So, Bush last week admitted complicity in his administration’s policy of torturing people. Earlier, the Associated Press revealed that Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft, and George Tenet were also complicit. Donald Rumsfeld was implicated as far back as July of 2005, and Alberto Gonzales’s already known complicity didn’t prevent him from being confirmed as this nation’s chief law enforcement officer, even earlier in 2005. Just over a month ago, Bush ignored the advice of “43 retired generals and admirals and 18 national security experts, including former secretaries of state and national security advisers,” and vetoed a bill that would have forbade the U.S. from engaging in torture, and Republican nominee-to-be John McCain supported his doing so. None of this is a surprise. At the risk of being cynical, none of it really matters, except for the historical record, because no one who is in the position of being able to do anything about it seems so inclined.
We are a nation that tortures people. The White House decides what forms of torture can be used, and Congress, which hasn’t overridden Bush’s veto, played its part by giving Bush tacit approval to continue doing so. And no leading Democrats mention that maybe violating international and moral laws ought to disqualify those responsible from holding public office. No leading Democrats ever supported impeaching the torturers. No leading Democrats talk about possible war crimes implications. No leading Democrats talk about holding the torturers legally accountable, once they leave office. Of course, no one will be surprised if Bush blanket pardons everyone, before he leaves office, and only impeachments would negate his ability to thus immunize them from prosecution. But Jack Balkin says the 2006 Military Commissions Act “effectively insulated government officials from liability for many of the violations of the War Crimes Act they might have committed during the period prior to 2006,” so it’s probably a moot point, anyway. And Marty Lederman is skeptical of the idea of a Department of Justice prosecuting people whose behavior was given legal clearance by a previous Department of Justice, so it’s probably a moot point, anyway- twice over.
We are a nation that tortures people. The outrage over last week’s revelations reveal that people still don’t understand that fact. We are a nation that tortures people. Outrage over further revelations of that fact will similarly reveal that people still won’t understand that fact. We are a nation that tortures people. It is no longer about this criminal administration or any criminal individuals working within it, we are a nation that tortures people. It’s now institutional. To address that fact, to do anything about it, will require levels of outrage far exceeding the outrage directed at one administration or the criminals working within it. We are a nation that tortures people. Until our ostensible progressive leaders, until we, as a nation, decide to do something about that fact, it will simply be a part of who we are. We are a nation that tortures people. The people responsible for that fact get away with it because no one and nothing will stop them from getting away with it. We are a nation that tortures people.