Bipartisan Commission Confirms the Obvious

A bipartisan group of former legislators put together by the Constitution Project has concluded what was undeniable years ago, that the Bush administration engaged in torture and that the blame for it goes right to the top. I don’t know why we needed the report, but here it is.

A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.

Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.

The panel also included libertarian Richard Epstein, former UN Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former FBI Director William Sessions. Andrew Sullivan states the obvious about the obvious:

Those findings, to put it bluntly, are that for several years, the United States government systematically committed war crimes against prisoners in its custody, violating the Geneva Conventions, US domestic law, and international law. Many of these war crimes were acts of torture; many more were acts of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. All are federal crimes. None of those who authorized the war crimes has been prosecuted.

The report – which I urge you to read in full when you get the chance – dispassionately lays out all the possible legal definitions of torture (domestic and international) and then describes what the Bush administration authorized. The case is not a close one. Bush and Cheney are war criminals, as are all those involved in the implementation of these torture techniques. Perhaps the most powerful part of the case is an examination of what the US itself has condemned as torture when committed by other countries.

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that the U.S. government, including Bush himself, has condemned as torture the very techniques he authorized. And despite the fact that the UN Convention Against Torture requires us to prosecute those who authorized and carried out torture, Obama has done everything he could to prevent that from happening. Whenever he or anyone else who opposes such prosecutions talks about the “rule of law,” they should be mocked.

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  • birgerjohansson

    Fuck Obama.

    Fuck the Bush administration.

    Fuck the Republicans and Democrats, but mostly the Republicans.

  • uzza

    a stronger national consensus on the torture question

    There’s a question about torture?

  • Ed:

    They need it for the articles of impeachment that the Teababblers are gonna file with a citizen’s posse or some such.

  • Abby Normal


    Yes. As far as I can see about a third of Americans are against it, a third are for it, and for the remaining third the answer depends on which party controls the White House at the moment.

  • Those who favor torture should give it a shot and see what it’s like, before trying it on others. Or maybe, as consenting adults, they could start a club, build out a dungeon, and play with eachother.

  • stever

    Wouldn’t it be easier to list the extant governments that do not employ torturers? That list would probably fit on a postcard, even if you used 24-point type.

  • One of the biggest disappointments i had with Obama after he was elected was his refusal to sic the Justice Department on Bush and Cheney, in order to “allow the country to heal”. How are we supposed to heal, if the perpetrators of this crime are not brought to justice? It would be akin to refusing to pursue the Boston bombers on the basis that Boston needs to heal instead.

  • Rip Steakface

    I think Obama realized that the militant right wing would go apeshit if he prosecuted our war criminals in chief. He’d be decried as more than just partisan, but as a dictator trying to silence dissent by prosecuting the previous administration. Seems to me that it would be a political move aimed at preserving order.

  • trucreep

    @ 8


  • slc1

    Re #8

    As the character played by Werner Klemperer in Judgement at Nuremberg says upon being sentenced, “today you try us, tomorrow the Russians try you”.

  • Taz

    American exceptionalism says we can torture people and still be the good guys.

  • Michael Heath

    I wonder how Republican members of Congress would act if a liberal Democratic member of Congress lobbied to impeach President Obama for breaking the law and international treaties by obstructing the Justice Dept. from prosecuting the Bush Administration for war crimes, including the administration of torture.

    What would be the long-term political implications if the Democratic party rallied around such an initiative?

  • Infophile

    @12 Michael Heath: Long-term, I don’t know. But in the short term, all politicians would be occupied with the sudden invasion of flying pigs coming out of my ass. Al Franken did make a campaign promise to push for a quickie impeachment of Bush if he got into office, but thanks to the recount, he didn’t get in until after Obama took office, and he hasn’t uttered the word “impeachment” since. I doubt this will change his mind, and I doubt even more than any other senator might push for an impeachment.

    Now, while I don’t see any Democratic senator pushing for an impeachment on these grounds, there is a remote chance that Rand Paul might. But both parties are well practiced at ignoring him and his father.