It’s time to excise the cancer for the American body politic known as Bush-Cheney Administration. When both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Grand Inquisitor Darth Cheney agree that critical documents be declassified about how torture was used during the previous eight years, you know the worm has turned.
In other words, it’s time for a truth commission.
Thus far, President Obama has resisted such a commission, arguing that the serious issues facing the country requires that we ignore the law— sorry, the past— and move forward. That puts him on the same page as conservatives like Peggy Noonan, who three weeks ago said on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos“:
Some of life has to be mysterious. Sometimes you need to just keep walking… It’s hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, oh, much good will come of that.
Both Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd support such a commission in their op-ed pieces today in the NY Times. Rich begins his “Obama Can’t Turn the Page on Bush” by invoking one of the most famous scenes in cinema history:
TO paraphrase Al Pacino in “Godfather III,” just when we thought we were out, the Bush mob keeps pulling us back in. And will keep doing so. No matter how hard President Obama tries to turn the page on the previous administration, he can’t. Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.
In her most substantive post in years, Maureen Dowd writes:
Ali Soufan, the ex-F.B.I. agent who flatly calls torture “ineffective,” helped get valuable information from Abu Zubaydah, an important Al Qaeda prisoner, simply by outwitting him. Torture, he told Congress, is designed to force the subject to submit “through humiliation and cruelty” and “see the interrogator as the master who controls his pain.
It’s a good description of the bullying approach Cheney and Rummy applied to the globe, and the Arab world. But as Soufan noted, when you try to force compliance rather than elicit cooperation, it’s prone to backfire.
She goes on to cite Robert Windrem‘s account of how Cheney’s office ordered the arrest of a top intel officer in Saddam‘s security apparatus and had him water tortured to produce a false Saddam-al Qaeda link. MoDo concludes:
I used to agree with President Obama, that it was better to keep moving and focus on our myriad problems than wallow in the darkness of the past. But now I want a full accounting. I want to know every awful act committed in the name of self-defense and patriotism. Even if it only makes one ambitious congresswoman pay more attention in some future briefing about some future secret technique that is “uniquely” designed to protect us, it will be worth it.
As for the raw political calculus, Rich observes:
The administration can’t “just keep walking” because it is losing control of the story. The Beltway punditocracy keeps repeating the cliché that only the A.C.L.U. and the president’s “left-wing base” want accountability, but that’s not the case. Americans know that the Iraq war is not over. A key revelation in last month’s Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainees — that torture was used to try to coerce prisoners into “confirming” a bogus Al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein link to sell that war — is finally attracting attention. The more we learn piecemeal of this history, the more bipartisan and voluble the call for full transparency has become.
Heaven forbid that the sudden outbreak of “bipartisanship” that has flowed so mellifluously from the Rethugs last week be aborted. Naturally, they supported Obama’s flip flops on releasing the torture photos, closing GITMO by January of next year, and keeping the military tribunal kangaroo courts in business.
I must say, however, that the most nauseating moment of watching this morning’s commentariat opine on the issue belongs to Sentator Jim Webb (Dem-VA) , whom I once supported for VP. Pressed on Obama’s flip-flopping on GITMO and the military commissions by Stephanopolous, Webb reversed his own previous positions, playing the loyal soldier to a fault. As a result, he made Lynn Cheney look like the model of consistency during her appearance today on “This Week.”
The good news is that there is now a definite momentum building for a truth commission, hopefully one that doesn’t have the methodological deficiencies of the 9/11 Commission, and doesn’t take prosecutions “off the table,” as Nancy Pelosi might say.
You just can’t keep sweeping this kind of shit under the carpet without it stinking up the People’s House.
(Graphic from Terminator II)