THE BLOG
03/25/2014 12:37 pm ET Updated May 25, 2014

The Torture of the Torture-Excusers

Once upon a time, I recommended that we find an attorney general who would pursue the former administration for torture, disappearances, and secret prisons. Doesn't having the nation come to terms with these formative and basic violations of the principles set forth in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (both letter and spirit) and our very own Constitution seem like a good way to have begun to move forward? Well, right after our current POTUS won a Nobel Peace Prize, he announced that he wanted to do no such thing. In the meantime, NBC has spent more time whipping the nation into a frenzy over the scandal of Christie's manipulation of traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, than it has on covering the normalization of torture.

It should not matter if President Obama says yes or no to pursuing such violations and bringing the perpetrators to justice. It should be a matter of national and mass priority to pursue these things and the government that refuses to pursue them can scarcely be called a government "of the people, by the people, for the people" in any meaningful way. The fabric of society is torn to shreds by these behaviors and rent irreparably by those who would simply whitewash it, including this administration. Secret prisons mean death, torture, and zero accountability. Even the military itself has historically opposed torture on the principle of not wanting it to happen to their own soldiers. If the American government can not be fired up (if not actually fired) for failing to pursue justice here, then why would other countries do so? Why would they not simply free jailed torturers worldwide to "move on" and work for the future?

Democracy is supposed to support the common good. Why would American agents not simply refuse to torture and quit-and-tell instead? Why not? What would it take to get a hero to the CIA or NSA? How about the agents who set up secret jails in Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and elsewhere? Are they proud of their work when they kiss their children to sleep? Who will tell the world how this was done? Who will witness the people, one by one, who were hurt beyond repair in these dark and secret terrible places?

America, as a people, needs to look into the eyes of the tortured and the torturers to see that they are us. The practice causes permanent damage to both nation and people, sinking into the DNA of our cultural character. Untreated and unexcised, it will be like ignoring a progressive malignant cancer. If we need not convict anyone, then how can we ask them to apologize to the world for the harm done?

Torture and drone "warfare" (put in quotes for it is no form of warfare as much as cowardly terrorism) only create more implacable enemies. GWB was all about soldiers and giving generals what they needed. Would we expect these generals to countenance torture of human beings? Would Senator Feinstein dare to show the courage of a caterpillar and have a hearing to give dignity back to the destroyed lives with their testimony? Who will speak for the victims, from the real people to the real principles that we have rent with these practices? Where is the CIA study on torture? Where is the determination to clear out the bad apples from the nation's security apparatus? We begin to show panic when we ponder the loss of privacy and the security of our information, but show nothing when we ponder the painful, systematic destruction of human bodies and lives under our direction and watch?

In the meantime, we exacerbate the behaviors by refusing also to hold any accountability for the bankers who profited on the destruction of our economy, continue to jail Leonard Peltier based on falsehood-imbued extradition proceedings, refuse any form of clemency for the courage showed by Chelsea Manning, and claim immunity from any international human rights concerns on our foreign adventurism, continue to push Edward Snowden as a traitor rather than a truth-teller. How far we have fallen. How much further we will have to climb. How about starting right now and demanding the changes that the world has believed in, in the hope we are all born entitled to?

Apparently, we'd rather have Michelle prance around the People's Republic than to pay attention to WTF is going on in Taiwan or the People's Republic with regard to actual human rights protections and principles. But wait! Instagram must prevaiil. Or whatever. Sigh. We recall when there used to be actual caring of human rights in the United States back when we helped to write the Declaration. What happened?

The world watches. We delude ourselves. Once upon a time, the post-apartheid government of South Africa came up with a simple principle for transitioning between a violent racist mode of governing and a fully inclusive one. It was this: former perpetrators could appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and disclose all of their past offenses with regret and be fully forgiven. But any still-hidden violations would be pursued to the fullest extent of the law's capacities. What would our world look like if we pursued such a vision of justice in the United States after torture? After the pursuit of Peltier? After the abandonment of principles of human rights? What indeed?

The alternatives are simple: the complete pursuit of all violators and the vigorous prosecution and conviction of every single torturer. This will not go away without redress. There is a globe full of broken bodies that occurred under the seal and approval of this Republic. Forgiveness and absolution require confession and apology. Neither has happened since the offenses. Only the prevaricating equivocation of (another) administration more in love with its own power than for the legacy of human dignity.

Shame, Barack. Shame on you and your White House. Shame on Congress. Shame on the American people until they demand justice and pursue it. We should all be ashamed until we pursue human dignity.

May American citizens call their congressional representatives. May the rest of the world call their governments. This should not stand unpunished. The world must move forward on human rights. Now.

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