A wide variety of Bush/Cheney administration officials, including former President George W. Bush himself, “decided to link arms” recently and defend the torture policies the U.S. used in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. They have not yet seen the Senate Intelligence Committee report, due to be released today, but they’ve been eager to argue against disclosure, all while launching a p.r. campaign of sorts before the world better understands exactly what they did.
It’s a curious argument: “We didn’t do anything wrong, but for the love of God, please don’t tell anyone what we did.”
Leading the charge, not surprisingly, is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has not read the report, but is nevertheless comfortable dismissing it as “hooey.”
“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” he said in a telephone interview. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.”
Referencing CIA officials responsible for executing the administration’s torture policies, Cheney told the New York Times, “They deserve a lot of praise. As far as I’m concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized.”
It takes a special kind of person to look back at morally reprehensible misconduct and feel a sense of pride and satisfaction.
The evidence against Cheney’s arguments is overwhelming – torture doesn’t work, and even if it did, there are legal and moral lines the United States is not supposed to cross. The next step is coming to terms with what happens next.
Today is obviously an important step in the process. The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledges where U.S. officials went wrong, and just as importantly, it’s intended to help ensure we learn from our mistakes.
But Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, goes a step further in a provocative new op-ed, arguing that President Obama should issue pardons to officials from the Bush/Cheney administration “because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.”
[L]et’s face it: Mr. Obama is not inclined to pursue prosecutions – no matter how great the outrage, at home or abroad, over the disclosures – because of the political fallout. He should therefore take ownership of this decision. He should acknowledge that the country’s most senior officials authorized conduct that violated fundamental laws, and compromised our standing in the world as well as our security…. An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted. […]The spectacle of the president’s granting pardons to torturers still makes my stomach turn. But doing so may be the only way to ensure that the American government never tortures again. Pardons would make clear that crimes were committed; that the individuals who authorized and committed torture were indeed criminals; and that future architects and perpetrators of torture should beware. Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora’s box of torture once and for all.
Well, that ought to generate some interesting conversations.