Mr. President, War Crimes Must Be Investigated
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The memos about torture released by the Obama administration are horrifying to read. Nothing new, here, but they are like a punch in the stomach all over again. This is my country? This is the nation that stands for freedom and decency?
I understand why President Obama doesn't want to prosecute those who believed they were acting under laws written by the Office of Legal Counsel. But that is not the only policy he and other Democrats can pursue.
First, the men who wrote those memos should be investigated for disbarment. They acted in ways that are unconscionable and unprofessional, to put it mildly.
Second, neither the President nor Congress should investigate these crimes. They must be pursued by a special independent investigator who has no political ax to grind. Now you may well ask, who approves of torture? Well, hardly anyone, except those in the Bush administration who justified or directed these war crimes.
Third, how can we allow a sitting federal judge to remain on the bench--for life-- when he provided legal justification for torture? I speak here, of course, of Jay.Bybee, who should resign or be impeached.
Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because the country I care so much about has breached some of the most important international conventions in modern history and yet no major leaders have been held accountable. If the investigation goes straight to Vice-President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush, then so be it.
Remember the debate over whether President Ford should have pardoned President Nixon for his violations of the constitution? The best argument for that pardon was that Nixon HAD been held accountable and had to resign his office. He had, in short, received a serious punishment.
President Obama's instincts are right to avoid a drawn-out partisan conflict over the past. But if we are truly a nation of laws, committed to the decency and morality we embrace, we cannot let people who justify or commit torture and other war crimes to escape prosecution. Those who agree should make their voices loud, joining Amnesty International, the ACLU and many thousands of other Americans who will not allow war crimes to be committed in their name.
Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute.