Prediction: No Senior Official will Ever be Prosecuted for Torture

I like to think of myself as a realist. That doesn’t mean that I don’t subscribe to ideals, or that I don’t work hard in my own way to bring those ideals to fruition. In my youth, the way I worked was different, perhaps best described by lines from the song:

Once there was a silly old ram

Thought he could punch a hole in the dam

No one could make that ram scram

He kept buttin’ that dam

‘Cause he had high hopes…

Somewhere along the way, however, I kinda realized that the tag line to the song wasn’t quite correct; that old million kilowatt dam never did go kerplop, and all I had for my efforts — both figuratively and literally — was a bloody head.  

There has been a wave of optimism in the leftist blogosphere over the recent actions and statements of the Obama administration, and how we are moving inexorably towards investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the regime of torture perpetrated in our name.  I would love to believe that’s true; I don’t.

Oh, I suspect there will be investigations of sorts, along the lines of the Warren Commission or the 9/11 Commission, whose main purpose will be to obscure the facts rather than illuminate them.  There might even be a prosecution or two of some lower- level functionary for obstruction of justice or lying to some committee or other.  But those who are expecting to see Cheney or Rice or Rumsfeld or Bush standing in the dock accused of ordering torture are, in my opinion, engaging in a good-hearted but complete fantasy.  

Tell me, when has this country ever prosecuted a senior executive official for anything other than corruption or sexual misconduct? Watergate?  The convictions were for the cover-up, not the crime.  Iran-Contra?  Same deal.  

My prediction of the course of events as they will unfold:

Bowing to public pressure, some sort of investigation will take place, either congressional or a special commission or both. As mentioned above there will be all sorts of public pronouncements about “getting to the truth” and “gathering all the facts”, but the true purpose of these investigations will be to limit the damage and control the flow of information.  I doubt if any of the senior officials responsible for ordering or approving the torture will ever be seen testifying in public about their decisions.  Some sort of reports will be issued, which will wring hands and deplore actions, but significant facts will be witheld from the citizenry on grounds of “national security”.  Congress may even pass a few toothless laws that will be ignored by whatever next presidential administration decides to get us back into the torture business.  The reports might even name names and point fingers at key individuals, but I predict that the reports will recommend AGAINST any prosecutions “for the good of the country”.  Obama will thank the reporting bodies for their patriotism and service to their country, deplore the past, and again try to close the subject and avoid the issue.  AG Holder will “independently” decide not to prosecute — except perhaps a few lower-level liars — citing legal difficulties or the good of the country or whatever excuse he thinks will fly.  The whole process will drag on endlessly to its inconclusive anticlimax, in hopes that the American public — true to form — will get bored with the whole thing and move on to whatever next titillation gets served up for their viewing pleasure.

Am I a cynic or a realist?

Somebody tell me I’m wrong.



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    • Edger on April 23, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Probably, imo. 😉

  1. … I wouldn’t exactly call what I’m feeling “optimism.”  I don’t think I can find a word that expresses my feelings.

    I am trying to take in the tsunami of information that has been recently released, from the memos to the Senate report.  The story that is unfolding … again, words cannot describe my feelings.

    As far as who will be held accountable, at the risk of endlessly repeating myself, that’s up to the citizens of this country, and our track record has not been good.

    In the 70’s there was a lot of information dug up on the CIA in the Pike Committee Report.  The Congress voted to keep it classified without even reading it.

    There was not enough pressure on Congress to do otherwise.  If there had been massive citizen pressure, they’d have had no choice but to declassify it and hold folks accountable.

    So once again it’s up to us.  Will the citizens of this country have the stamina and endurance to see this through and provide a powerful enough force to give our representatives the cover to make these hard choices?

    Right now, I have no idea one way or the other.

  2. about this that isn’t shared by many here. But I think focusing on prosecutions and punishment – especially right now – is not productive.

    We are experiencing a tsunami of information about what happened, why it happened and how it happened. And it hasn’t even taken a Commission to get that started. My thoughts are that we shine as much sunlight on what we’re learning as is possible and get this information out there to as many people as possible.

    To have access to this kind of information about the depth of crime and corruption is, in my mind, unprecedented. And there’s a lot more to come.

    The means of accountability and change will depend on how the American public reacts to all of this much more than it will by what happens in a court room.  

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