The New York Times is adding its voice to a growing chorus that is calling for prosecution of CIA torturers, and those who approved the practice.
In a strongly worded editorial in the December 22 New York Times, the paper’s editorial board is calling for the prosecution of “torturers and their bosses.” And the number one boss in the crosshairs is former Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
The editorial begins with a criticism of the Obama administration, for failing to prosecute any of those responsible for designing or carrying out the Bush administration policy of torturing prisoners taken in the “war on terror.” The New York Times takes President Obama to task for his statement that we “need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” The editorial says that we sometimes have to look backwards in order to move forwards. The writers observe:
The nation cannot move forward in any meaningful way without coming to terms, legally and morally, with the abhorrent acts that were authorized, given a false patina of legality, and committed by American men and women from the highest levels of government on down.
The piece outlines some of the methods of torture that were used, according to the now famous Senate “torture report”: waterboarding, rectal feeding, beatings, etc. The Times points out that not only are these crimes under international treaties, they are crimes under domestic law, as well.
Human rights groups will deliver a letter to Attorney General Holder.
According to the editorial, the ACLU, and Human Rights Watch, will deliver a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, calling for a special prosecutor to be appointed. The letter says that there needs to be a full and complete investigation of what it calls “a vast criminal conspiracy, under color of law, to commit torture and other serious crimes.”
The New York Times piece says that the major question that many will ask is, “Who should be held accountable?” They then answer that question:
[A]ny credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.
Of course, the release of the Senate torture report has resulted in cries of “foul” from the usual suspects on the right, and in the Republican party. The Times notes that, with the exception of the one current Republican who has been subjected to torture, John McCain, the GOP has either “fallen silent or actively defended the indefensible.” The writers further point out that those who are defending torture, and the Bush administration officials who approved it, cannot even prove that it worked.
The editorial concludes by saying that these prosecutions would have nothing to do with “payback,” as some have suggested. It is not the same as a petty dictator in some third world country putting his predecessor on trial. The Times says that this is about “ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments.” In other words, it is about showing the world that the United States still believes in the rule of law, and that we will bring to account those who have committed acts that we have condemned other nations for committing in the past.
Since the 2014 election, President Obama seems to have found a new freedom to do things he believes need to be done. Will prosecuting Dick Cheney, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and others meet with his approval, given the new revelations about what was done in our names? That is another change we can hope for.
Image via Crooks and Liars