After the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report on Tuesday, President Obama did an interview in which he was asked about it. While admitting that some “brutal activity” took place, he suddenly lapsed into the passive voice in pointedly refusing to criticize the Bush administration for what they did:
“Unfortunately, the Senate report shows we engaged in some brutal activity after 9/11,” Obama told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “This is an accounting of some of the problems that the CIA program engaged in. I recognize that there’s controversy in terms of the details, but what’s not controversial is the fact that we did some things that violated who we are as a people.”…
In the interview with Fusion, Obama declined to directly criticize Bush, but he said it was clear some people in the administration had made “some terrible mistakes.”
“I don’t think you can know what it feels like to know that America’s gone through the worst attack on the continental United States in its history, and you’re uncertain as to what’s coming next,” Obama told Ramos.
“So there were a lot of people who did a lot of things right and worked really hard to keep us safe. But I think that any fair-minded person looking at this would say that some terrible mistakes were made in allowing these kinds of practices to take place. In part, because I think study after study has shown that when people get tortured, when people are beaten, when people are put in a position of severe stress and pain, oftentimes they’re willing to say anything to alleviate that stress and pain. So the information we get isn’t necessarily better than doing things the right way.“My goal is to make sure, having banned this practice as one of the first things I did when I came into office, that we don’t make that mistake again.”
No, sorry. The problem isn’t that “terrible mistakes were made,” the problem is that specific people did terrible things. And if your goal really is to make sure it doesn’t happen again, you don’t help achieve that goal by refusing to hold anyone accountable for it. What possible reason is there for a future president to not engage in torture if they choose? Nothing has happened to anyone from the Bush administration. They continue to walk free despite the crimes they committed and continue to be viewed as Very Serious People by the media and most of the public.
Meanwhile, our treaty obligations have been shown to be a joke. Our talk of the rule of law is an even worse joke. Any moral authority we might have had to speak out against atrocities carried out by other nations will be met with nothing more than an eyeroll, as it should be. Don’t tell me you want to make sure it doesn’t happen again when every action you’ve taken only makes it more likely that it will.