Friday, April 17, 2009

Obama: Let Bygones be Bygones

Hmm. Ah...
President Obama absolved CIA officers from prosecution for harsh, painful interrogation of terror suspects Thursday, even as his administration released Bush-era memos graphically detailing — and authorizing — such grim tactics as slamming detainees against walls, waterboarding them and keeping them naked and cold for long periods.

Obama said he wanted to move beyond "a dark and painful chapter in our history."

So the people who conducted activities best described--especially by one-time candidate Obama--as torture are getting a free pass. Because... well, apparently because Bush administration lawyers wrote memos saying the techniques were A-OK, that, say, subjecting a person to controlled drowning right up to but not crossing the line into actual death is not torture because it does not result in "severe pain or suffering." Apparently it tickles so much that people decide to talk just to stop the laughter, and that's why the CIA was so desperate to keep it on the list of approved extreme interrogation measures.

Jesus. Well, okay, so now we have a bunch of torturers exonerated because "I was just following orders" is now back in vogue as a bulletproof excuse. Is this simply the opening gambit in a larger gameplan to go after the people who wrote the memos? Or the people who asked other people to write the memos and then signed off on them? Or possibly their boss, or their boss' boss? Because after making so much noise on the campaign trail about Bush ceding the moral high ground with his torturefest, issuing get-out-of-jail-free cards is kind of a bad idea, isn't it?

Obama disagreed, saying in a statement, "Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

Really? Really, Barack? Please tell me that was just a very unfortunate choice of words and not an accurate representation of your--or, more saliently, your Justice Department's--viewpoint on the last administration's war crimes. Nothing will be gained? Nothing will be regained. Like our standing in the world and the trust of our allies. Or our national integrity. We have already laid blame for the past, so in that sense you're right in not seeing the need for more resources to be spent in that direction. Making amends for the past and bringing to justice the people who led us down that path? Lots and lots will be gained by spending time and energy in that arena. Some stuff you can let slide. Other stuff you need to exact retribution for. Please don't think for a moment that you can pass off the torture doctrine as belonging to the former category.