THE BLOG
06/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Torture Investigations Are Coming. Are We Ready to Face the Heinous Crimes that Could Be Revealed?

Cross-posted at The Stimulist

Yesterday shored up any lingering doubts I had: I am now convinced we'll see an investigation into the Bush administration's use of torture. America's just not going to let this one go. The politicians who fired shots across the bow minutes into yesterday's hearings aren't going to let it go. The media certainly isn't letting up--it makes for really good ratings. Already this week, I've seen several explosions on set here at 30 Rock. The public has a dog in this, too. We want the truth.

The question is whether investigators will push hard enough to get it. Some may hear the word "investigation" and rejoice, firm in the belief that wrongdoing will be cleanly exposed. Cynics who have been around long enough to remember Frank Serpico and the pseudo-investigations into corrupt police departments in the '60s and '70s assume that this will end the same way: with so many guilty parties there's nobody left to do the punishing.

torturecnoteMe? I'm interested in what else may be uncovered. When investigators truly snoop around, they almost always find something unexpected. Who would have thought Whitewater would lead to impeachment hearings over oral sex? That Watergate would end up with a resignation? Investigators will have the opportunity to scrutinize far more than torture policy. The entire Bush administration will be open for review. There's a world of shade we haven't even entered yet: unaccounted-for millions spent in Iraq, detainees who may have died in custody, the names of the people not only who did the torturing, but those who were photographing them doing it. What if waterboarding was the gentlest thing we did?

This is not unlike the latest credit default swap scandals; people knew what was happening in these detention centers, just like people knew about the AIG bonuses five months before the story broke. Forget the pictures of the torture. The pictures I'm imagining are the cell phone pics of politicians looking at those images, and not doing a damn thing. Let's be honest. Democrats may not want to pus on this because some of the blood may be on their hands.
The question is: how much do we, as the public, really want to know? There are only a few moments when we've really pushed for the truth on our most heinous crimes: the Church commission in the mid-70s, the My Lai massacre. My strong sense is that we should have a national conversation about what we've done--pretending it doesn't exist doesn't solve anything, and we're too far gone to forget.But that conversation needs to be whole. We need to know what happened and who knew it was happening, but we also need to genuinely question whether life-saving intelligence came from torture, and whether we as a public are willing to accept that trade-off. For now, a question for you: was Obama's announcement yesterday that he would move to block the images of detainee abuse a step away from transparency, or an earnest attempt at protecting the well-being of American troops?

Carlos Watson is the founder & publisher of The Stimulist, where he blogs daily. You can also find him on Twitter, @carloswatson.