“We tortured some folks.” This was Obama’s glib, tone-deaf response at a news conference held this past summer related to the Senate’s report on the CIA treatment of detainees. He did follow that up by saying, “We did some things contrary to our values,” but the general tone of his remarks was to excuse some overzealous behavior in the aftermath of 9/11 because we weren’t in their shoes.
As we await the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the Bush-era interrogation tactics, which could come today, it’s time to reflect on just how “contrary to our values” torture is. It’s one of the benchmarks we have historically used when characterizing the worst regimes on the planet. It’s universally condemned in the developed world. The United States signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture treaty in 1988. And finally, experts in the area of interrogation methods have been telling us for years that torture simply doesn’t work. Victims will tell interrogators anything to make it stop.
So with the release of the Senate’s report, our hypocrisy and lawlessness will be laid bare for the world to see. The question is, will those responsible for acts violating international law be held accountable? Will Bush and Cheney and others who authorized the use of torture pay any price for their actions? Unfortunately, I highly doubt it. As much as I would like to see Dick Cheney led out of a courtroom in shackles, all indications are that they will be spared any punishment. “Mistakes were made,” Obama will say, “but let’s not dwell on the past."
We used to hold ourselves up as an example of a country that lived by the rule of law, but since 9/11, we have descended into a rogue state that feels it can write its own rules as it goes, both here at home and abroad.