Despite the administrations reluctance to prosecute the Bush administration for it's encouraging of torture, the calls for justice are growing. It's everywhere. The bloggers and other anti-Bush news outlets are increasing the pressure for action. President Obama might be forced into going along with the prosecution of those involved in the shocking cases of torture under the Bush/Cheney reign of terror.
A Senate report revealed that former President George Bush and top-ranking officials in his administration approved harsh interrogation techniques that were later used in prisons at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski claims soldiers convicted in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal were victims of scapegoating and had been merely obeying orders.
"In my judgment, the report represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration's interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse - such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan - to low-ranking soldiers," said Senator Carl Levin, the committee chairman.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann stated on Wednesday's edition of Countdown, "When the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison came to light, Rumsfeld blamed it on a few bad apples. He was right. What we know is that the few bad apples were Rumsfeld himself and Mr. Bush, Cheney and more. They were the bad apples. And as happens with bad apples, they corrupted others around them."
Karpinski called out former Vice President Dick Cheney on his defense of torture interrogation techniques when he refused to defend those involved in torture at Abu Ghraib. "Mr. former Vice President, if you're saying that this was necessary today and that it produced good intelligence, where were you five years ago, stepping up to the plate and saying, hold on, we can't discuss this because this is classified information, but these soldiers did not design these techniques," said Karpinski with a raised voice.
And then there are the calls for the impeachment of the person responsible for writing legal language used to justify torture:
But American intelligence officials also learned something from the Soviets about manipulating language to conceal reality. When our enemies use methods like this, they amount to torture. When we do, they don't. A newly released 2002 memo from a Bush administration official authorized keeping prisoners awake because "we are not aware of any evidence that sleep deprivation results in severe physical pain or suffering."
That document, signed by then-Assistant Atty. Gen. Jay Bybee, also deprecates the unpleasantness of waterboarding, which makes the victim feel he is literally drowning. "The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view, inflict 'severe pain or suffering,' " he announced. "The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering." Did I mention that it leaves no marks?
The Bush administration and its defenders have long ridiculed anyone protesting the abuse of detainees. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey, writing recently in The Wall Street Journal, lamented that under President Barack Obama, "the U.S. will no longer interrupt the sleep cycle of captured terrorists even to help elicit intelligence that could save the lives of its citizens." The message is simple: It's not really torture, and it works.
The former is obviously untrue as well as dishonest: Solzhenitsyn makes that clear. So do numerous U.S. government reports accusing various regimes of violating human rights through such forms of torture as sleep deprivation. Likewise, the U.S. government used to take a negative view of waterboarding. But apparently we only object when we're not the ones doing it.
That doesn't change the nature of the practice. In a confidential 2007 report that recently was leaked, the International Committee of the Red Cross outlined the harsh methods used on CIA detainees and reached the blunt conclusion that they "amounted to torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."
And what's to stop this sort of thing from happening in the future? The Constitution must be upheld.
Washington’s war criminals are finally nervous.
The newly released torture memos, in their brutal detail, have demolished the core argument of the Beltway’s torture defenders.
Everyone from President Barack Obama to former Vice President Dick Cheney has said the torture issue is about “the past.” But that makes no sense. Just read the memos. They clearly raise huge security questions about which rules govern our future counterterrorism efforts.
Can executive branch opinions simply override any federal statute or constitutional precedent? What is the duty of government officials who receive “legal” guidance that flatly contradicts the law? Can presidents use secret memos to run a two-branch government, squashing court oversight by declaring programs are for “national security” or “state secrets”?
And the big one: Are there any measures or consequences to prevent these abuses?
It is now incumbent on all three branches of government to address those questions with investigations, oversight and accountability. That is the only way to deter future crimes and provide future officials with guidance on their duties. So far, however, few in government are providing strong leadership.
The president deserves credit for ending torture and releasing the memos. His repeated suggestions that enforcing the law is less important than “unity” or “looking forward,” however, are unacceptable. And this week, he floated a mixed message by saying he did not want to look “backwards,” while also welcoming an independent “further accounting” of torture by Congress or an independent commission.
Over in the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) says he supports an independent commission to investigate government misconduct. The idea drew endorsements from The Washington Post, former military and diplomatic officials from both parties and bipartisan legal organizations such as the Constitution Project. The group’s policy counsel, Becky Monroe, told me that “in order to truly move forward, we need a commission to fully investigate all of our practices regarding the detention, treatment and transfer of detainees.”
Leahy has given several speeches about the commission idea. He held a hearing on it last month. He issued another statement on it this week. He launched an online petition at BushTruthCommission.com. His reelection committee has even raised money off the proposal, telling supporters that a “meaningful way” to support a commission is to donate to Leahy’s campaign. “It’s safe to say Sen. Leahy will not let the idea of a truth commission slip through the cracks,” reads one fundraising e-mail, promising that Leahy “will not rest until we have fully investigated the Bush-Cheney administration’s eight-year assault on the rule of law.”