Sometimes irony can hang thicker than a November fog in Seattle. For a long time now, liberals have been calling for criminal investigations into the Bush Administration’s torture of terrorism suspects: we’ve marshaled strong arguments — legal arguments, moral arguments, even geopolitical arguments. But — and this is where the irony comes in — it turns out that in the end it hasn’t been any of our words that have made the strongest case for prosecutions.
No, beyond a doubt, that award goes to the right wing shrills who, even as we speak, continue to defend the use of torture.
The torturers had a choice in the aftermath of their crimes. If George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, David Addington, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes, II, John Yoo and their various coconspirators and right wing enablers had simply admitted error — conceded that in the aftermath of Sept. 11 that maybe, just maybe, they went a bit too far — the case against pursuing them criminally would be much stronger. With torture thus repudiated, and the darkness truly behind us, the pressure to forgive those who were trying to keep us safe (or at least so they claim) would doubtlessly have grown.
But instead of even a hint of contrition, they offer exactly the opposite — a full-throated defense of torture and a condescending dismissal of those who consider it shameful. And with that, surely, in all good conscience, their fates must be sealed. How can anyone honestly argue that it’s time simply to move on in the face of this defiance against the norms of humanity? These aren’t contrite sinners: they’re torturers in waiting. They aren’t even trying to hide their intentions. Given half a chance — and in an election or two they may get it — they’ll have no hesitancy at all in breaking out the waterboards once again.
These are people who seek nothing less than to permanently redefine what it means to be an American, in one of the darkest and most evil ways imaginable. And we’re supposed to walk away?
Take a look at just a few examples from this roll of dishonor:
– Dick Cheney sneeringly defends torture as an effective intelligence tool.
– Marc Thiessen suggests that it’s acceptable to torture Muslims because it gives them a welcome excuse to tell the truth.
– John Yoo makes it clear he regrets nothing.
– Rush Limbaugh opines, “”If somebody can go through water-boarding for 183 times, 6 times a day . . . it means you’re not afraid of it, it means it’s not torture. If you’ve found a way to withstand it, it can’t possibly be torture.”
– Charles Krauthammer insists this isn’t a dark chapter in American history at all.
– Brit Hume sanctimoniously announces, “What we really need is to have all these techniques at our disposal . . . they talk about the banging of the guy’s head against the wall. It turns out to be very controlled and it’s a soft wall that gives way . . . I’m not at all sure that’s torture.”
– Mike Huckabee jokes, “I’ve been in hotels with more bugs than these guys faced, and they’re tortured?”
– Karl Rove argues that the torture memos actually demonstrate how humanely the suspects were treated.
(Many of these examples were taken from here. More of the same here.)
How can you declare a cancer cured and “move on” when the disease still grows within the body politic? And if we don’t legally repudiate and punish torture this time, what excuse will we have next time?
It isn’t, after all, like we haven’t been warned.