Bush Torture Memos

They have been released, and they are ugly:
[T]he Justice Department released and repudiated four more Bush-era memos from the Office of Legal Counsel that provided the legal justification for such extreme interrogations. An Aug. 1, 2002, OLC memo endorsed the legality of 10 techniques the CIA considered for use against al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. Some techniques were mild, such as holding the detainee's face or grasping him by the lapels to grab his attention. Others were despicable, such as waterboarding, in which water is poured over a prisoner's cloth-covered face to simulate drowning, or sleep deprivation for up to 11 days. Eleven days! A May 10, 2005, memo gave the legal thumbs up to confining a detainee in a cramped, dark box for up to eight hours at a time and up to 18 hours a day. Some techniques were simply bizarre, such as placing a caterpillar into a confined box holding Mr. Zubaida -- who was believed to be afraid of insects -- as long as the insect did not sting and Mr. Zubaida was not led to believe that it was capable of stinging.
More details here.

The Obama administration has said it will not prosecute "CIA operatives who participated in enhanced interrogations of terrorism suspects during the Bush administration," and the president's statement upon release of the memos—"At a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future."—almost certainly means that the political leaders who sanctioned the acts committed by those operatives will not be prosecuted (or even investigated), either.

I can appreciate the sentiment on some abstract level from which emanates all dreams of living in a Utopia where everyone has full bellies and rides rainbow-farting unicorns, but, on the other hand recognize that whatever alleged unity will come from not prosecuting people who committed evident war crimes comes at the expense of doing everything possible, including public accountability, to prevent this ugly history from repeating itself. Greenwald:
The most criticism-worthy act that Obama engaged in yesterday was to affirm and perpetuate what is the single most-destructive premise in our political culture: namely, that when high government officials get caught committing serious crimes, the responsible and constructive thing to do is demand immunity for them, while only those who are vindictive and divisive want political leaders to be held accountable for their crimes.

…[Obama expresses exactly] the mindset that has destroyed the rule of law in the U.S. and spawned massive criminality in our elite class. Accountability for crimes committed by political leaders (as opposed to ordinary Americans) is scorned as "retribution" and "laying blame for the past." Those who believe that the rule of law should be applied to the powerful as well as to ordinary citizens are demonized as the "forces that divide us." The bottomless corruption of immunizing political elites for serious crimes is glorified in the most Orwellian terms as "a time for reflection," "moving forward," and "coming together on behalf of our common future."
I'm glad that Obama released the memos (which he was required by law to do) and released them unredacted (which he was not), but I am deeply disappointed that the release is apparently going to be used as a period at the end of a sentence, instead of the starting point for rigorous investigations as it quite obviously should be. Obama talks about the end of a dark era, but a new era begins with serious accountability. As it is, we're instead leaving ourselves in the dark ages.

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