Sunday, April 26, 2009

Broder: Stop Scapegoating.

I simply don't understand these people. David Broder admits that the US is leaving "one of the darkest chapters of American history" and yet is insistent that Obama ensure that there is no prosecution of the people who led the US into it's darkest chapter.

How can one ensure that such darkness is never revisited if one allows the Cheney's and the O'Reilly's and the Beck's of this world to claim that no illegality of any kind occurred here? This is not a situation where, like South Africa, there can be a truth commission because the people who erred realise the wrong of what they have done, this is actually quite the opposite.

The people who ordered torture think that they were right to do so. Indeed, the argument they are taking from TV studio to TV studio is that "torture works".

But Broder has identified amongst those seeking prosecutions, "an unworthy desire for vengeance."

I have always said that I care not a jot whether or not Obama pardons the buggers, but it must be established under law that what they did was illegal. The people who committed this heinous crime are braying that no crime has even been committed and people like O'Reilly are coming out with statements saying that he would waterboard a thousand people to keep American citizens safe. They are shameless about their crime and insistent that no crime of any kind has been committed here.

That can't be allowed to stand. For the sake of future generations - and any American president who might seek to emulate what the Bush regime has done here - it has to be established that torture is not admissible.

And hiring quack lawyers to give a veneer of respectability to this practice does not disguise the sheer vileness of the behaviour which they have indulged in.

Broder's hysterical column asks that Obama stop the search for "scapegoats", as if assigning responsibility for crimes is one of the system's vilest practices. It is not, indeed, it is the way the entire system works.

Only when it comes to politicians who have broken the law are these arguments ever aired. One never hears talk of "scapegoats" when bank robbery is being discussed. Or murder. In those cases, rather than talking of "scapegoats" we talk of delivering justice.

And that should be the case here. Crimes have been committed. People have been tortured. People have been denied their most basic rights and have been humiliated in the worst ways that one can imagine.

And that treatment was legitimised by a series of memos which are amongst the most shameful ever to emanate from the White House. But that's not what Broder sees:

The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places -- the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department -- by the proper officials.

One administration later, a different group of individuals occupying the same offices has -- thankfully -- made the opposite decision. Do they now go back and investigate or indict their predecessors?

That way, inevitably, lies endless political warfare. It would set the precedent for turning all future policy disagreements into political or criminal vendettas. That way lies untold bitterness -- and injustice.

And, again, this insane insistence - first aired by Karl Rove - that war crimes must now be viewed as "policy disagreements".

We all know enough about what happened here to say with confidence that history will judge the US on how it reacts to what even Broder admits was, "one of the darkest chapters of American history".

Does the US now punish the wrongdoers? Does the US distinguish itself from other nations who have indulged in such practices and remind the world that it is, as Reagan famously claimed, "that shining city on a hill." Or will the US simply sweep this all under the rug, allow the torturers to keep braying that their practices "worked", and leave the right to torture - without fear of prosecution - as a possibility for future American leaders?

Broder is as wrong as a person can possibly be.

Establishing what is right is sometimes "vengeance", but it is more often simply establishing who we are and what we find acceptable and what we insist is unacceptable.

The torturers cannot be allowed to continue braying that they would do it all over again. The Cheneys and the O'Reilly's and the Beck's cannot be allowed to insist that such behaviour is acceptable.

Not if the US is to restore herself as leader of the free world. We cannot be led by a nation which appears to possess the moral compass of Uzbekistan.

Part of leading the free world involves stating where it is unacceptable for nations to go. And, having been through, "one of the darkest chapters of American history", the US must now show us the proper and legal way to deal with such heinous abuses and the abusers.

Allowing the abusers to boast that they would do it all over again is simply not acceptable.

Click title for Broder's article.

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