Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Prosecuting Torturers: Heads Will Roll, But They'll Be the Heads of Scapegoats

For a journalist who has been involved in many big stories over four-plus decades and has reported extensively on the Bush Torture Regime, Monday was like covering a multi-alarm fire at the city's biggest lumber yard.

From the news in the morning that Eric Holder would name a special prosecutor to the release later in the day of a long classified CIA report, one alarm after anoher was rung as the revelations kept coming and the conflagration kept growing.
isBut so much for the personal stuff, because the big takeaways of this amazing day were global:

Yet again even
someone with my knowledge was surprised at the ferocity and extent of the torture regime.

Earlier this year it was the revelation that interrogators were instructed to torture detainees for evidence of cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda to bolster that key administration fiction for going to war. On Monday we learned that some of the abuses went well beyond what John Yoo and Steven
Bybee rubber stamped in their so-called legal opinions.

* Yet again it was evident that despite Holder's actions and the tsunami of released reports, the Obama administration's interest in cleaning the Augean stables of Bush era filth is halfhearted.

In fact, obscured behind the big headlines was the news that the U.S. will continue to rendition terrorism suspects to third countries. I understand why Obama wants to look forward. It's called health-care reform, energy reform and other pieces of an ambitious agenda, but it never has been more evident that he can't have it both ways.

And most importantly:

* Yet again I had the opportunity to reflect on the odyssey of my family and our forebears in this great
land and recall that I grew up believing that America does not torture.

But not only has America tortured, but it has tortured with an obsession that makes those usually overwrought Nazi analogies appropriate. One result is a Congress with one political party that endorses threatening people with power drills and the rape of their mothers and another that is almost as bereft of moral authority.

The best that I believe can be hoped for in the face of an ambivalent president and apathetic public is that the entire story of the torture regime eventually will dribble out and a few heads will roll. Sadly, these are likely to be the heads of scapegoats and not the people who are responsible for this darkest chapter in American history.

Image: Engraving from a painting by A. Steinheil

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