Barack Obama gets an A- for his first 100 days as president on pretty much every issue. His cabinet appointments have been clumsy, and his handling of the stimulus package unnecessarily watered down good economics with bad to satisfy Republicans who then voted against it anyway. But for the most part, he has done an excellent job of rehabilitating the United States on the world stage and handling the break down of the economy. The test he has failed was on the subject of torture.
Waterboarding, stress positions, sexual humiliation, freezing temperatures, sleep deprivation, slamming against walls, and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" are forms of torture. They use physical and psychological means to force a subject to divulge information, and often did so over and over again—dozens of times on some individuals.
You don't want these techniques used on our own military personnel. America has stood against torture in the past, partly for just that reason and partly because it is simply morally wrong. We imprisoned and executed Japanese and Germans who used similar techniques during World War 2 and we awarded $766 million of Ferdinand Marcos's frozen assets in damages to Filipinos waterboarded by Marcos's men.
The people the Bush administration ordered tortured were often people only vaguely rumored to know something about the Iraq insurgency or al Qaeda organization. The great majority of them were innocent or at least ignorant of valuable information. And Americans tortured them with the expressed written consent of top federal government officials of the executive branch.
Torture is immoral, unethical, stupid, and illegal by every sensible measure. It produces little more than lies and exaggerations. And proper skilled interrogation is always more effective at producing real, actionable information. Our own intelligence operatives say so.
Barack Obama cannot sweep this policy under the rug as a mistake and expect history to treat him kindly any more than history will treat the Bush officials kindly for authorizing the techniques in the first place.
Justice must be done.
The use of torture by Americans must be fully investigated and must produce indictments for wrongdoing that result in top Bush administration officials answering for war crimes. And reparations must be made to those whose human rights were violated.
Does that mean potentially putting a former attorney general, Defence Secretary, president, vice-president, and others in prison? I don't know. I don't care. Would the sky fall if they were?
"Some things in life need to be mysterious," Republican pundit Peggy Noonan said about torture, adding, "Sometimes you need to just keep walking."
No, Peggy. Sometimes you need to man up and let justice be done.
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