A waterboarding protest at the Spanish consulate in Manhattan April 23, urging prosecution of Bush administration officials in Spain. (AP)
Detainee torture, seen from abroad
COMMENTARY | April 25, 2009
Writes a columnist in the Guardian: ‘It might be fun to see Dick Cheney behind bars for condoning torture, but there are more urgent priorities.’ But a writer in Asia Times says those responsible must be held accountable.
By Lauren Drablier
PARIS—There is a consensus in the international news media that the use of torture in recent years violated everything the United States stands for, but views are mixed on whether to pursue those responsible. Some feel an aggressive, divisive inquiry would hinder Obama’s ambitious agenda and possibly spark political instability in the U.S. Others want to see those responsible prosecuted.
In Canada’s The Gazette’s Viewpoint section, a writer argues that charging high-ranking Bush officials could lead to political instability in Torture is wrong. So are political trials:
“U.S. President Barack Obama was right to say, as he did this week, that the U.S. must never again torture prisoners.
“He was also correct to say CIA and other government employees who took part in waterboarding and the like should not and would not be charged with anything.
“But he was wrong to leave the door open for eventual trials for Bush administration officials whose twisted legal memos opened the way to torture.
“First: America's place in the world can no longer depend on the almighty dollar nor, in the age of box-cutters, on aircraft carriers. Ultimately it depends instead on freedom, the strict limits on government which allow individuals to flourish. Respect for human rights - real human rights, not the depraved United Nations version - is central to those limits…
“If the U.S. does not stand for individual human dignity in the world, after all, what does it stand for?
“Second, charging low-level officials only would be dishonest. These acts were approved at the highest levels.
“Third: Well, then, why not charge George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or various of their high officials with torture-related crimes? Bush-haters in Congress and elsewhere are salivating at this idea, but there's a good answer to that question: The precedent is too dangerous.
“Every new administration could turn the government's legal firepower on the preceding team one way or another. It's a common enough tactic in some countries - Pakistan, for example - and it can gravely damage political stability.
“The pursuit of Bush-era officials was set back sharply yesterday when it emerged that in 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, was briefed in detail about water-boarding and other techniques. Should she, too, be charged with something? That's not likely. Senate majority leader Harry Reid opposes even a commission of inquiry, and Obama, who has flirted with that idea, now seems to be moving away from it.”
Canada’s Globe and Mail believes that Obama can only hope the torture flap blows over before it blows up his agenda:
“Barack Obama's administration appears to have been blindsided by the torture furor, which threatens to overwhelm his ambitious political agenda. The President is being assailed from the left and the right for his handling of memos detailing the Bush administration's authorization of water-boarding and other extreme techniques on terrorist suspects.
“He now regrets his willingness to accept a so-called truth commission to investigate the issue, fearing it will suck up the political oxygen in the capital.
“As Mr. Obama tries to navigate between ideological polar opposites, the question is whether he can keep his health-care, environment and other priorities on track, even as Congress becomes increasingly obsessed with who authorized what, and who's to blame.
“‘If there is evidence of criminality, then the Attorney General has the full authority and should prosecute it,’ Arlen Specter said yesterday in a statement. ‘But going after the prior administration sounds like something they do in Latin America in banana republics.’
“Perhaps the people who authorized the program should be held accountable, even if that means charging Mr. Bush and former vice-president Dick Cheney.
“But not only would bringing criminal charges against a former president ignite a political firestorm certain to eclipse Watergate, senior Democrats might also have to be arrested because they were among the congressional leaders who were briefed on the program in 2002.
“Now Mr. Obama can only hope that the torture issue eventually blows itself out, allowing Congress and the administration to move ahead with his agenda.
“Past experience, however, suggests that nothing incites ideologues of all stripes like a knock-'em-down fight over who did what in the war on terror.”
Alexander Chancellor, columnist for the UK’s Guardian, writes, It might be fun to see Dick Cheney behind bars for condoning torture, but there are more urgent priorities:
“Nowhere is the contrast between the two presidencies more vivid than in Obama's unequivocal rejection of the interrogation methods authorised by the Bush administration for use on the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.
“Obama appears to have hoped that by exposing the true facts about the CIA's interrogation methods (which also included slamming prisoners into walls, squeezing them into small boxes, and shackling them in standing positions for days), by promising never to repeat them, and by pledging that nobody would be prosecuted for offences approved by the White House, he would be able to bring an end to the controversy and move on. But this is not turning out to be easy.
“Besieged by critics from both right and left, with the latter insisting that Bush administration officials be brought to account for their actions, the president has made an about-turn and refused to preclude prosecutions after all. That is a pity; for though it might be fun to see Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld behind bars, putting people on trial would exacerbate and prolong a divisive debate and distract the Obama administration from its essential business.”
In After the dark side, the UK’s Economist argues that although Obama is in a tough position, so far he has made the right moves in order to maintain a “reasonable balance”:
“The memos have also stirred a debate about the future of counter-terrorism. How far will Mr Obama go in rolling back the extraordinary powers of surveillance and secrecy, detention and interrogation that the Bush administration accumulated? And how much danger is there that he will overreact to his predecessors’ excesses, leaving his country vulnerable to another attack?
“Mr Obama inherited some very difficult problems from the previous regime, not least what to do with people, some of them highly dangerous, who have been in a legal limbo in Guantánamo for years. Conservatives are right to be irritated by foolish liberal claims that America does not face any hard choices in fighting terrorism. But it is equally idiotic to argue, as a fair few conservatives seem to, that tough-minded policies are meritorious simply because they are tough-minded.
“There is always a chance that Mr Obama will go too far, replacing Mr Bush’s excessive zeal with excessive timidity. But so far the signs are that he is producing a reasonable balance. He recognises that September 11th 2001 changed the rules of national security. But he also recognises that many of the Bush-era policies were clumsy as well as questionable. The most important comment on Mr Obama’s approach to counter-terrorism so far came on April 20th, from the CIA agents who cheered him to the rafters.”
The Asia Times, in Torture whitewash from The Dark Side claims that those responsible must be held accountable for their actions and that Obama should not simply “look the other way”:
“This whole drama is shaping up as a case of American exceptionalism one cannot believe in. Without accepting full responsibility for torture - and illegal, pre-emptive wars - and without accountability, there can be no catharsis in America. Obama is enough of a smart operator to know that if his "going forward" is perceived like "look the other way", this whole thing will come back to haunt and even destroy his presidency. And if it walks and talks like a whitewash, that's because it must be ... a whitewash.
“Obama has provided plenty of proof in his nearly 100 days in power (from the Afghan surge to his CIA coddling) he doesn't want to go down in history as the man who unraveled the American empire. Seize the moment? No, he won't. All that's left for the rest of walking humanity is just the dream of shipping Cheney to a really accomplished destination - The Hague, so he can be duly tried for treason and crimes against humanity.”
05/03/2009, 10:23 AM
The use of torture, according to what I've read, indicates that water boarding was utilized to give Cheney his ability to pre-emptively attack Iraq for the oil. Remember the speech by the puppet on March 16, 2003? All he could blubber was the "Weapons of Mass Destruction"? Our country has basically destroyed Iraq, giving tremendous power to Iran, through the majority of ****es that still reside there. Civil War has merely been delayed by the so-called "Surge". Why haven't we been allowed to see Cheney's 2001 energy "study", because it had to be secret and release would exposed our national security? Also remember that the companies execs. were involved and I'll bet that he was promising those companies their access to the oil that Hussein was selling below the "market" price; affecting their profits. The garbage about freedom was merely a marketing ploy like all the other criminal actions made by both Cheney and Bush. Off to the Hague!