Not much to be gained from prolonged torture debate…

May 14, 2009

President Obama’s abrupt U turn on releasing more top secret torture photos seems strange, but I am not sure that I don’t agree with his decision.

I am 100 percent against water boarding and other torture, but releasing photos of torture and abuse probably serves little purpose other than to take another dig at the Bush/Cheney failures. I am not sure that it would endanger our troops, but I suppose it would provide more fodder for propaganda for our enemies in the Middle East wars. And why our torture is worse than their much publicized on the web beheadings and other mutilations, I have no idea.

But the bottom line is we know our government tortured poisoners. There is disagreement over whether we got anything useful out of it all (although there are at least strong indications we did not). And most importantly, President Obama has made it the policy that we will cease torturing (of course the liar George W. Bush claimed we did not torture while we were).

We can’t undo or deny what was done in the past. We need to move forward. But whether investigations should or will proceed is a matter for those who instigate and run such investigations to decide, I suppose.

It would seem impractical and highly unjust to me though if lower or mid level or even highly stationed persons were brought to justice but those at the very top, namely Bush/Cheney, were not . We all know that Bush/Cheney ordered the torture (I believe I heard Cheney publicly acknowledge it) and that they ordered the legal opinions that they thought would cover them.

The deciding factor in all of this may well be the American public. I may have not read all the polls or weighed them, but at this point I am unsure of what the public’s attitude is, other than a collective ambivalence, or maybe outright lack of interest to the whole story. Yes, there are those who are simply steadfast against torture, yours truly included, and there are those who figure if it’s done to “bad guys” who cares? But in the vast middle ground I think the public does not really know what to think other than the fact it all seems rather uncomfortable to have to think that torture in the name of the USA has been revealed for the world to see, but gee, maybe it was necessary (I don’t think so).

So personally, as disappointed as I am about the fact that our government broke with a long-standing moral position that we would not torture, I think not much will be gained by wrangling over who is at fault. We know the answer to that. If we start prosecuting former presidents and vice presidents our whole system is in jeopardy, even though I do not believe anyone is above the law.

Would I mind if George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were prosecuted as war criminals? Half of me says no. But the other half says yes. Who would ever want to be president or vice president again if it was thought that after one’s term of office his or her adversaries might prosecute for policy decisions?

And then there is the question of what did Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it and if she thought torture was so wrong, why did she not speak out earlier?

I don’t know. But I do know that while Bush and Co. had a lock on the presidency and the congress, to speak out would have been political suicide (not that such is a good excuse).

And one last thing. While I would just as soon see that everyone move on from the torture debate, I also think we have a problem from now on out for the safety of any of our military personnel or anyone else who is captured by an enemy. We can hardly urge or exert pressure on enemies to follow the Geneva Convention rules on humane treatment of prisoners when we broke it ourselves. We have lost that tool, perhaps forever.

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