Wednesday :: Jun 17, 2009

Ex-Gitmo Prosecutor Calls For Torture Special Prosecutor

by Turkana

ACLU Executive Dirctor Anthony D. Romero has teamed up with former Guantanamo military commissions prosecutor Darrel Vandeveld to write a bluntly concise op-ed in Salon. Vandeveld resigned his post due to ethical problems with the tribunal system.

Torture is a crime and the United States engaged in it. Those are two indisputable facts. Given the mountains of evidence already in the public domain, any effort to deny or soften that harsh and devastating reality is either disingenuous, uninformed or a result of the human instinct to avoid painful truths. But one of the things that allows our democracy to endure is that time after time, no matter the misdeed, we have been willing to look ourselves in the mirror, acknowledge our wrongdoing and hold ourselves accountable.

The latter point being the most significant. Because if we turn away from the harsh realities that the Bush Administration committed war crimes, we turn away from the ideals and principles that we like to believe make us who we are, as a nation.

To date, the evidence that U.S. officials engaged in widespread and systemic torture and abuse of detainees with the authorization of the highest Bush administration officials comes from a wide range of sources. There are congressional reports, journalistic investigations, detainees’ own accounts, and even -- astonishingly -- boastful admissions by some of the highest officials of the Bush administration, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been aggressively forthright in his defense of torture methods including waterboarding.

So, just imagine what actual investigations might reveal. If you dare to imagine. If we, as a nation, have the courage and honesty and respect for the law to dare to imagine. And to dare to find out.

But notwithstanding all this evidence that domestic and international laws were violated, there are still those who would reduce these crimes to discretionary policy decisions subject to legitimate debate. There is even a robust public discussion about whether "torture works" -- a jaw-dropping debate to be having in the United States of America -- as if that could be reliably determined, and as if that would make it OK.

And because of which, all those lofty ideals and values we like to believe make us who we are as a nation are seriously called into question. Romero and Vandeveld write that it is necessary that the civilian officials who backed torture be held accountable. They call on Attorney General Holder to appoint a special prosecutor.

Without holding ourselves to the standards we wish to impose on others, we cannot move forward and we cannot hold ourselves out as a nation that adheres to a legal and moral code of conduct. It is critical that we hold accountable those who authorized, those who legally sanctioned and those who implemented the torture policies of one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history. What is at stake is nothing less than our democracy.

This isn't discretionary. This isn't about politics. This is a defining moment in our nation's history. Will we rise to it, or will all we supposedly stand for be allowed to fall?

Turkana :: 9:21 AM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!