As President Obama approaches his first hundred days, the issue of what to do about alleged Bush Administration abuses of various treaties and conventions on the subject have taken center stage. In a way, it’s sad to see Obama get caught in a quagmire that was not of his own doing. On the other hand, maybe he didn’t handle it as well as he could have.
It certainly made sense to release CIA memos on the torturing of certain “enemy combatants”.
That’s the sort of fresh air his administration promised to deliver. Yet it was a mistake to seemingly offer blanket immunity to those who oversaw America’s detour into thuggery.
Now that it’s become apparent that “we’re moving on” wasn’t working for the president, there are broad hints from the White House that it might convene a bipartisan commission to investigate possible abuses.
This comes as new reports say no one had even bothered to look at the history of brutal interrogation techniques like waterboarding before they were approved. Nice work, GW.
The Obama flip-flop could have been avoided had someone in the new administration lobbied for a truth and reconciliation commission like the one convened in South Africa to probe the abuses of the apartheid system.
Now, after the president told CIA workers just the other day they were home free, he appears to be backtracking. And below it all is the specter of the increasingly vocal yet irrelevant former Vice President Dick Cheney.
He now says Obama should release CIA memos showing the success of waterboarding in wringing actionable intelligence from its victims. This tells us a couple of things.
First, Cheney must have been in the loop on the original decision to torture. Okay, how about he might have actually been the architect? Second, and just as important, this person believes the end justifies the means, that torture is okay if it works.
Leaving aside for the moment the howling of some former CIA officials at Cheney’s claim, he must know that one good turn deserves another.
If the US tortures people, why would any enemy hold back on doing the same to Americans?
But the central issue is this. President Obama must take firm action to assure the world that America rejects the use of torture, and will investigate and bring to justice people in power who think otherwise. How about he starts with Dick Cheney?
What do you think?