The fact that The Senate Intelligence Committee has provided the public with a report on the torture program that our government operated is an unqualified victory for our democracy. There were many powerful forces arrayed against its release, including the CIA itself, former Bush Administration people, Republicans and some Democrats.
In the report, they frankly stated the bottom line that the CIA’s torturing (“Enhanced Interrogation”) of prisoners was ineffective and never prevented a single terrorist attack nor provided any meaningful information, the CIA provided extensive inaccurate information to Congress (that is, the CIA lied to Congress) and the White House and far more people were tortured and far more brutally than the CIA reported. Despite the valuable exposure of what this mercenary organization was perpetrating in secret and in all of our names, there is one glaring omission from the report…naming a single person who participated in this violation of U.S. Constitutional and international laws.
Not even President George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney who are even today exclaiming how proud they are of those serving under them for brutally torturing human beings at their behest. How can there be a complete report on torture without identifying the people who did the torturing or more importantly, the government leaders who ordered them to torture? Bush and Cheney were quite frank when news first leaked about the torture going on under them, that it was necessary to protect America. They expressed pride in those who were torturing prisoners and he was Commander in Chief at the time, in charge of and responsible for the actions of the military and CIA. Yet oddly, the names Bush and Cheney are oddly absent from this report.
Realistically, I don’t know that anyone expected that it would be politically possible to name names since doing so would have to include Bush and Cheney as well as military and CIA leaders and operatives. So once again, just as with the Wall Street engineered destruction of the economy and millions of Americans’ losses of their jobs, savings and homes, no one is held responsible, no one is tried, no one goes to jail.
What does seem clear from the Senate authors of this report is one clear and noble mission, stopping the U.S. from using torture in the future. Knowing that the goal of holding any individual responsible would have been stopped dead by greater powers than them, they didn’t include the names of those leaders. Sadly and out of self-interest, President Obama also apparently doesn’t want to set a precedent of prosecuting ex-Presidents since that could be used against him (no matter how unjustified).
What the Senators did in this report was what was doable and on that count, they do seem to have been successful. It would not seem fair to discount what they did achieve because they didn’t pursue something that would never have come to fruition anyway, the DoJ has made clear that it would never prosecute Bush or Cheney for their crimes nor would they do so with the CIA or military. What could have been accomplished though by honestly stating who did what would be providing history with a complete perspective of how this horrible chapter in the story of America took place. And…how our government and leaders can go so terribly wrong in a period of crisis and fear when not properly kept under checks and balances.
As for the push back against the report, is anyone surprised? The group that directly committed the crimes, the CIA, is still claiming, “We didn’t do anything wrong!”. Yep, the organization that has been factually proven to criminally torture human beings, who illegally spied on the Senate Committee and tried to hide evidence they were seeking, they should really be believed.
The Republicans meanwhile add to that BS, their whine about how releasing this information is political, or it wasn’t thorough enough, or it’s only going to enrage those in other nations to harm Americans…or of course, somehow what happened before Obama was elected was his fault. And Republicans are all over the media today calling the facts in the reports “opinions” and “views” that disrespect and damage the always-justified CIA. Republicans are saying that the best thing we could have done in response to our government committing torture and horrid violations of our Constitution…would have been to hide it because admitting it makes us look bad to the world. Man, Republicans just can’t help thinking like criminals, the best way to deal with a crime they commit, is to cover it up. Hmm…wonder what President had to cut his stay at the White House short due to that kind of thinking?
One final note on this investigation. When Democrats took over government after these criminal acts of torture under the Bush Administration, many Americans expected and urged Democrats to prosecute Bush and Cheney for their violations of the Constitution and war crimes. President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were very clear that they would absolutely not pursue any criminal investigation into these massive crimes committed during Bush’s Presidency. It was a point of contention for many Democrats and many who believed in the importance of the law applying to everyone. The explanation for this might be a bit less apparent than the claim that Democrats didn’t want to look backwards but move the country forwards.
Not only are Bush and Cheney absent from this report…but so are those in Congress. It is hard to believe that many Democrats, along with Republicans, who were on The Senate and House Intelligence Committees had absolutely no knowledge of what the CIA was doing. They may have been misled by the CIA but it seems likely that Congressional Democrats were also in the loop along with Republicans, that torture was taking place. So if some Democrats had been complicit in torture in such a way, their pursuit to prosecute those involved could put them on trial as well. There was a legitimate argument to say that prosecuting Bush and Cheney would derail any positive work by Congress, tear the nation apart and possibly inspire a Republican Congress to do the same to Obama and any subsequent Democrats as an act of revenge.
What we know confidently now is that torture did take place under the Bush Administration by the CIA, that it didn’t work or help keep Americans safe, that it permanently undermined our nation’s moral authority in the world and that there is absolutely no regret or apology from those who oversaw and committed it.
Did these people order and commit torture on fellow human beings because they truly believed it would work? Was it a sadism and vengeance borne from the attack on 9/11? Was it something else? We may never know the genuine motivation between such heinous acts and apparently, we will never know all the names of those who actually committed the torture but the fingerprints on this war crime are from the leaders of our democracy and by not holding them personally responsible, we risk the horrible prospect of history repeating itself in the future.