Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Painful Debate About Torture

In releasing the Bush memos, Barack Obama reaffirms that responsibility starts at the top by stopping practices that "undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer," absolving the practitioners who believed what they were doing was legal and making public the twisted thinking that sanctioned them.

But critics like Professor David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center want more: "We must formally acknowledge that what was done was wrong, indeed criminal. At the very least, a credible independent investigation must be undertaken."

There is a good case to be made that American morality on torture should not depend on who is in the White House, but the argument collides with the realities that a President faces, that "in a dangerous world, the United States must sometimes carry out intelligence operations and protect information that is classified for purposes of national security," as Obama put it in his statement.

His administration will not press criminal charges against CIA operatives who interrogated terrorism suspects during the Bush era. "It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department," Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. says.

That position won't satisfy those who find a parallel with Nazis who were "only following orders" during the Holocaust, but 9/11 put Americans in a position where moral purity, or even the appearance of it, may be an impossible dream.

Meanwhile, the President has taken a step in the right direction by letting us see in detail just what was being done in our name and saying clearly that, on his watch, nothing like it will be done again.

After eight years of secrecy and lies by leaders who showed no doubts about their rectitude while abusing human beings, that's no small accomplishment.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps if you researched the issue further you would learn that no one was tortured and the Obama administration would have no leg to stand on in prosecuting anyone.

The men who were subjected to these enhanced interrogation methods would cut your throat in a second if they had the chance. It's very likely that if these methods were not used, more innocent Americans would be dead today. I say bravo to the previous administration for dealing with the threats we face properly and not seeing the world through rose colored glasses.

If waterboarding or similar techniques (which cause no long term damage) can save other Americans from having to deal with the loss of their innocent friends or family members, I say interrogate away.

I hope you never have to mourn the unnecessary death of a loved one at the hands of scum like the men who were interrogated using these methods. Perhaps your opinion would change in that case.

Stimpson said...

Hey, Anonymous fool: I hope your mom gets waterboarded at a spa visit. It's not torture after all.