Sunday, April 19, 2009

Give It Up For Transparency

I have to admit that the word 'transparency' seems too cute for the subject of torture memos. Since it's what the president is being praised for this morning in the Dallas Morning News, I'll work with it, but I prefer honesty.

Letting the secrets the past maladministration tried to keep into the public domain has been a boon to us all from this White House. We heard it from others before, but the extent of the involvement of the ex-cretin in chief and his staff in promoting breaking our law should be appreciated by all. Of course, we know that the aggressively ignorant rightwingers will object but mainly because they were complicit in promoting behavior that is shameful.

Public shame is due the perpetrators of crimes, who denied them while they were committing them. As Andrew Sullivan pointed out this morning on the Chris Matthews Show, the ex-occupier of the White House insisted he was shocked at the news of Abu Ghraib atrocities at the very time he was authorizing those same atrocities. It was a lie, and we should know that we were lied into the indecent behavior this country is now guilty of.

We should learn what crimes we have committed as a country, and act to prevent its ever happening again.

President Barack Obama was right last week to release the four secret Justice Department memos detailing the Bush administration's legal justifications for torturing captured terrorism suspects.

Not only was Obama right, he was courageous.

There was little to gain politically from making public those memos, which lay out the shocking techniques top U.S. government lawyers authorized interrogators to perform on suspected terrorists. For one thing, the world is not likely to think more kindly about the United States because of this. For another, the president angered some in the intelligence community, which fought to keep these secrets under lock and key.

Finally, Obama's decision outraged many conservatives, who accuse him of tipping off terrorists to our interrogation methods, and some liberals, disgusted by his refusal to prosecute CIA agents who inflicted this punishment on detainees.

That said, he took the proper path. He promised more transparency in his administration, and this is what transparency looks like. President George W. Bush repeatedly insisted that the U.S. did not torture terrorism suspects. This is not true. The recently disclosed secret Red Cross report, revealed by journalist Mark Danner in The New York Review of Books, made claims of innocence difficult to believe.

Obama's release of the four memos shatters them.
Obama left open the possibility of an official investigation, perhaps by Congress, to determine how and why the Bush administration came to implement torture policies. That investigation should go forward, as Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy put it, "so we make sure it never happens again."

As we have said in this blog before, the rule of law demands the law be carried out. No evasion of the consequences of crime will deter crime in the future.

Failure to punish the Nixon era criminals enabled them to commit crimes in our recent maladministration.


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