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So What's Next on Torture?

President Obama's words on torture at his "100 days" news conference were, to my ears, sharp and unequivocal. What he didn't tell us is what happens next.

He said bluntly, without leaving any wiggle room, that waterboarding is torture. While he didn't directly answer the question of whether the Bush administration had "sanctioned torture," his moral clarity left listeners with only one inference to draw. He was particularly aggressive in refuting the "Jack Bauer" argument -- that torture may be unpleasant, but it produces quick and vital results. Obama said that interrogators "could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that are consistent with our values, in ways that are consistent with who we are." He said he believes this just as strongly even after reading the intelligence memos that Dick Cheney says prove that the torture was justified. The president even cited Churchill, which politicians tend to do when they're in no mood to discern between shades of gray.

But now what?

The president of the United States told the world, in no uncertain terms, that at least one of the interrogation techniques practiced by his predecessor's administration constituted torture. As Obama knows, torture is against international and American law.

Obama has said previously that he's not fond of the idea of a blue-ribbon "truth commission." He hasn't ruled out a Justice Department investigation -- but hasn't ruled one in, either. The fact of torture is there for all to see. What we're going to do about it remains opaque. Maybe Obama is saving that decision for some time in the next 100 days...

By Eugene Robinson  | April 29, 2009; 9:34 PM ET
Categories:  Robinson  | Tags:  Eugene Robinson  
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What's next? Hopefully no prosecutions. While this is probably strange to hear coming from an Obama supporter, the distraction in Washington that prosecutions would create would detract from the serious business upon which the Administration, and Congress, SHOULD focus. Indeed, I would hope that Obama would be more unequivocal on this point. "But Bush has to be punished!" some say....well, don't you think going down in U.S. history as "The Torture President" is punishment enough?

Posted by: victorponelis | April 29, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

It is not up to Mr. Obama to make the decision, he was clearly stating his opinion on the matter. Is this not a decision for the the Congress, the Justice Dept, or a Special Investigator?

Posted by: lcarter0311 | April 29, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

I have lost almost all respect for Obama over the way he's tried to sweep torture under the rug via his constant "look forward" garbage.

I will lose what little respect I have left if he continues to talk about of both sides of his mouth by making unequivocal statements against torture on the one hand and then on the other hand refusing to hold anyone in BushCo accountable.

He can't have it both ways.

Posted by: solsticebelle | April 29, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the other poster that the investigation needs to proceed. Whether or not those who gave the orders go to prison is a separate matter but if they remain among us they need to be shamed.

But I understand the resistance, because the torture is just the beginning; what comes out next is what they were seeking, which was the manufacture of an Iraq-Al Qaida connection, and what comes next is the ginning up of the Iraq invasion we did not need to wage. And that's something that will stop the nation in its tracks, that we have endured years of war and casualties and expense and loss of international moral esteem, all for a lie.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | April 29, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

One of the president's most basic duties is to uphold the laws of the land. Upholding and enforcing the laws requires those who are guilty of serious crimes go punished.

Refusing to investigate, prosecute officials in the Bush-Cheney administration is, in effect, condoning serious human rights abuses, regardless of how unequivocable a president's rhetoric may be in criticizing them. Imagine if Truman had forcefully criticized Japanese and German atrocities during World War II, but then declared the Japanese, Germans had suffered enough, retribution was wrong, everyone needed to move on, etc.

Certainly the scale of Japanese and German human rights abuses were far greater than under the Bush-Cheney administration. However, the United States claims to be a democracy, to stand for human rights, both of which the Axis powers rejected. Refusing to prosecute wrongdoing, human rights abuses by a supposed democracy, supposedly standing for human rights around the world, will send the unambiguous message, despite any empty rhetoric, the government of this country is not serious about human rights. Any criticisms of other nations in human rights abuses will have zero credibility and be widely regarded as utter hypocrisy.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | April 29, 2009 10:14 PM | Report abuse

All of you are ALL WET about this. I think Obama is being pretty smart. He doesn't want to spend any political capital by taking the lead on something as sensitive and divisive a criminally investigating the previous administration. He already has too many fish to fry. He needs the loss of attention and possible support like a hole in the head. Sooo, he's going to let the press, public opinion and Congress take the lead. If nothing happens, ok. But if incriminating memos, info etc keep coming out, and I bet he's guessing they will and in fact might help it along a bit, and that leads to an unavoidable investigation by Congress, Justice, and independent panel etc., then so be it. The point is, HE DIDN'T PUSH IT! He spent no capital in the process. Obama's being really savvy about this, and the press - which keeps pressing him on it - just doesn't get it. And neither do most if not all of YOU.

Posted by: hypocritebuster | April 29, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

And neither do most if not all of YOU.

Posted by: hypocritebuster | April 29, 2009 10:26 PM
Sorry hypocritebuster, but if we are going to have change, the most important part of that is changing back to a nation that respects the law.

So yeah, we are going to have to investigate and prosecute the torture we have done, politically expedient or not.

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | April 29, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

No, it's not good enough to go down in history as "the Torture President" — not the way our country whitewashes its history. How many schoolchildren know Andrew Jackson as "the Genocide President" or learn that Ronald Reagan was an avid supporter of state terrorism?

Words are nothing without the actions that back them up. How will Americans know that "we don't torture" — or indeed that we are free from being tortured? We will know when torturers are brought to justice and punished for all to see. This is the very reason we go after terrorists, to show the world we will not let them get away with with their crimes.

If Obama wants to be remembered as a second Lincoln, he will make a moral choice that offends many Americans but will bring out country another step closer to justice for all. If he doesn't have the courage of our last Illinois president, he can go down in history as a second Ford, too eager to move on that he leaves the nation's wounds unhealed.

Posted by: RaymondTAnderson | April 29, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

What Obama thinks about holding torturers responsible doesn't matter. Either Congress or the Justice Dept will make the decision in the end. Torture is against the law. Waterboarding is torture, therefore anyone who engaged in it or enabled it is guilty of a crime. WHY they did it may mitigate at sentencing but it doesn't negate the crime.
Lyndey England and a few other 'bad apples' shouldn't pay the price for something that came from the very top of the American Government.

Posted by: stevel1 | April 29, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what to make of Obama's answers on the subject besides the obvious answers such as waterboarding being torture.

I think he wants to avoid any semblance of politizising the issue as a result of chiming in. He is probably at odds internally about a crime being a crime and no one being above the law - and how a prosecution might distract or interfere with his ability to get things done.

Unfortunately, there is never a "good time" to prosecute something like torture. The decision to pursue this issue or not is not a White House decision, it is a Justice Dept.decision. I think there's too much out there to just sweep this under anything.

I heard something in the news about Spain having a renewed interest since the recent revelations confirm was was only previously conjectured and I would expect that international bodies who we are at treaty with over these things, will wait and see if we have the guts to clean our own house, or they will take the matter up.

With respect to any domestic investigation - and not wanting to waste a good opportunity, it may be politically beneficial to sort of let the issue drip and drab itself over time or move at a slower pace that would have these issues at athe forefront come the midterms or even the next general election.

We do have to investigate and prosecute where appropriate. Otherwise, we are not who we say or who we think we are as a people and a nation. The beacon of democracy and freedom cannot be sending the message to do as we say, not as we do.

Posted by: jfern03 | April 29, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Re, ifthethunderdontgetya's comment, 'if we are going to have change, the most important part of that is changing back to a nation that respects the law', sure we all agree on that point. My main argument though is Obama is above all a PRAGMATIST. He's always been one, even during the campaign. You wanna go whole hog towards criminal investigations? Well, Obama also knows the kind of knots Watergate tied Washington up in for at least a year, and he doesn't want any part of it. He has too much on his, and OUR plate for that. At least for now. He is NOT going to be the point man to start that kind of effort, not while he has so much to get done. He doesn't need the distractions. If somebody else does it at the end of more revelations, ergo Congress or a blue ribbon panel of jurists, ok, as long as it doesn't get out of hand. And if the Bush mucky mucks end up in the dock, that's probably ok too (I for one would love to see Cheney, Rummy, Yoo and all the rest in prison stripes, breaking big rocks). But for now, Obama is not going to be the person to lead the charge. He can't afford it. You may want to shoot yourself in the foot, but he doesn't want to.

Posted by: hypocritebuster | April 29, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

What Obama clearly failed to answer, in fact he evaded as hard as one can (and there was a direct question) to whether any laws were broken. An equal inference can be drawn to a conclusion(in Obama's mind) that Bush's Torture was ethically and morally wrong, waterboarding indeed being torture without any laws being broken and not warranting any investigations into lawlessness.

Pretty Sad.

Posted by: yarbrougharts | April 29, 2009 11:09 PM | Report abuse

This is going to sound absolutley terrible but I was just laid off from my job with 288 other people last Tuesday from a financial services company. I do not care 1 iota about torture or investigating the Bush adminstration. I am glad that President Obama has denounced it, he is working to restore America's reputation, and frankly we need to move foreward. And guess what I am a Liberal! Enough!

Posted by: dcet | April 29, 2009 11:16 PM | Report abuse

A First Hundred Days that will change America....

Where's the objectivity in the MSM?

Posted by: JamesRaider | April 29, 2009 11:32 PM | Report abuse

United States = nation of laws

Torture = crime

Torturer = criminal

Department of Justice = crime investigator

Could it be simpler?

Not a complex issue folks.

Posted by: ostrom808 | April 29, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Please this just shows what a puppet Obama is. If he was a student of history he would know that relatively few German POW's untill after the bombing had ended. Also there was "torture" in Great Britain during WWII it was called The Cage.

It comes down to the definition of "torture" You can cry all you want. But the same guy who says we must be nice to terrorists and cannot pour water over their face is the same guy who voted TWICE to deny babies of botched abortions access to medical treatment.

Killing babies is a "choice" to Obama. Interigation of terrorist is against the law.

Posted by: policyhawk | April 30, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

I mostly 'liked' the reference to Churchill about their treatment of the Iris... er Germans during WW 2. Of course they didn't. However... it was an astute comment because it doesn't cost anyone anything to say it.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | April 30, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

This is going to sound absolutely terrible but I was just laid off from my job with 288 other people last Tuesday from a financial services company. I do not care 1 iota about torture or investigating the Bush administration. I am
See, in some ways you have to find the connections, no matter how abstruse.

For instance, a President, a US government that will torture is a US government which is compromised, meaning it isn't employing, or electing the smartest people.

And dumb people in government get you laid off, being the upshot.

We're in this mess because the people in charge were so unable, for any number of reasons, to understand the ramifications of their decisions, they destroyed our economic as well as our military infrastructure.

The wars don't pay for themselves, in the end it's all connected, one way or another, no one decision is ever made in a vacuum. The world really isn't that insane, no one wants to invest with men who appear psychology unstable, and that means a US government which condones torture, or continues to hire those who do torture.

A guy who can't understand the lethality of torture to the government that will use it is a guy who can't make a good decision, financial or otherwise.

Look at Cheney, look at Bush...

Btw, I'm glad it's not me, facing the torture charges.

It appears people are really angry, and disgusted.

And btw, I'm really sorry about your job, I know it's really tough...

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 30, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Obama, though a much-honored lawyer, is not the Justice Department. [Neither is Dick Cheney, though he thinks he is.] Obama's responsibility is to deal with the 'big picture,' and to leave the details to the administrative departments. Like the Justice Department. It is ultimately their decision as to whether to prosecute, and Obama has said exactly that. He's the President, not the dictator.

Posted by: thrh | April 30, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

well if waterboarding is torture and bush approved it...aren't the ones that funded it just as quilty...don't hide Nancy Pelosi.

Posted by: JWx2 | April 30, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

It really doesn't matter what Obama says on the matter. This is up to a separate branch of government; the judicial branch.

It is up to Holder to either investigate or get a special prosecutor to do the job. Per the UN, it is our responsibility to investigate war crimes committed by elected officials and waterboarding is a war crime for which we prosecuted the Japanese.

The justice department has no choice in the matter. That is if oaths of office are taken seriously.

Posted by: rinpochet | April 30, 2009 1:07 AM | Report abuse

We Americans like to think that we are a nation in which the law prevails. We also like to think the tooth fairy trades spare change for spare teeth. Unless the president can come up with a major breakthrough like capturing bin Laden, aggressive pursuit of those who tortured will bring nothing but calamity. There is still enough fear in this country that anything that smacks of “giving comfort to the enemy” will imperil everything else, and there is no guarantee that investigations will result in meaningful convictions.

If there are to be any accounting, the impetus for it must come from outside the administration. The last administration’s feckless abandon approach to governance has left a host of problems that have no good solutions. Maybe that was by design.

Posted by: SCKershaw | April 30, 2009 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Robinson, even though I disagreed with some of your comments during the Primaries, especially your soft treatment of Obama, I find myself wishing that Obama had chosen you for his Press Secretary. As to your wondering what Obama will do on toryure or other issues, please bear in mind the old saying, "....a man is as good as the company he keeps." If you are satisfied with Emanuel, Axelrod, Sommers, Geithner and Orzack, then you do not have to wonder what Obama will do. By the way, did you notice the proportion of certasin ethnic groups that were called upon to ask Mr. Obama questions during his press conference and were you also amazed at the fact that the Palestinian Israeli conflict was not even mentioned? Again, the old saying is still valid today!

Posted by: kyprios9281 | April 30, 2009 1:44 AM | Report abuse

If we don't prosecute torture, then the next president that wants to do it will say, "Look, even Obama gave torture a pass!"

Obama ran on "Yes we can," but all he has given us is, "You have to understand that in this case 'no we can't' for all these good reasons."

We can't avoid giving a trillion dollars to the finance industry, we can't prosecute torture, we can't stand up to Russia. Sweetest little boy...

Posted by: Jerusalimight | April 30, 2009 1:54 AM | Report abuse

I do think that Obama's answer further complicated the travel plans for any of the torturers except George Bush, who has Secret Service protection. Which ones will brazenly leave the country anyway?

Posted by: MadAsHell3 | April 30, 2009 3:18 AM | Report abuse

The very least that should be done is to disbar the lawyers who wrote the torture memos -- Most lawyers respect precedent and it would hopefully deter lawyers in the future from repeating such folly.
Isn't there a law against writing a legal opinion that is just obvious BS?

Posted by: Hg80 | April 30, 2009 3:27 AM | Report abuse

Pure politics.

No mention whatsoever of Extraordinary Rendition from the Clinton-Gore administration. I have sent Eugene several e-mails for comment on the outrageous torture that Clinton-Gore personally sanctioned but no reply.

Pure politics Eugene.

Posted by: hz9604 | April 30, 2009 5:10 AM | Report abuse

bill clinton fired missles every time he knew something bad would appear in a newspaper about him and these missles killed innocent people...
so if you want to go after President Bush, try bill clinton first...

Posted by: DwightCollins | April 30, 2009 5:38 AM | Report abuse

Kissinger bombed Cambodia. Let the investigations begin.

Posted by: hipshot | April 30, 2009 6:31 AM | Report abuse

Good one, Gene. Just make sure that this issue stays in the public consciousness and doesn't get overshadowed by the economy, swine flu and other current crises.

America's extremely Bush-tarnished reputation in the international community will never be restored unless/until those who sanctioned the torture are prosecuted and punished appropriately ... the same as was done in Nuremburg.

Posted by: AussieFred | April 30, 2009 6:42 AM | Report abuse

To the person who said "no prosecutions". You are putting the cart before the horse. First, we need investigations. And by the way, this is not Obama's decision. It is a decision for the DOJ. These are incredibly serious allegations that must be investigated. We can't turn our backs and think it will go away. If we do not address the Bush torture program, it will forever be a blight on our country. How can we look at ourselves as being anything other than weak and hypocritical? It sends the message that in a time of crisis we don't stand up for our values or the rule of law. This is so crystal clear. It's astonishing to me that people want to sweep this under the carpet and move on, as though we're a bunch of children too afraid to face something we know won't be pleasant.

Posted by: ggwalt | April 30, 2009 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Well, I'm not sure there's really opacity about what happens next. Obama has indicated that Holder should perform a review. Conceivably, the discovery of illegal offenses will warrant prosecution/s. I don't think there's anything else Obama can or should say. DOJ should be allowed to work independently, just as they're doing now.

Posted by: associate20 | April 30, 2009 7:09 AM | Report abuse

If the Republican party was smart they would be the one's leading the brigade to prosecute the Bush admin.

It's there last chance to break from the Bush year's.

Seems to me the Republican party will go down as the Anti-American party.

The racists, war criminal, torture supporting party.

I can't think of anything more Un-American
to support.

Posted by: langs13 | April 30, 2009 7:18 AM | Report abuse

So What's next.

Let's do what George Bush Jr. told us to do.

"It's important for people to understand that in a democracy, there will be a full investigation. In other words, we want to know the truth. In our country, when there's an allegation of abuse ... there will be a full investigation, and justice will be delivered. ... It's very important for people and your listeners to understand that in our country, when an issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we act. And we act in a way in which leaders are willing to discuss it with the media. ... In other words, people want to know the truth.

"That stands in contrast to dictatorships. A dictator wouldn't be answering questions about this. A dictator wouldn't be saying that the system will be investigated and the world will see the results of the investigation."

George Bush Jr. speaking to al Arabiya after the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted.

Yes there is video.

Posted by: langs13 | April 30, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Wrong video.

Here is the Bush video on torture.

Posted by: langs13 | April 30, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

I agree it's not good enough to go down in history as the torture president. This past weekend I saw John Meacham from Newsweek, who recently wrote a book about Andrew Jackson, twist history in his attempt to defend our torture president.

There needs to be a criminal investigation and wherever the evidence leads that's who they should prosecute. This nonsense coming from some of our media personalities that following the law will tear our country apart is just a pathetic attempt to protect our ruling class. If we can't even follow the rule of law on torture for gods sakes I really fear for our country.

Posted by: pmorlan1 | April 30, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Let me see if I got this straight. Obama believes in killing babies through abortions, yet does not believe in using torture as a technique to extract valuable information from muslim terrorists who want to kill Americans. Kill a baby, but not torture a murderer. Hmmmm…What’s wrong with this picture?

Posted by: jammer881 | April 30, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

In his press conference, Obama said that torture by the Bush administration broke the "morals and ideals" of the USA but refused to say that it broke the Geneva Convention rules.

You can run but you can't hide.

Posted by: cintronlourdes | April 30, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

I voted for Obama. I am against torture of any kind, and think the CIA, created by a democrat, should be cut way down. Nevertheless I am appalled at the venom in the comments I have read on this site. I keep hearing the words "the law" Somebody please cite me chapter and verse. We all know there have been many instances of witch hunts, vaguely citing the law. I say we should also get rid of many trial lawyers, including those in congress. Maybe all this is why after 30 years living in D.C. I had to get out or lose my sanity.

Posted by: loehr | April 30, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm all for an investigation. The more this administration proves it's short memory on 9/11 (simulated divebombing of NYC, coddling murderers while investigating patriots, etc), the harder the fall they're going to take WHEN we get hit again.

Same with the supermajority they're soon going to "enjoy". Let the left wing looney fringe take over this administration. Barack sure as heck isn't going to be able to stop them. This country is firmly 42% strong Democrats and 42% strong Republicans who were going to vote their party even if the candidates were cardboard cutouts (and let's face it...). It's that 16% or so of moderates that elected Barack. As things get wackier, they're going to dump this liar as soon as they get a chance (that would be 2012).

And I want to know a heck of a lot more about WHAT Nancy Pelosi knew and WHEN she knew it.

Posted by: HeathenChemist | April 30, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

I would love to see those individuals responsible for flouting American and international law and formulating a policy of torture prosecuted. As a nation ruled by laws, we cannot simply sweep such reprehensible actions under the rug and "look forward", as Obama and many other commentators have urged. However, I have to agree (somewhat regretfully) with some of the other posts that prosecution would be politically disastrous - for Obama, for the Democrats, and for the nation as a whole. It would tear the nation apart.

So, how do we give due attention to the sins of the past without causing a political firestorm? I think the solution lies in the pairing of a nonpartisan Truth Commission with an offer of amnesty. The commission would be tasked with holding public hearings and depositions and would have subpoena power. At the same time, anyone cooperating with the Commission, no matter how complicit in illegal acts of torture, would be offered a full pardon by the President. That way, the truth would come out about the enormity of the crimes, but there could be no legitimate claims that this was some kind of political witchhunt.

Posted by: GH11 | April 30, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

It’s a shame that the MSM will only ask obama softball questions. The only thing obama has accomplished in this 100 days is to shut GTMO and release all muslim terrorist prisoners into mainstream society. Obama keeps on saying, “we will accomplish this, we will accomplish that” however, the MSM has yet to ask obama what he has accomplished. Oh, I forgot to add that obama through his infinite economic wisdom has doubled our nations deficit since taking office. So I guess you can call that an accomplishment.

Posted by: sayno2obama | April 30, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Obama will release Gitmo prisoners this week, but will tell no one where they are going!


Word is to a neighborhood near you!! With Welfare benefits to help them adjust to life in America?? Wasn't their tune, "Death to America"?

Posted by: hotdad14 | April 30, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known terrorist that masterminded 9/11 and killed 3000+ Americans was waterboarded several times during which water was poured over his head 183 times. I ask all of you anti-torture high-ground moralists to stand in front of Americans who lost somebody on 9/11 and tell them that Bush administration was wrong in its ways of dealing with KNOWN terrorists and who's ways kept you SAFE for 8 years.
If you memory doesn't serve you well, the web is full of images of your fellow Americans plunging to death - courtesy of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that you so gravely concerned about being tortured.

It's amazing how divided this country is, how much hate there is between fellow citizens that even at the expense of your own personal safety you want to pursue something that will hurt those that oppose your political views.

Posted by: joebob2nd | April 30, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

It is good that Obama says his administration will not torture. But ask yourself a question. Do we the people want to give any president the right to say that they will or will not follow our laws? Isn't that the underlying accusation against the former administration? President Obama has no right to make or break our laws. He should not say that he will or will not torture. Nor is it his place to decide if those accused of breaking our laws should have the right to clear themselves before a court of law. Our president should simply say that he will follow the law wherever it leads.

Posted by: GeneM | April 30, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Everyone, please take a moment and look:

Your evil government poured water 183 over somebody's head for this! Prosecute them for not allowing this to happen again!

Posted by: joebob2nd | April 30, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Imo someone has to pay the price for enabling/sanctioning torture which is clearly illegal. The compromise could be single individual providing the legal basis and a single individual who promoted it. From what I have gleaned this would be Bybee or Yoo or Gonzalez on the legal side and Rumsfeld or Cheney on the executive. Justice must be seen to be done. Those afraid of a distraction in the country might ponder the silverlining where Obama could get his legislative plan enacted while DC was abuzz.

Posted by: mendonsa | April 30, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

BHO says waterboarding is "inconsistent with our values and who we are." He perches himself on a moral high ground and rejects waterboarding and other techniques as torture, and the fawning media gives him a pass. I'd like one of them to ask the obvious follow-up question.

"How do you square your moral certitude on waterboarding with your support of stem cell research that necessarily destroys human embryos, to say nothing of your enthusistic support for the federal funding of abortions that kills over a million unborn innocent American children each year, many of them blacks and other minorties."

When Obama goes on these whirl-wind tours and says America is arrogant and implies we should be ashamed of ourselves, he's only half right. We should be ashamed of ourselves, just not for the reasons he and his liberal supporters think.

Posted by: mongoose1 | April 30, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Hey Eugene, check this silly guy...

I bet he made quite a splash! What would you say to his family? Was he tortured or did he perish too fast for your definition of torture? And you really want to prosecute people who waterboarded Khalid? You consider yourself to be American???

Posted by: joebob2nd | April 30, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

If Obama wants to be remembered as a second Lincoln, he will make a moral choice that offends many Americans but will bring out country another step closer to justice for all. If he doesn't have the courage of our last Illinois president, he can go down in history as a second Ford, too eager to move on that he leaves the nation's wounds unhealed.
I don't believe Lincoln went after, or his intent was to go after, any of the generals of the Confederate Army after the Civil War. I don't believe Robert E Lee was ever tried for treason.

Is there a statute of limitations of going after someone for torture? Obviously not, because Nazis are still being hunted to be brought to trial for their war crimes. So there is still time, once we can get out of the economic mess and the wars we're in and handling the swine flu, as well as putting in healthcare reform, to bring those guilty to trial. Who knows, maybe in a couple years the Justice Dept will send someone down to Texas to knock on a door and arrest someone, as well as anyone else who deserves it.

What I don't see on these boards is the mention that we tried and executed Japanese after WWII for waterboarding our soldiers. How come it was torture then and not now?

Also if it's only pouring water over someone's head, why is it so useful? My kids do that at the pool over the summer.

Posted by: baltimoremom | April 30, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

my intuition is to agree with "hypocritebuster." i also thought president obama was very clear last night, "waterboarding is torture; the legal basis for redefining torture was wrong, and the cheney memos' did not change his opinion,"

what happens next he purposely left out there. many of us who are calling for an investigation were also upset over the bush admin.'s politicizing of the justice dept. for their own machiavellian purposes. obama knows that lesson; but he also knows most americans (at least those recently polled) are not, at least at this point, in favor of prosecutions.

as more information becomes known, and it surely will, he is hoping the public demand will overwhelm any reservations they have now. president obama has said it is his job to lead america where he thinks it should go; perhaps subtly this is what he is doing.

Posted by: sbvpav | April 30, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I think it would be more honest if Bush would say like Jack Nicholson, "hell yes I ordered the Code Red meaning torture. And when the CIA said to Khalid Sheik Muhammed, "I am going to give you a hard time." He was not talking about torture for interrogation but torture as a form of punishment. In some ways it is impossible to punish the perpetrators of 9/11. As a believer I will follow scripture which says "vengence is mine, says the Lord."
I also think it is sad that no one mentions that torture is practiced in over 150 countries according to TASSC International and that there may be 12 million torture victims in the world. I would love to see one of these millions of innocents interviewed on the talk shows or in a hearing in Congress.

Posted by: PaulFerris | April 30, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

First, people need to get the facts straight. Read the CIA briefs, if Obama will let you. The information that we gained from the interrogations is critical and then maybe you will say "I didn't know that." Secondly, many of the Justice Department prosecutors along with I might add Eric Holder, the Attorney General, before this administration tapped them to come on board with the Justice Department worked for Law Office Firms that were hired to defend the Gitmo detainees. Do you see conflict of interest?? You can gripe all you want that these were atrochities like the Nazis but in fact they are not. Killing millions of people does not in any way compare to the scaring of an individual with a spider, sleep deprevation, music, waterboarding or the pill. Now I should add at this point I am against torture(ie waterboarding, etc.)However, if you open up this case to hold a trial of these men then you are opening Pandora's Box. Obama will be placed on trial next for abusing his powers. His underlings will also be put on trial. Or another scenario might be Chaos in America. At that point Obama just like Chavez in Venezuela will take more and more power. Socialism is a coming.

Posted by: pechins | April 30, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Here's the problem with Dick Cheney's argument: if torture gets you the intended results and is therefore justified, why not use mustard gas or biological weapons against the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents? I am positive that both of these war crime materials would be highly effective.

For that matter, why not remove the constraints from local police departments of beating a confession out of suspects. That would be expedient and lead to a lot a quick resolutions to cases saving time and taxpayer money.

The reason to move forward with examining prosecution possibilities is to make sure that future administrations realize that you can't do what you want and expect no consequences. If government service is a get out of jail free card, how can I trust that these people will act properly? If Germany, Serbia, Rwanda, and Panama can have their war crimes perpetrators stand trial, why can't we?

Posted by: dynamo2000 | April 30, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Cheney and Bush simply lied to the public, about the torture and much else, because they feel entitled to deceive us and feel superior into the bargain.

Yes, everyone in the Western world has seen with horror the people jumping from the Twin Towers to escape being burned alive. It has had an indelible effect on all of us.

But Cheney and Bush deliberately exploited that for their own ends.

What EVIDENCE (as in "proof") do we have that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and/or Bin Laden REALLY engineered 9/11? We have the mendacious Bush/Cheney administration's say-so, and "confessions" under torture, as in the witch trials of old.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was diagnosed as mentally ill (schizophrenic) by the CIA itself early on. He was tortured anyway, for years, until he said what the torturers wanted him to say.

WE DO NOT KNOW who was responsible for 9/11, same as eight years ago. All we have is what the torturers themselves say about the tortured. That's not evidence.

We DO begin to know what the tortures DID, over years.

By definition, the perpetrators of 9/11 can no longer be punished because they were suicide bombers. So the Bush/Cheney administration felt free to arrest and torture ANYONE they pleased - in the case of the Iraqis, people who had no connection at all, and in the case of the Afghanis, Pakistanis and Uighurs people who had a tenuous geographical, but not necessarily factual, link to the place where the 9/11 plot is alleged to have been hatched. BUT WE DO NOT HAVE PROOF even for that. Arresting, "rendering" and torturing thousands of people for years without recourse to the law was simply a "fishing expedition" for blind revenge on scapegoats. We are no wiser now than we were on the evening of 9/11 just who hatched the plot for that crime of mass murder, and who was complicit. Nor why.

So why did the Bush/Cheney administration start all these "secondary theatres" of war? That's the question they don't want us to ask.

Posted by: jochebed | April 30, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse


Because Bush administration waterboarded the guy that killed 3000 Americans in hopes of preventing another attack of the same kind.

Is that good enough argument to pour water over somebody's face?

How can you compare genocide in Serbia and Rwanda or what nazis did in WW2 to what yoru government did to keep YOU safe? Please explain?


Posted by: joebob2nd | April 30, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Your column is torture. Please find a different tub to thump; you've beaten this one to death.

Posted by: qball43 | April 30, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Republicans, who have become America's champions of war and torture, are fiercely resisting any investigation and lauding torture's benefits. So too are some senior intelligence officials.

Torture is a crime under U.S. law. It is a crime under the Third Geneva Convention, and the UN's anti-torture convention, both of which the U.S. signed. Kidnapping and moving suspects to be tortured in third countries is a crime. Torture violates core American values.

Posted by: robfield | April 30, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

What's next?

You act as though this is a SKIT and that it is a well thought out scheme for Obama to prosecute Bush Administrators.

Gene, you should stop protecting the terrorist, just so that Obama can look good.

Posted by: anotherperspective11 | April 30, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes those accused, in this case the former administration, cannot rest until they have vindicated their actions. For example, it was South Carolina that started the Civil War in response to their fear of Lincoln's position that he did not want slavery to spread beyond the South. By sanctioning slavery in the South on the one hand as part of our American past, and condemning it as part of America's future westward movement, Lincoln instigated the rebellion while trying to prevent it. Antietam's bloody battlefield later impelled Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation to justify the reasons for the war.

Posted by: rilander | April 30, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

jochebed said:

>>Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was diagnosed as mentally ill (schizophrenic) by the CIA itself early on.

Poor Khalid!! Next we'll be arguing how much in restitution American taxpayers should fork out for this poor troubled soul. Let's hope good people at ACLU are already on his case.

>>By definition, the perpetrators of 9/11 can no longer be punished because they were suicide bombers.

So since those that pulled the trigger are already dead, that makes it OK to let go anyone involved who didn't die on that day?

>>Arresting, "rendering" and torturing thousands of people for years without recourse to the law was simply a "fishing expedition" for blind revenge on scapegoats.

So you are suggesting that under sharp scrutinizing eyes like your own, our previous administration did all those horrible things for years just for their own merry fun? Where did you get information that THOUSANDS of people were tortured? Memos were pretty precise who was waterboarded.

>>So why did the Bush/Cheney administration start all these "secondary theatres" of war? That's the question they don't want us to ask.

So that you can be sound and safe on this very day and spit away your hate on forms like this one.

Posted by: joebob2nd | April 30, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

President Obama does not have the 'authority' to determine whether investigations will or will not occur. Only DOJ has that authority and Eric Holder MUST investigate [or appoint a special prosecutor] so that this chapter in our history is bought out for all of us and the rest of the world to see and the door closed forever. The Bush administration must be held accountable so that Anerica can again find its moral compass. Without an investigation, and prosecutions if necessary, our country will never heal and these wounds will continue to fester ad infinitum. We are supposed to be a nation of laws; not men, which means NO MAN IS ABOVE THE LAW. We are responsible to national and international laws for which we are compelled to answer. If we do nothing to address our laws, then any average citizen who commits a crime should be allowed to get off free because the law should apply equally to the 'politically and/or socially powerful' as well as the 'average citizen'.

Posted by: MadasHelinVA | April 30, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Robinson said, "He[the president]said bluntly, without leaving any wiggle room, that waterboarding is torture."

I heard the president's reply and I looked it up to be sure. He said, "I believe that waterboarding was torture." One word, "believe," makes an enormous difference.

Believing does not make it so. Former president Bush believes that abortion takes a human life. Does that make it so?

People...think for yourselves! Don't "believe" everything you read in an opionion column.

Posted by: LLWB | April 30, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

However, the United States claims to be a democracy, to stand for human rights, both of which the Axis powers rejected. Refusing to prosecute wrongdoing, human rights abuses by a supposed democracy, supposedly standing for human rights around the world, will send the unambiguous message, despite any empty rhetoric, the government of this country is not serious about human rights.
Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent
You mention Truman went after Germans and Japanese. But did he go after Americans??? FDR put over 100,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps for NO LEGAL REASON. And kept them locked up for years. Was anyone from the FDR administration prosecuted??? Isn't locking up Americans who committed no crime against human rights??? Truman moved on from that and no Democrats complained. I guess the difference now is Bush is a Republican.

Posted by: sovine08 | April 30, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Robinson:

I would like for you and your commentators, particularly victorponelis, to send your feelings to the Americans (and their families) we all watched leaping, to their deaths, with their limbs frantically flailing, in order to escape vaporization and incineration that claimed the lives of 3,000 of their co-workers. THEN, I would like for you, your commentators, Obama, Holder, Waxman, Joe Klein, Leahy, Pelosi, Reid and all other liberal zealots to stand up and shout, SHOUT: "Hooray for Obama's releasing the CIA interrogation memos. We can now indict, try and punish those Americans who strove to keep us safe." One cannot be more callous than releasing those memos. No, there was no tortue. Yes, George W. Bush is a thousand times the man than is Obama.

Posted by: david-mckenzie | April 30, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Mr. Robinson for keeping Torture out on the front burner.

After 6 years of Bush/Cheney Framing the torture debate, facts are finally coming out. The president has changed his rhetoric from the look forward, to the moral argument against torture. The polls were 50/50 on torture and I think that America is going to move with the president on this. I want to see the next set of polls after the new conference and after more pictures are released.

I fear for the American national security not from without. America is too strong for the terrorists. I have a fear of what could happen from within. Obama said he thought a president would never make the same mistake on torture. That sounds nice but I am not reassured. There were laws on the books when Bush pushed through his torture program.

The only way to prevent the future use of torture is to enforce the laws already on the books. The world and future Presidents need to clearly know that torture like genocide and slavery is a human rights violation that will not be tolerated by the civilized nations of the world.

I would hope that Eric Holder appoints an independent investigation leading to the prosecution of people involved in torture. I am not vindictive, I think Bush really thought he was trying to do the right thing, but good intentions pave the road to hell. I think Obama could commute sentences after the convicted served one day in prison.

Posted by: joejoe2000 | April 30, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Q: Is waterboarding torture?

RICE: The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture. So that's -- And by the way, I didn't authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department's clearance. That's what I did.

Q: Okay. Is waterboarding torture in your opinion?

RICE: I just said, the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

--Unless we make Rice and crew answer to charges of crimes against humanity, we are worse than the Nazis who used the same Nuremberg defense she does. In keeping with our civilized values, Rice and crew deserve fair trials--

Posted by: lichtme | April 30, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

The U.S. have allways "tortured" and will allways "torture", but this "torture" was wrong. Wrong? This is the message!

Posted by: uzs106 | April 30, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

From Bush's mouth. Speech excerpt 1 day before the invasion of Iraq:

'...And all Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen carefully to this warning. In any conflict, your fate will depend on your action. Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people. War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders..."

Posted by: jfern03 | April 30, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

If this country is to have any credibility as one of law and order Bush and Cheney need to be indicted and tried, if not punished. They broke the law and NOONE is above the law. I have heard the arguements about the "inconvienience" of prosecuting them in this time of economic turmoil. Our prisons are filled with drug-users and low level offenders whose crimes do not even come close to torture. Why are they in prison when torturers are allowed to go free?

It is obvious that despite all this talk about "we are all created equal" in this country that there are certain individuals above the law. Well I won't have that. Bush and Cheney condoned torture. Toture is against US and international law. They should be tried. The facts are the facts. There are not TWO SIDES to this issue - only one. They should be indicted and tried. Anyone with a view to the contrary cares nothing for Truth, Justice, and the Law. And a person who does not care about justice and the law isn't really an American, is he or she?

Posted by: nyrunner101 | April 30, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

From torture defender Newt Gingrich:

Washington, D.C. -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich released the following statement today following his meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

"As I said in China this spring, there is no place for abuse in what must be considered the family of man. There is no place for torture and arbitrary detention. There is no place for forced confessions. There is no place for intolerance of dissent." "While we walked through the Rotunda. I explained to President Jiang how the roots of American rule of law go back more than 700 years, to the signing of the Magna Carta. The foundation of American values, therefore, is not a passing priority or a temporary trend".

Posted by: jfern03 | April 30, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Robinson's article, while good in most respects, contains one big flaw- it assumes that Barack Obama has the final say on whether or not CIA and Bush Administration torturers can be prosecuted.

He does not.

His oath of office requires him to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. So long as torture remains on the books as a crime and so long as our treaty obligations (which, under the Constitution, DO have the force of law unless and until repealed) require that we prosecute torturers, it is not Obama's decision to make.

It IS the responsibility of Justice Department attorneys- who have their own oaths to uphold. Should either they or the President fail to investigate and- upon the gathering of sufficient evidence,prosecute- when an obvious war crime has been committed, either or both of them would be derelict in their duty and actually themselves in violation of the law.

Posted by: Anglia123 | April 30, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

If we don't get at the truth & hold the Bush Torture Regime accountable for its crimes, then Bush succeeded in turning us into Nazis like him.

Posted by: patriot76 | April 30, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I personally would rather stay with the party that thinks throwing a newborn into a closet or a trash bag to die is torture, than to belong to a party that allows that and whines when you water board a man who caused the death of thousands of Americans and wants to kill many more. You pick who you want to protect and us Right wing baby protectors will pick the babies. All I can hope is that when the bus pulls up for my last ride, there are no liberals on it, that way I will know I am going to the right place. Apparently in order to be tortured by a liberal you have to have a defect or be a Christian. So don’t climb up on you r moral horse about torture or the death of the right, as long as there are real Christians there will be a republican party

Posted by: regsmom | April 30, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Putting the former President on trial - and things would probably have to go that far if there was a serious attempt to punish those responsible for torture - would create political tensions the like of which we have scarcely seen before. It's a lot to ask of any country.
In the Japanese case the parallel figure, the Emperor, was exempted, in a sense pardoned, as part of the deal that ended the war. Japan could not have stood the political tensions that would have arisen from putting him on trial and could never have been a reliable ally, to say the least of it, afterwards. I don't think that the parallel trick, of punishing people up to a very high but not the highest level, is available this time.
On the other hand to avoid prosecutions is to say to the world that the domestic laws against torture are a sham.

Posted by: MHughes976 | April 30, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Torture is a combination of saddism and vindictiveness. Whether it produces anything useful is open to question. If you subjected me to torture, I could be very creative in remembering things that never actually occurred. First I would determine what types of information would please you. Then it would become 1,001 nights. I might "remember" things about that boss I never liked, or that annoying neighbor. And then I might "recall" some mentions about Republican members of Congress, and "recall" glimpses of people that I could partially describe. The possibilities are endless. I might "recall" incidents involving children and animals - maybe even a duck.
How many people were executed as a result of the Salem witch trials? And think of the thousands who went to the guillotine after being denounced during the French Terror. People carrying out torture would have open minds that could easily be filled.

Posted by: FredinVicksburg | April 30, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm a huge fan of President Obama, but I couldn't disagree more strongly with his "look forward" mantra when it comes to torture. I think it was a monumental mistake to tell torturers at the CIA "I've got your back" and an even larger mistake to not prosecute clear war crimes. The stain will be permanent and the hypocrisy undeniable without investigations, indictments and trials.

Posted by: CardFan | April 30, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Looked at from some distance, the politics of America is amazing. It amazes me that in this dialogue to be conservative you support torture and to be liberal you are against it. It appears that the conservatives have truly lost their way. No one raised in America was taught that our values are optional that the end justifies the means and more specifically that it is okay to torture.

From that same distance it is almost comical to read the words of the conservative movement's most thoughtful tie themselves into knots trying to defend something that should be, at their core, exceedingly repellent.

Debate all you like about laissez-faire capitalism, individual/state/federal rights, the scope of government, et al, but torture for any reason is wrong and American -- full stop.

The bulk of those posting here and I'm sure throughout this nation feel this way about torture. The law appears to have been broken and therefore should be investigated.

As fro the conservatives movement,I hope it comes back, but only after it has found its moral compass.

Posted by: jdcallow | April 30, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Should have read "unAmerican"

Posted by: jdcallow | April 30, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

How very odd...the same majority party partisans that demand to punish those Americans who fought the enemy after 9/11 on "moral" grounds also defend the murder of innocent life because it's nobody else's business -- thus side-stepping morality altogether. Millions of Americans hate abortion yet it remains legal. Plenty of Democrats hate Bush and want him tried on "moral" grounds. Let's ban abortion once and for all and then we can talk about addressing "morality." No 9/11 conspirators died while over 1 million babies die every year.

Posted by: TJLinBallston | April 30, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Who defines waterboarding as a torture?

Should we go step further and define tearing down our defensive abilities (i.e. missile-shield), buddying with communists and know human-right violators/torturers Castro/Chavez, exposing interrogation techniques to terrorists, freeing up incarcerated terrorists, ignoring kidnapped Americans (NK, Iran) etc ... as a treason?

Posted by: joebob2nd | April 30, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Replying to "There is still enough fear in this country that anything that smacks of “giving comfort to the enemy” will imperil everything else"

Has anyone actually seen any of "the enemy" looking overly comfortable?

The purpose of prosecuting the perpetrators of torture is the protection of our own citizens. Once we create a society where torture is accepted under certain circumstances, those circumstances become prone to expansion - beyond a basic moral imperative, it's a "slippery slope" arguement.

Bringing practitioners of torture to justice does not somehow condone the (alleged) crimes of the torture victim, it merely reaffirms our country's ethos of justice for all.

Posted by: redweather | April 30, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The next logical step in the psychodrama that liberals are making of the question of how to treat terrorists is to simply kill them when they are caught in the act. But then liberals will soon be advocating prosecution of those who order the killings. If harsh treatment is inhumane, surely killing is much more so. The liberal motto is and will be "War is not the answer." If only radical islamists believed that as well.

Posted by: mhr614 | April 30, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

What Obama didn't say was that torture is a crime.

I sure hope you Pulitzer-winning writers don't stop saying it, because if you do you will be letting down a whole lot of previous winners and the founder himself.

No, you need to keep saying it until Obama says it, too, and proves that he means it by prosecuting the crimes committed by anyone who did so.

Eugene, you owe that to us.


Posted by: WWWexler | April 30, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Hard to believe isn't it. We can't harm a terrorist but we are federally funding the dismemberment of millions of foreign children through international abortion mills supported by Planned Parenthood courtesy of the Obamamaniac. God forgive them though they know exactly what they are doing

Posted by: Straightline | April 30, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

The irony is that these enemy combatants legally could have been and probably ...should have been shot on the battlefield. Instead we now worry about making it "uncomfortable" for them.

I would say to the military...just kill them on the spot...every chance you get. Then there will be no reprecusions and one less terrorist. That would send a very strong message.

Abdulla.... forget club gitmo and waterboarding...they are just killing us now...I am outa here.

Posted by: Straightline | April 30, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

the bottom line: is waterboarding torture? yes. can we do anything about prosecuting the architects of the torture memos? no.

the best we can do is set up a 'truth' commsion to shine a light on the bush era cockroaches, including pelosi and other legislators who knew the details and did nothing, and let history judge them all.

Posted by: silverfish1 | April 30, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"I have lost almost all respect for Obama over the way he's tried to sweep torture under the rug via his constant "look forward" garbage."


Obama is too politically adept to take the lead on this, though he knows as surely as you and I that it must and will proceed. He simply has to allow himself to be pulled in, as Congress and the Justice Department take the heat in pursuing the matter to its inevitable outcome.

The huge explosion of revelations related to these crimes is yet ahead, as are the full, official investigation and ultimate consequences.

Posted by: Tedskins1 | April 30, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I think the press is trying to push President Obama into saying that what Georgy boy and evil eyed cheney did was wrong and unlawful. They want him to say that his administation will proscecute any of his officials involved in this mess. He said they made a mistake. He has left the decision up to the Attorney General.
President Obama is trying to move on. It is bad enough that when he got to the White house all the crap they did left an odor that stinks to high heaven. I
I don't blame President Obama for trying to move on. He has said his administration is not going to condone it. Period.He has plenty of other things on his plate. Period. People think you get away with stuff. What Georgy boy and Cheney's life down the road, then see if they got away with all the crap they did while in power. Thank God that are out. Period.

Posted by: bjlopez1130 | April 30, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

What's next is the ACLU's release of additional detainee abuse photos, rapidly followed by the President's trip to the Mid-East and into the maelstrom of Muslim outrage generated by the photos. This in turn may lead to a broader swath of the American public asking itself why this President (who most believe has done the right thing in shutting down GITMO, etc.) should be forced to wear the horse collar for the Bush Administration. Perhaps the previous administration should be forced to take the weight engendered by its own actions. My impression is that the President is prepared to wait for public opinion to come to him on this.

Posted by: thewolf1 | April 30, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse


You seem to be saying that now is not a convenient time for Obama to fulfill his oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. Is that something you believe is OPTIONAL for the President, or do you think it ought to be mandatory. Question mark.


Posted by: WWWexler | April 30, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Keep this issue as alive as you can, Mr. Robinson. Voices like yours will be instrumental in reminding ourselves that we are a nation of laws, not of a nation above the laws.

Posted by: jfern03 | April 30, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Again... Robinson is just a shill for Obama, his personal hero, and a complete moron on this subject.

Problem is, Churchill's time was wrought with questionable tactics as well... just not as well published.
While on the subject of the UK, does anyone want to ask how the former members of the IRA were treated in the 90's when they were captured??

Robinson is just a parrot for Obama, and lacks any real understanding of history, yet accepts that feather-weight's word as gospel, when a little bit of fact checking can merit a ton of lies out of Obama's mouth.

Posted by: alutz08 | April 30, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Torture is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. Nothing short of prosecuting everyone who engaged in, ordered or facilitated torture will be sufficient to eliminate this evil from American society and to protect future potential torture victims, who could include any American citizen whom the next supporter of George W. Bush's quasi-fascist theory of a "unitary executive" wants to get information from for any reason.

These prosecutions should include everyone allegedly involved in torture, from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on down. The law provides no justification or exemption for this crime against humanity.

Posted by: algasema | April 30, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

When the trials begin it is important that The President has not made a lot of prejudicial statements that interfere with the trials. Nothing he can say will add or detract form facts as the are. Let the special investigator do the work without interference from anyone.

Posted by: Jerry_Fresno | April 30, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Realistically, there is no way we can expect an unbiased US court to try these war criminals.

We really need to extradite them to the Hague, to be tried there, for their crimes.

Including the former VP.

Posted by: WillSeattle | April 30, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

joebob2nd, everything you've written sounds like it's coming from a person who's simply hell-bent on revenge. Bottom line: torture is wrong, has been internationally banned for decades, and anyone, ANYWHERE who tortures is a criminal, period.
And please get your facts straight: none of the people who were waterboarded or tortured in other ways were the ones who killed Americans on 9/11. You seem to like to stretch the truth (like calling fetuses "babies" when you know they're not) to fit your desire for vengeance. And what about the hundreds of unknown prisoners who died from torture (as the U.S. Army admits). Can you state with complete confidence that every single one of them was connected to 9/11 or wanted to kill Americans? So I guess if some innocent people get killed in your cowardly frenzy to feel "safe" (and remember who was in charge on 9/11: BushieBoy DID NOT keep us safe, in fact he dismissed the memo about bin Ladin attacking the U.S. with the glib, "OK, now you've covered your ass") that's not a problem because, after all, they're not Americans. Live in fear and you'll eventually have to torture everyone, 'cause you'll never feel "safe" enough. And trying to equate the torture of another human being with a woman's choice about having a child is the definition of absurd.

Posted by: stephenlouis | April 30, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama's clearly decided that what accountability there will be, will have to come from a third party, it will not be pushed from the White House. It's a political calculation and I think the right one. Justice must be done here, and it must be seen to be done. The best way for that to happen is for the public to demand it and, ideally, the government to pursue it in the most bureaucratic and least politicized way possible.

The proper first step is for the Bar and Medical Associations to start sanctioning their members who were part of torture. Then criminal investigations should follow and move deliberately up the chain.

Posted by: bullsmith | April 30, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Only a depraved mind thinks that
are acceptable norms of human behavior.

Posted by: Jerry_Fresno | April 30, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

And another thing, joebob2nd, they weren't being tortured to prevent another attack; they were being tortured to admit to a connection between al Queda and Iraq so Cheney could get his hands on all that oil. The whole rotten episode (unfortunately still running) is based on a LIE. Elite, overeducated, Israel-obsessed neocon nerds who hid from military service hatched their adolescent scheme for world domination and lied to make it happen, with disastrous consequences for the entire world.

Posted by: stephenlouis | April 30, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing how bloodthirsty and vile all these people who profess concern for what they think abortion is but relish torture. They really so clearly have no concept of the Christian values they think they hold (forgiveness against those who trespass against us is right at the very heart of it.)

You read this thread and the incoherent anger and inability to understand the simple concept of the rule of law, and it's really easy to see why the Republicans are driving so many people away from their party. Lust for torture is an ugly thing to behold.

Posted by: bullsmith | April 30, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

As the saying goes, the Republicans care about every life right from the moment of conception to the moment of birth. They you're on your own, right up to and including torturing you.

Boggles the mind.

Posted by: bullsmith | April 30, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

As the saying goes, the Republicans care about every life right from the moment of conception to the moment of birth. Then you're on your own, right up to and including torturing you.

Boggles the mind.

Posted by: bullsmith | April 30, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Years ago while vacationing in Germany, we visited the town of Rothenburg. For those who don't know, one of the attractions is the Museum of Torture. Without going into gruesome detail, pretty much everyone who goes through that museum will come away knowing what torture really is.

There are those who call waterboarding torture. Perhaps as practiced by the Japanese in WWII, but I can see how reasonable people could differ as practiced by our government. Personally, I have my doubts. To me, it is a method of turning one's own fears against themselves. For example, I have a fear of spiders. If you strapped me to a table that was surrounded by containers holding spiders (the bigger and harrier the better - I mean, worse!), and then turned off all the lights so it was pitch black, and then made a noise that simulated the container doors opening, I would just totally freak out. Likewise, if the CIA learned that a detainee had a fear of heights, they could repeatedly turn him into a "bungie jumper" from a high bridge, or interrogate him on top of a skyscraper. Same effect.

Everything that is unpleasant in life is not torture. Even extremely unpleasant. I try and put myself into the shoes of the CIA in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, trying to learn about the structure of Al Qaeda and any upcoming terrorist attacks, all with the clock ticking. You finally capture a few key figures that can shed light on things, and all they do is smile, ask for a lawyer, and smirk that "You will soon find out." I don't know about you, but I stand with those trying to protect innocent people from future attacks, not with those claiming that tactics no worse than what used to be on the TV show "Fear Factor" constitute torture. I'd bet that a county fair could set up a "ride" that featured waterboarding as practiced by the CIA, and guys would be lining up paying to show their sweeties how macho they were.

In these kinds of debates where people speak out against torture, we never hear what they would do instead. Just put them in jail? Hey, that might be torture in some person's eyes, with prison rape and all. Would you even be allowed to raise your voice when questioning them, or is that also too harsh? But the big question is this: If you simply locked a high-value Al Qaeda prisoner up and didn't question him, and if another terrorist attack happened and a subsequent investigation revealed that the detainee knew about it, then what? How should history - not to mention survivors of the dead and injured - judge you? How would YOU judge you had you been in their shoes?

Posted by: coffeetime | April 30, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Ok so Obama says the Justice Dept-approved and Congress-sanctioned (Intell and Armed Services Committees) "enhanced interrogation" technique called "waterboarding" is torture.

Why has Congress failed to outlaw waterboarding ? We are still waiting.. heck Congress now has a Democratic super-majority !

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) wants a commission that will get to the "truth" about torture. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) says she wants a truth commission too. And so does Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.).

On CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Mr. Leahy said a truth commission would help get to the heart of how the recently released memos on CIA interrogation techniques were drafted. "I want to know why they did that," he said. "What kind of pressures brought them to write things that are so off the wall and to make sure it never happens again. That's why I want [a Truth Commission]."

Mr. Leahy overlooks a small point here: Under our Constitution, the truth commission is supposed to be Congress.

Posted by: pvilso24 | April 30, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I rather like the idea of proclaiming to whole wide world that Bush & Co. blatantly broke international law and is subject to arrest and prosecution -- where ever and when ever they may be captured! That'll keep them from going abroad and infecting other countries with their sick brand of Democracy or enjoying the "Freedom" which they were so blase' about denying others. And let them be subject to extreme rendition. Like real terrorists, Bush & Co. committed real, undeniable crimes against humanity and offenses against the rule of law. Heck, they have Secret Service protection, so they at least have a chance to escape capture that their innocent victims did not have. Let Bush & Co. prefer to stay out of sight and out of mind for the rest of their days lest they be snatched up by strong-arm thugs and carried off in blindfolds, chains, and diapers, and be subjected to dehumanizing humiliation and torture.

Posted by: iphoenix | April 30, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Robinson:

We now know the list of approved tortures. However, there are many more enhanced interrogation techniques not listed on any official documents. Specifically our people treated the detainees to a "Palestinian hanging," also known since the time of the Inquisition as the "strapado." Why such a name and who taught our boys this atrocity?

Posted by: rsliazas | April 30, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

there is really something odd about people like eugene robinson who act like its academic that there must be further investigations/prosecutions becuase "we are a nation of laws", yet never seem too bothered when we dont enforce our immigration laws and dont think we need to enforce the law (read: deport) on the 10 million or so illegal immigrants in this country.

its not as if I am an immigration nut (because i'm not), its just funny to see someone so selectively preach the rule of law in so public a forum that his hypocrisy is so blatant that the only explination seems to be a desire to politicize matters of intelligence and national security.

i think we can imagine why someone from mexico would come here regardless of whether they had permission, just as i think we can imagine why president bush may have sought ways to dust off some bordeline techniques after 9/11 for narrow application to 2 or 3 confessed Al-Qaida high-ups.

perhaps mr. robinson can explain his hypocrisy is his next column.

Posted by: dummypants | April 30, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

It's almost funny watching people here imagine with glee Bush & Cheney and the rest being arrested, some even want them in GITMO or worse.. Here's the thing IT'S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!!! At worst a lawyer or 2 will have his licence revoked, but I don't even think it will get that far. But you know Republicans should hope Liberals get their way. The Republican party can't get any traction right now but have the Democrats put on these SHOW TRIALS, with them hammering the people who were only trying to keep America safe will be a disaster for them. Fine have your trials.. Republicans will be on the side of the CIA and Dems can be on the side of Khalid Shehik Mohammed and his al Queda buddies.. Should look great on TV.

Posted by: sovine08 | April 30, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

How can a conservative justify torture as okay, because it is, in their mind, not as bad as abortion and it resulted (or so we are told) in useful information? Are they reduced to supporting moral behaviour only in the extreme or are they hypocrites who use morality as a canard to hide their true intentions? It amazes me that those who claim to hold the higher moral ground don't see what a corner they have put themselves in.

If in the end there is a trial where top Bush officials fall and the right continues to support their actions the US will have only one national party.

Here I thought the Bankers and CEOs were tone deaf.

Posted by: jdcallow | April 30, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse


Thank you for infusing some common sense here. Waterboarding might be as unpleasant as hell but is not something that will physically harm person. After all according to the memos, they had present a physician to ensure detainee would not be harmed and they used it limited (and well documented) number of times on high-profile terrorists.
Why are people taking this out of proportions as if Bush was literary snatching people of the street to be waterboarded? Beside your obvious hate for previous administration, what are you people trying to accomplish with this? Was FDR war criminal for throwing two a-bombs on Japan?
You can't tie down hands to people that are supposed to protect you and hold them liable at the same time. What's next? Solitary confinement constitutes torture? Where do you draw a line? How do you extract information from a high-profile terrorist that might prevent next 9/11? Would you sacrifice American lives in exchange for your high moral grounds? What is the alternative????

Posted by: joebob2nd | April 30, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Good posts coffeetime and joebob2nd. Nice to see there are still some voices of reason. I to am shocked when i hear people try to compare Bush and the Republicans to Hitler and the Nazis.. are they kidding??? Bush had THREE terrorist leaders waterboarded and that was to try to find out if there were anymore plans to attack this country. He even had legal council write what interogation methods could be used first. And BTW what these terrorists when though was not even as bad as what contestants on Fear Factor went though every week... Some question if Republicans want to hold the higher moral ground? To me holding the higher moral ground means preventing another 9/11..

Posted by: sovine08 | April 30, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

'well, don't you think going down in U.S. history as "The Torture President" is punishment enough"

Surely you aren't serious. Ronald Reagan sold arms to Iran - is he going down as "the treason President"?

Cheney and the neocon gang hark back to the Nixon administration. They saw firsthand that democracy could be subverted with impunity. And this is so much worse than Watergate. What do you suppose the next little group of neocons is learning?

This is America's "look in the mirror" moment. We gave lip service to being "the land of the free and the home of brave", and "the city on the hill" and the "thousand points of life". But at the first test of our courage, we gave away our civil liberties and adopted egregious human rights abuses. Why? Because we were scared.

So, are we the home of the brave, or the home of the scared? Are we the land of "live free or die", or the land of "OK, take my freedom, just promise me I won't die"?

This is our time as a nation to decide what this generation of Americans stands for. The land of the free and the home of the brave, or the land of the not so free and the home of the any human rights abuse is OK because we're scared?

We can take a good, hard look at ourselves in the mirror, or we can stick our head in the sand. If we choose the latter, a little more of the soul of our nation dies, and a few more bulbs go out on that shining city on the hill.

Posted by: patriot16 | April 30, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

joebob2 I am flabbergasted.

First of all, FDR didn't drop two A-bombs on Japan. Truman did. And the reasons are far more complex than the pablum you might have found in a history book had you read it. Part of that decision was scaring the hell out of the Russians, who were advancing rapidly toward Japan. But that's a red herring anyway.

We spent 3 years looking for al-Zarqawi, and finally in March 2006 sent in a new interrogator Matthew Alexander. He used only international legal means, built rapport with subjects, and they started talking. After 3 years of fruitless abusive questioning, in just 3 months of legal interrogation al-Zarqawi's location was given up and he was dead by June 2006.

I wonder what it means to be an American to you? Is that all it means to you is "might makes right"? Really, what does it mean to you to be an American? What does being an American mean you stand for? What American principles would you lay down your life for?

Posted by: patriot16 | April 30, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Obama yet again shows his lack of judgement and experience. He has very little understanding of the "Pandora's Box" he has opened up. He has let the country and our enemies know what we have used, how we have used it and what information we have gained. He also said we would never do it again. These same terrorists behead our people on TV. They do not care. They see us as weak and with him as a leader we are.

Torture is not the answer but he has opened up the legal system to examine each and everey act of every President past to legal remifications for any action "later: deemed illegal or inappropriate.

he was best to steeer lear of it

Posted by: tbastian | April 30, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse


Killing hundreds of thousands Japanese in order to scare Russians (or any other reason for that matter) was OK, but waterboarding few terrorist big-wigs to save American lives was against American principles and values??? You gave away your civil liberties and were scared during Bush administration!?? Are you serious?
Flabbergasted indeed!

Posted by: joebob2nd | April 30, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Now that ABC news reported leaked CIA operative information, names and pictures. I am surprised there is no outcry from the administration leaking information about CIA operatives.

Hmm.. Well, it turns out that the same guys who train our military members, by designing legal methods, to resist what they may encounter. The legal techniques used on terrorists were designed by the same people. Amazing that the president would lie to the nation for political gain. He sided with our enemies, why?

The same guys who designed the legal pseudo-torture to be performed on our troops, designed the legal program to interrogate f***ed up murder monkeys.

No outcry on leaking their identities. Special prosecutors, anyone?

Strength through weakness in full display.

What do we have left against an al qaeda subject?

Posted by: thelaw1 | April 30, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Why is there any question as to the course of action? This is a matter for the courts. Let bush and company present their case before a jury of their peers.

Posted by: m1kem1lls | April 30, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

What's next? The attorney general needs to do the job he's chartered with and the president needs to support him through the job he's chartered with.

Politicians may spin this as a potential political mine field, but Americans don't care about what politicians spin for their next election cycle. This should not be politicized, nor are there 'sides'. It's not liberal or conservative, left or right, male or female, democratic or republican.

The media may want to reopen the debate - for the umpteenth time - on whether it's torture, but Americans who even slightly pay attention know it is. Especially those who know we executed Japanese for doing it to our servicemen. It should not be debated. This is not a time for crossfire, hardball, or AC360

There is not a moment of US history that makes me more ashamed of being American than this one. Watergate is the executive branch engaged in shoplifting by comparison.

It should be "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" not "when the going gets tough, let's just change the laws". President Obama has consistently said our nation's values are sacred and that's good to hear. And should be repeated often, not just by our government, but by its citizens.

I don't care how it's done, but then saying we need to put it behind us is akin to telling a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder to just stop remembering. They - and we - can't.

Posted by: kewe | April 30, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

All great civilizations eventually collapse under the weight of growing idealism that comes to obscure the hard truths of the life that they face. It is the point at which the strength of their collective narcissism exceeds the strength of their collective ability to 'sense' the world.

We dream an ideal world, and wish it were, but the truth simply is. If we are noble we wake up each day and strive to push the imperfect and often ugly truth closer to our dream. A person who carte-blanche takes torture off the table is quite simply someone who has never had to stand against what is real.

No child wants to slaughter a calf, but that child grown and faced with the prospect of her starving children will do what she must ... sadly. I think torture is horrible. However, if my child was kidnapped and one of the kidnappers was apprehended, I would do everything in my power, no matter how ugly and objectionable, to rescue my flesh and blood. If I thought feeding them brownies would work best ... I would do it. If I thought pulling out their fingers one by one would work best ... I would do it.

Fortunately, I am not 'in charge' of protecting the American people. I do not feel that responsibility. I do not wake up each day and worry about the fact that my mistake could mean the loss of thousands of lives. I can't imagine what that would feel like. Well maybe I can, maybe it would feel just a little like protecting your children?

It sickens me how quick to judge and righteous those are who do not have to wake up each day and face the hard truths associated with protecting the American people. This idealism driven angst is not too different from the child who thinks her mother is evil for slaughtering the calf to feed her. Fortunately, like a compassionate mother making up a story about where the food came from to ease her children's distress, I know our government will do what it must to try and protect us ... including making up a story about how we do not torture people 'because we're better than that'.

Do not forget that protecting our 'right to life' is our most fundamental truth ...

And ...

Do not forget that Gandhi's tactic required a noble enemy ...

Posted by: sig123 | May 2, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Harry Truman had a sign on his desk: "The Buck Stops Here."

All of the various parties involved in torture - from CIA agents to Justice Department lawyers - all are pointing fingers at someone else. The truth is that there is only one person responsible for ordering operatives to employ torture and most likely it is George W. Bush or possibly Cheney. They are the ones who should be prosecuted, not some low-level CIA agents or civilian contractors hired to do these shameful deeds.

Will it happen? Most likely not. After all, we didn't prosecute Nixon and what he did was schoolyard stuff in comparison to the sins of the Bush and Cheney.

I do believe an independent investigation is in order to expose all of this to the light of day. We don't have to jail anyone, but we should make them answer to the general public. Consider all the resources that the Republicans squandered on the White Water investigation that revealed nothing.

Posted by: rbindc | May 3, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

It's saddening to read posts by people exclaiming the 'reality' of the situation demands, even justifies, lawlessness.

Apparently reality has no dignity, no self-respect and the only place for being human is in the ideal.

It's frightening to read that there are people who believe it's the responsibility of our government, when faced with difficult decisions, has an obligation to put aside the rules and principles that guide it. And there's dark, sick irony in that this is the behavior that leads to the type of fascism these Americans believe the lawlessness is intended to protect from.

Posted by: kewe | May 3, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

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