Anyone following the news last week will be aware that the subject of torture became dominant. This followed the release of further “torture memos” written by Bush legal staff, Cheney’s appearance on Hannity, and the recent Red Cross report leak. Further, individuals such as Army General Anthony Taguba have been raising their voices in support of investigations on the matter.
Something of a storm is brewing. Few conservatives or Republicans wish to see such an investigation begun because it has become apparent that the near certain revelations will work further serious damage on their electoral chances.
Some, I’m sure, actually believe that public revelation is a bad idea because it will only further anger members of the militant Islamic community. But it’s a bit of a conundrum as to whether continued suppression of the truth with no legal consequences for perpetrators (and the undeniable hypocrisy that would demonstrate) might be even more angering (justifiable anger in this case) to them.
Some (like Cheney) also clearly believe that it is the proper business of the US government to suppress such information because it would have the probable consequence of leading American citizens to think poorly of this period of American history and behavior. Citizens, and thus the country, this notion goes, will be better off when happily romanticizing their nation. Only a select elite (tough of mind) ought to be appraised of the realities. Citizens and the national psyche couldn’t handle an honest accounting.
Given the statements that have come from Obama earlier and from him and his administration currently, it is unclear as to how they are weighing the complex consequences of a fully transparent investigation/release of this history. And it’s unclear to me just what sort of pressures are being brought to bear upon the administration (from the intelligence community, the Pentagon and lobbyists for the military-industrial sector) to keeep things in the dark. But I’ll wager it is substantial and unceasing.
Further, there is the predictable all-out war that Republicans will wage and the damage that might do to civic civility and future policy changes that Obama wishes to implement. That the prospects here will be dire is precisely the notion the Republicans are trying desparately to forward but it is not clear at all to me that this accurately predicts final consequences even if the moral questions are left out of the equation.
And those moral questions are becoming increasingly pressing. How can America not procede transparently and honestly now without undercutting the most compelling arguments for its identity – to self and others – as a force for good in the world?
Let’s note as well here while we are at it that the propaganda push mounted last week by the Bush administration members and Republican partisans has four components. Everything we are hearing and reading from them is contained in the following:
1) it wasn’t torture
2) it wasn’t illegal
3) and even if either of the above are ‘legally’ true, it was actually more morally correct to have acted as was done because it kept America safe through providing information which saved lives
4) it would be unwise and immoral to investigate and reveal facts because of damage that will be done to future intelligence operations and to American self-identity and civic equanimity.
But voices, an increasing number of them from all points of the compass other than those with deep allegiances to Bush or the GOP, are now making the case that each of these arguments is erroneous or less compelling than the arguments to procede with investigation and revelation.
A final factor here, and a critical one, relates to the media. The recent past (particularly) suggests that the individuals and the corporations who make up the major portion of the media which people attend to have a set of interests which might be put in jeopardy (perceived or actual) by any serious look at the last eight years. Not only has the news media been complicit in what has gone on, they are likely hesitant to support what they might imagine as too much shaking of the status quo.
There’s perhaps no better example of such institutional complacency than the modern Washington Post and David Broder who famously told Sally Quinn that “He (Bill Clinton) came in here and trashed the place and it wasn’t his place.” Being not of the Washington circle/elite and guilty of an extra-marital blowjob is to trash the place that isn’t his but beginning an uncessary war and implementing torture policies (aside from all else that the Bush administration has done) ought, in Broder’s sick mental universe, to be now simply forgotten.