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.
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.