Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Will any of our "leaders" truly stand up against torture?

I think that by now, this is a very valid concern and question. Sure, we have had many people in Congress, the administration or wherever else say that torture is bad – abhorrent even (still quite an understatement). And we have heard how this is something that must be stopped, or that “if we only knew then”, or that it will not be tolerated, or frankly, whatever other platitudes or excuses are to be (or have been) used.

But through all of this – even stemming back from when the first pictures of Abu Ghraib were discovered and brought to light – nothing has been done about it. By anyone. And despite the following stunning facts, we are no closer to being a country that “doesn’t torture” then we were back when mister Bush, Alberto Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo and whatever other people within the United States Government sanctioned, called for, turned the other cheek to or participated in acts that can only be described as torture:

The US Department of Justice, the Secretary of Defense, the White House Counsel (who became the Attorney General), the “highest levels of the White House”, the CIA and both Democrats and republicans in Congress (if not a number of others that I am forgetting) all have contributed to the torture of individuals, either implicitly or actively – by condoning it, dismissing it, pretending it didn’t happen, or with the mildest forms of protest – whether through a “letter” which was ultimately disregarded or by NOT blowing the whistle on these heinous acts.

The CIA willfully destroys evidence of torture despite being warned not to and being asked to preserve any such information. The excuse is that it wanted to protect the identity of those who committed the torture. Put another way and in five simple words: (1) evidence tampering, and (2) obstructing justice (not to mention the fact that torture is illegal to begin with). The incoming Attorney General won’t come out and say that clear acts of torture are torture, presumably for fear of putting more people on the hook for illegal acts.

And in a stunning turn of events, this was ok enough for two Democratic Senators, Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein – two Democrats who have given their blessing to torture by allowing an Attorney General nominee out of committee that can’t even take a strong stand against these horrific acts. High ranking Reps and Senators on both sides of the aisle “may or may not have known” back in 2003 that these acts were committed, yet they did nothing to stop it, nor to shed light on the draconian and repulsive acts committed in the name of this country (thank you too, Jane Harmon and Jay Rockefeller). Of course, the whole “I don’t recall” excuse is being given by Harmon, but I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn’t recall if they were privy to information about the United States engaging in torture.

And here we are. A country that most certainly has tortured individuals – even some that were by no means “high value targets” (as if that would make it ok to actually torture them even if they were high value targets). A country whose current Attorney General won’t discuss what actually amounts to torture, the prior Attorney General was involved in justifying torture and the Attorney General before that recently said that he wouldn’t mind being waterboarded. A country when the “opposition party” at the time, now currently in a position to really get to the bottom of what happened, why it happened, how to ensure it will never happen again and most importantly to the outside world (in addition to those of us here in America who are utterly ashamed that we are associated with these acts) that the people responsible for promoting, conducting, approving, allowing or sanctioning torture are held accountable for their actions.

All of them, not just the “low level bad apples”.

Our leadership – in the House, the Senate and on both sides of the aisle – as well as our Presidential hopefuls – need to step up and demand (or conduct) the proper investigations and accountability for those who have destroyed evidence or obstructed justice. As we all saw with Alito, letting someone through despite all better judgment or evidence to the contrary can have disastrous results. And with Mukasaey, we have someone that has said he would do things that would “not be comfortable” for the White House.

Here is his chance.

As for our Congressional leaders, they have been inexplicably absent from taking the lead on this issue. High level Senators have given a tacit seal of approval to torture. It is all but absent from the Presidential campaign. There is no outrage, only excuses and ass-covering. It is a travesty of justice and a mockery of our Constitution as well as the principles that our country was founded on.

Why is it so difficult for someone to take a strong stand against torture? If nobody in Washington is willing to be bold on that issue, then what can we expect from them? Does anyone in a leadership position really care about the huge amount of damage that these acts, revelations and lack of accountability have on our nation?

Or will we “officially” be a country that sanctions torture? Because right now, we are dangerously close to that point.

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