Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama Advisers: Torture Prosecutions Not Likely

From the AP via the Huffington Post news wire:

Barack Obama's incoming administration is unlikely to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush presidency. Obama, who has criticized the use of torture, is being urged by some constitutional scholars and human rights groups to investigate possible war crimes by the Bush administration.

Two Obama advisers said there's little _ if any _ chance that the incoming president's Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.


Robert Litt, a former top Clinton administration Justice Department prosecutor, said Obama should focus on moving forward with anti-torture policy instead of looking back.

"Both for policy and political reasons, it would not be beneficial to spend a lot of time hauling people up before Congress or before grand juries and going over what went on," Litt said at a Brookings Institution discussion about Obama's legal policy. "To as great of an extent we can say, the last eight years are over, now we can move forward _ that would be beneficial both to the country and the president, politically."

But Michael Ratner, a professor at Columbia Law School and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said prosecuting Bush officials is necessary to set future anti-torture policy.

"The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it," Ratner said. "I don't see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable."

More here.

Okay, honeymoon's over. If this report is true, and the incoming administration will do nothing to bring these Bush officials to justice, officials who have done more than anybody else since the Jim Crow era to make our country like Nazi Germany, then all I have to say is this: fuck you, President Obama.

Without justice, there can be no "move forward." State sanctioned torture runs utterly counter to the very notion of civilization itself. It is deeply immoral, and consequently, any nation that allows it is deeply immoral. It is not enough to simply say "no more." Justice must be done, or torture, in effect, has been allowed. Further, if these Gestapo-like torture-administrators go unpunished, it sets a horrifying precedent allowing the US government to do it again, which it will if we simply sweep it all under the rug.

Look, these are war crimes we're talking about. The kind of thing for which they hanged Nazis at Nuremberg. We can't fuck around on this. I'm all for "post-partisanship," but not at the expense of our nation's soul. And there's nothing partisan about it, anyway: anybody whose political position is in support of torture, and that includes support of effective amnesty for torturers, has no place at the table. American politics must not allow torture; it cannot be an option.

I really hope this leak is untrue, that our new President will do the right thing. But I know that doing the wrong thing is politically expedient, and seemingly fits in all too well with Obama's "post-partisanship" point of view. I'm hopeful, but not optimistic.

Will President Obama allow the men who ordered this to go free?