So here's my question: will we have to wait for the release of the Senate's torture report until President Obama has finished his weekly vetting of new targets of drone strikes, or does Kill List Tuesday not interfere with Torture Tuesday?
I bring this up only because Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties union, has also called upon Obama to devote some of his busy Tuesday to pardoning the Bush administration's war criminals. Theoretically, this would be a tacit admission that they are, in fact, war criminals, which is better than just ignoring them and inviting them back to the White House for special occasions. Since Obama already announced there will be no prosecutions, the least he can do is grant his predecessors permanent amnesty instead of letting them twist in the wind for all eternity. As Romero writes in a New York Times op-ed:
When the (Obama Justice) department did conduct an investigation, it appeared not to have interviewed any of the prisoners who were tortured. And it repeatedly abused the “state secrets” privilege to derail cases brought by prisoners — including Americans who were tortured as “enemy combatants.”
What is the difference between this — essentially granting tacit pardons for torture — and formally pardoning those who authorized torture? In both cases, those who tortured avoid accountability.
But with the tacit pardons, the president leaves open the very real possibility that officials will resurrect the torture policies in the future. Indeed, many former C.I.A. and other government officials continue to insist that waterboarding and other forms of torture were lawful. Were our military to capture a senior leader of the Islamic State who was believed to have valuable information, some members of Congress would no doubt demand that our interrogators use.
The spectacle of the president’s granting pardons to torturers still makes my stomach turn. But doing so may be the only way to ensure that the American government never tortures again. Pardons would make clear that crimes were committed; that the individuals who authorized and committed torture were indeed criminals; and that future architects and perpetrators of torture should beware. Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora’s box of torture once and for all.What Romero doesn't mention is that, besides committing war crimes of his own via the drone assassination program, Obama himself practices both direct and indirect torture. The UN and other human rights groups have deemed the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to be torture. Our government still outsources torture to other governments. The placement of thousands of American prisoners in long-term solitary confinement has been called torture.
If Obama pardons Bush, he will also have to pardon himself. And that will never do. He's got his legacy to worry about, as the New York Times never fails to remind us. On this particular Terror Tuesday, without a hint of irony, the paper is concern-trolling his civil rights and racial politics legacy.
While you're waiting for the report, Glenn Greenwald offers a succinct preview, and will be live-blogging the actual release. (I may be offline myself since a big Nor'easter is set to hit up here and the power company is already sending ass-covering outage alerts.)
*Update: It's now been released. Suffice it to say, the CIA's brutality makes the sadistic kops now in the news look like choirboys. The sexual sadism (rectal force-feeding) is particularly gruesome. But as Obama says, we must look forward, not backward.
"It is important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks (CIA) had.” -- Barack Obama, this year, grudgingly admitting that "we tortured some folks."