FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Torture Commission Trap

Today I awoke to read that a number of human rights type groups have  called on President Obama to create a commission of accountability to  investigate and report publicly on torture and the cruel and inhumane  treatment of detainees. There is not a word in the petition about  criminal prosecutions of the torture team. Yet, I know that some of  these groups would say they still want prosecutions. Sadly, this call  and a commission if set up, would almost guarantee that prosecutions  won’t happen.

Briefly, here is why. We have reached a critical political moment on  this issue. Obama has been forced or pushed to open the door to  prosecutions, an opening I thought would take much longer to achieve. If  there was ever a time to push that door open wider and demand a special  prosecutor it is now. We have documented and open admissions of  criminality. We have Cheney and Hayden admitting what they approved  these techniques; and Cheney saying he would approve waterboarding  again. We have the Senate Armed Services Report detailing how the  torture program was authored and approved by our highest officials in  the Whitehouse and employed in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. And we  have thousands of pages of proof. There is public outrage about the  torture program and the media in the US and the world are covered with  the US misdeeds.

So at this moment, instead of human rights groups getting together and  calling for a special prosecutor what do they do? Call for a commission.  What this call does and it must be said strongly is take the pressure  off what is the growing public push for prosecutions and deflects it  into a commission. Outrage that could actually lead to prosecutions is  now focused away and into a commission. Think if this list of human  rights groups had demanded prosecutions. We would be closer and not  farther from the goal.

I am sure some of these human rights groups will argue that a commission  will or can be a first step to prosecutions. Sure, it is possible, but  unlikely for the reasons I gave in a letter published in Harper’s and  available on my blog. The commission process will drag on, statutes of  limitation will run and the conclusion of the commission is likely to  be: the US should not have tortured, but it was an extraordinary and  dangerous moment after 9/11 and the torturers were acting in our best  interest to avoid another 9/11. Prosecutions are not recommended.

I don’t think I need to repeat here why we need prosecutions. If we are  to stop torture in the future we need to send the clear message that if  an official tortures, prosecutions will follow. Without that message the  next President or even this one, can again put us on the page of torture  by signing another executive order. And don’t think that won’t happen no  matter how many commissions reach results saying the US should not have  tortured. It will and Cheney, Hayden and other have said so.

It is time to do what is necessary. Appoint a special prosecutor and  insure that this country will not again be a country of torture.

MICHAEL RATNER is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and author of The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: a Prosecution by Book.

 

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: USA Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail