Today Glen Greenwald of Salon wrote a passionate post in support of leading a criminal investigation against those at the highest level of the American government who knew about the torture being conducted, in our name, across the world.
He stated quite eloquently that, ” The need for criminal investigations is motivated by one simple, consummately apolitical fact: serious and brutal crimes were committed at the highest levels of the government, ones that left a trail of many victims. A country that purports to live under the rule of law has no choice but to treat its most powerful members who commit serious crimes exactly the same as ordinary citizens who do so.”
Unlike many of my liberal friends I haven’t been as steadfast on the issue as I have been on many other political issues. I’ve waivered. Going back on forth on what constitutes torture and if prosecuting high level officials is actually possible.
Of course I don’t condone torture but like many people my idea of torture revolves around devices, use of electricity and nails etc etc. For the average citizen, myself included, differentiating between roughing up a bad guy and outright torture is extremely, extremely difficult.
And even if we can accept that waterboarding is torture how do you prosecute those at the top who I’m sure have protected themselves against prosecution? Don’t you think Cheney and Rice knew the laws?
Come on now.
And you don’t even have to look too far to see who pays the price for breaking laws and treaties.
Remember Abu Grahib who took the fall there? The foot soldiers. The women and men at the bottom of the ladder were the ones ridiculed and prosecuted when in most cases I believe they were only following orders.
I can honestly tell you that I was not entirely supportive of the idea of prosecuting those soldiers and I believed if anyone should have been prosecuted it shouldn’t have been their commanders but I wasn’t naive enough to believe that was going to happen.
And until yesterday I was in total support of Obama’s policy not to seek criminal charges against those in the Bush administration because selfishly it’s not in the best interests of the Democrats to do so and more importantly the cost the Obama administration would pay, I believed, would be waaaaaaay too high.
How could prosecuting ex Bush officials help us turn around the economy or fix what is going wrong in Afghanistan or bring our troops home from Iraq?
But the more I thought about it the stronger my conclusion became that to not investigate those at the top of the torture pyramid would be tantamount to saying that the law does not apply to them or to those who govern. And it’s my belief that if they are two groups of people within a society who shouldn’t break the law its those who lead and create the laws and those who enforce those laws.
We depend on these men are women to be our leaders and if they don’t follow the law at the times when it is most difficult to do so what does that say to the everyday man or woman who is forced to abide the law even if those laws are against their best interests or the interests of a loved one?
An average citixen is not allowed to break the law and claim moral grounds neither should a leader regardless of their good intentions.
Justifiable illegal acts DO NOT AND CANNOT make those acts legal.
After 911 we were scared. We were suddenly confronted by an enemy that was a lot stronger and more dangerous than we initially thought and many of us including our leaders responded in ways that we now question and many may even have concluded, incorrectly, that some of our laws needed to be broken/bent in order to keep us sage.
However in an effort to protect our nation from the bad guys we shouldn”t have abandoned our morality or disregarded the laws that have made us the nation that we are today.
So we must prosecute those who ordered or sought to legalize torture.
In the beginning these proceeding will be extremely uncomfortable but ultimately we’ll reclaim the moral authority and increase the goodwill we once had in the world and arguably that will reap far more rewards than any information gleaned from a tortured prisoner.