it.

My emphasis.

The whole transcript is worth reading. Mayer points out clearly why Eric Holder is loath to start with even the most clear cut prosecutions of offenses by CIA operatives and contractors: the line that will be taken by any competent defense will necessarily lead up the chain of command straight to the former Vice President's office and probably G.W. Bush himself. And that would (will?) make for a partisan political crisis in the current political context.


catherine said...

I remember in the 80's when former French Army officer Jean-Marie Le Pen was accused in the press of torturing Algerian prisoners. This resulted in a huge issue in France when Le Pen sued the paper (he lost the suit). There was then pressure from the public to bring him to trial but the case was outside the statute of limitations. That same period saw nearly daily attacks on young "Arab" men, some resulting in death.

Le Pen went on, of course, to found the National Front party and at at one point run second for the Presidency of France and eventually to become a European Parliament MP (from which he was ousted after assaulting another MP).

Justice is important for many reasons.

Nell said...

Tiny violins for the Obama team.

None of them did a thing when in Congress to support the only means by which this situation could have been prevented from landing in the lap of the next (inevitably, Democratic) president: impeachment proceedings.

That passivity, fueled by political calculation, not only saddled them and their positive agenda (such as it is) with sole possession of the torture nightmare, but helped establish that impeachment is dead for decades to come, probably for all time. If torture and massive domestic spying aren't enough to impeach, what would be?

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