Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Worst Intensity: OPR Report On Torture

My biggest disappointment with Obama over the last thirteen months has been his failure to prosecute the war crimes that he seemed so determined to redress during his campaign. Dick Cheney now feels immune to brag about his support of torture during and after his tenure as VP and the lawyers that twisted the legal system to give cover to those crimes have now been tapped gently on the wrist for exercising nothing more than poor judgment. The precedent is set and there's nothing to stop a future administration from doing the same and even going further.

It's decisions like the OPR Report On Torture Memos that have fueled the backlash against Washington from both left and right and caused much of Obama's current strife. The lawyers and politicians get off, while grunts like Lynndie England get the blame. As Andrew Sullivan writes:
"That Lynndie England went to jail for doing things that John Yoo made legal, and Yoo does not even face disbarment, tells you all you need to know about the current state of justice in America. In the end, the current president and attorney-general have assented to this massive injustice. The responsibility is theirs'."

But even more appalling is the realization that the US suffered so much more under Bush than I previously thought. His administration's dark legacy continues to influence policy and the center has shifted so far to the right that injustices like those war crimes are now debated as legitimate tools to be employed. Failure to do so now brings hoots of "coward," while Obama appears to lack the courage of his convictions. It's that old Yeats poem, "The Second Coming" all over again:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Here is George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley discussing the loss of "one of the core principles of Nuremberg" with Keith Olbermann:


  1. Just a few weeks ago, in my area there was a horrible crime. A mentally challenged young woman was held captive, tortured, and killed by 6 people. Expectedly, there was public outrage at this senseless crime. Hundreds of people showed up in a public celebration of the victim's life, everyone expressing anger and disgust at the torturers.

    Yet, I know that, in that conservative community, many of those same people supported the torture my country perpetrated in Iraq. And a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed the more Americans attend church, the more likely they are to support the use of torture. Of any group, the highest percentage who thought torture should NEVER be used was only 31%. This makes me so ashamed of my country which I want to be better than that.

    I doubt that most people would condone the torture of one of our own citizens by a foreign country no matter what the person has done, but when a group has a collective hatred toward another group because they oppose us in a war, are of a different faith, culture, nationality or race, then religious people assume God hates all the same people they do ---and if God hates them, of course they must deserve to be tortured.

    I have have much more to say about torture on my blog:
    Why Torture is Wrong
    Why Torture is Wrong Part 2
    Why Torture is Wrong Part 3
    Mark Twain on Torture