We’re getting close — so close you can almost smell the stench of the rottenness. To be honest, I had pretty much given up hope for any sort of real justice in response to Bush Administration torture. Sure, a lot of dust was being kicked up, a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth: but actual substantive justice — a judge, a jury an accounting for the crimes committed? It just didn’t seem to be in the cards.
It didn’t seem to be in the cards that is until, just maybe, right now.
What’s changed? Perhaps everything. And, if so, that change has come in two parts.
Part one: The GOP screwed up. They pushed too hard, particularly in their attacks on Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress. Their calculation, of course, was that by accusing the Democratic congressional leadership of complicity in torture, they would scare off the Democrats. Who can blame them? When have the Democrats ever shown any backbone before? But this time it backfired. Instead of quaking in fear, Pelosi and other Democrats struck back — accusing the CIA and the Bush Administration of lying to them.
This left the Republicans in Congress in the soup. They have become so habituated to attack politics that they’re utterly incapable of remaining silent — even when silence is their only possible friend. So, instead, they’re striking back themselves, defending Bush and the CIA. But by doing so they are now unwittingly (or is it dimwittingly?) playing right into the hands of those of us demanding investigations. By jumping squarely into the scrap, accusing the Democrats of deceit, thus raising whole new issues that need to be investigated, they make it much more likely that congressional investigations into torture will actually occur and that they will be vigorously pursued.
And based upon what we’re learning now, the results of any such investigations are likely to be explosive to the degree of a supernova.
Part two: At the same time all this is happening, an already massive, but still evolving, body of evidence strongly suggests that we’re on the verge of uncovering the Rosetta stone to Bush era torture: the code to understanding everything that’s happened. The explanation, at long last, for why senior Bush Administration officials were so insistent on pursuing “enhanced interrogation techniques,” even in the face of the nearly unanimous opposition of intelligence professionals. The answer too to why they would push so hard for torture’s use when all of history had proven that any information extracted in that fashion would be inherently unreliable. And here also, finally, is an arguably rational, though monstrously evil, motive to explain why Cheney was so insistent on torturing even suspects who were already cooperating in interrogations.
What this growing body of evidence indicates — the Rosetta stone that finally makes everything make sense — is that producing reliable intelligence was never the actual goal of the torture anyway. The Bush Administration’s true goal was something else altogether — to produce coerced confessions “establishing” a false link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Torture, this evidence suggests, was never about keeping America safe: it was all about providing the Bush Administration with a little political cover for leading this nation into one of the worst foreign policy blunders in its history.
And if that’s the goal, who cares whether the information is reliable? What does reliability have to do with its political usefulness?
So why is this such a big deal? Because, as Steve Benen explains at the Washington Monthly, if proven, from a political standpoint it will change everything:
Torture is wrong (and illegal, and counter to our national security interests) regardless of the Bush administration’s motivations. But many — in the media, on the Hill, etc. — seem inclined to think doing the wrong thing for the right reason is somehow tolerable. Bush/Cheney was wrong to torture, the argument goes, but they were only trying to protect Americans from another terrorist attack.
Which is precisely why these revelations, if accurate, have the potential to be devastating. There was no “ticking time bomb,” but there was a political agenda. Getting a detainee to offer evidence of a non-existent link wouldn’t have furthered our security interests or saved American lives, but it would have made the Bush White House’s sales pitch for an unnecessary war a lot easier.
Are the same torture apologists we’ve heard from lately willing to also accept “extracting false confessions” as a reasonable justification?
If investigations are conducted which truly prove, as now seems probable, that torture was primarily conducted in an effort to justify the Iraq War, it’s all over. The Bush gang from Bush and Cheney all the way down to their enablers in the Congress and the media will be assigned to the dustbin of history’s disgrace. And a few of them might just go to jail.
Yeah, we’re getting close — so close, in fact, that it may already be too late for anyone, even a Democratic president who’d prefer to avoid the distraction, to stop the truth from coming out.
I would never have thought it possible. But maybe, just maybe, some sort of justice actually will win out in the end.