Torture and the Cost of Looking Forward, Not Back

Jane Meyer in the New Yorker on the Senate CIA torture report (boldface mine):

There was a way to address the matter that might have avoided much of the partisan trivialization. In a White House meeting in early 2009, Greg Craig, President Obama’s White House Counsel, recommended the formation of an independent commission. Nearly every adviser in the room endorsed the idea, including such national-security hawks as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and the President’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director at the time, also supported it. Obama, however, said that he didn’t want to seem to be taking punitive measures against his predecessor, apparently because he still hoped to reach bipartisan agreement on issues such as closing Guantánamo….

Rejali, who has studied the tension between torture and democracy around the world, says that “there’s a five- or six-year window for any kind of accountability. We’re now past that window. The two sides are entrenched.” Without a mutual acknowledgment of the mistakes made, and some form of accountability, he warned, another reversion to torture may be difficult to prevent: “Nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity.”

What Obama never seemed to realize–and perhaps still doesn’t–is that on so many issues, torture being just one of them, you could never get good policy without accountability. Helping Republicans save face would not be reciprocated, it would only allow them to ignore any culpability.

It might have been the single greatest missed opportunity for political and social reformation since the demise of Reconstruction. We will all pay for it, even those of us who thought it was a foolish (non-)policy.

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2 Responses to Torture and the Cost of Looking Forward, Not Back

  1. coloradoblue says:

    Obama understands. He understands immunity. He understands impunity. He understands complicity.

    He just doesn’t care.

    He wanted to be the first AA prez and he did it. Now he’ll make out like a motherf…… after leaving office.

    F*ck them all.

  2. Tracy Lightcap says:

    I think it’s a little simpler then that. At the time, Obama had big plans and he was hoping that the licking they got in 2008 would bring at least some of the Pubs to the table. Provided, that is, that he didn’t piddle away his political capital on doing something about torture. This was an understandable view, imho, albeit a mistaken one.

    I would have done as much as possible as fast as possible to blacken the name of the Bush administration and pushed as much legislation through as possible with Dem votes. But I’m not Barack Obama; he isn’t a vindictive person or a particular ruthless one. And, while he didn’t get those Pub votes he was hoping for, he did push through the most comprehensive liberal agenda since the Great Society while keeping his opponents on the ropes for two years. I can’t say that he was wrong in not deciding to fight for the torture hill early on.

    I’m also not sure that it’s too late. We’ll see.

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