Following the admission that the CIA hacked Senate computers and lied to Congress, President Obama today affirmed that it did indeed torture people. This admission (while belated) is an important recognition by the United States of what is obvious from a legal standpoint. However, that also means that CIA officials violated both federal and international law. The question is why Obama began his first term by promising CIA employees that they would not be tried for what he now describes as “tortur[ing] some folks.”
Despite the prior lying to Congress, Obama insisted that he had “full confidence in John Brennan.” As noted before, the Obama Administration is clearly unwilling again to discipline, let alone charged, any CIA personnel for hacking into congressional computers.
The President then turned to the Senate report on our torture program and affirmed his earlier 2009 statement that this was torture — plain and simple:
Even before I came into office, I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And, you know, it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots, but having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects.
Just a few points are warranted here.
First, torture is a war crime and the United States has insisted that it was at war. We have an obligation to investigate and prosecute any officials responsible for torture. Instead, both the Bush and Obama Administrations threatened countries like Spain and England for even investigating aspects of these crimes. Saying that we “tortured some folks” is not compliance with these law – either domestic or international
Second, it does not matter if we are “afraid” or angry under international law. These treaties clearly reject defenses like “just following orders” or justified torture.
Third, Obama has yet to explain his promise to the CIA employees after taking office. After his election, various high officials said that Obama told them privately that no Bush or CIA officials would be prosecuted. His staff denied the stories but he then soon thereafter told the CIA staff precisely that.
Finally, not only has the United States refused to hold our own officials to the same standards that we impose on other countries, but those responsible for our torture program are giving interviews and writing books in plain sight. In the meantime, the Administration has successfully blocked torture victims from seeking judicial review or relief in our courts.
That record makes the admission that “we tortured some folks” a bit less satisfying. No one familiar with the cases in this area should seriously doubt that we tortured people. What remains unclear is how we can justify not prosecuting those responsible. We may have “tortured some folks” but we never “prosecuted other folks.”
359 thoughts on ““We Tortured Some Folks”: Obama Admits United States Committed Acts Violating Federal and International Law”
Yes, but it happened with the best intentions. And those guys in Guantanamo. Maybe half of them did nothing and the other half we cannot try as we cannot divulge the evidence. But whichever half, we can’t let any go free, because after a few years in Guantanamo all they’d probably do if we release them is take up a gun against the US, even if they were pacifists before we locked them up. So, you see, there’s nothing we can do really. It’s all for your best.
“Torture and the SSCI Report”
“That’s just how the sausage is made. All our wars have mundane back-stories, including the ones with the pretty myths, like America’s origin story.”
You have previously alluded to the insignificance of cultural transformation as a precursor to the whole nation-building scheme:
“The lead challenge to American liberal nation-building is not philosophical difference. Culture is not prerequisite. The lead challenge is the practical contest for the security and stability that’s the necessary foundation to build everything else. When we control basic security and stability, the rest follows.”
This would mean of course you can dispel the “myth” of Salutary Neglect and its rather “mundane” influence on the overall quest for our independence.
Surely the colonists were far more pragmatic than the predominant “back-story” would lead us to believe; because if their “lead challenge” was for “security and stability” then they need look no further than to the soldier being quartered in their home. Or is that another myth?
One thing the 17th amendment accomplished was make already corruptible politicians easier to target by lobbyists. Instead of having to influence the members in 50 state legislatures, they just packed up and a moved onto K Street.
But by all means, keep pretending any semblance of the 10th amendment is of concern to the U.S. Senate.
The Slate article about the idea to repeal the 17th Amendment was interesting but did not address why I think it ought to be repealed. Actually, I thought I was the only one (until this thread) who thought it ought to be repealed–I didn’t know others had floated the idea!
I think it ought to be repealed because it would give people at a local level more control over who is on the Hill. I am very put out with Pat Toomey and would like to elect someone else. However, I’d have to convince a huge number of people that don’t even live near me that Toomey should be replaced, many of whom vote on name recognition only. If I could convince people in my state legislator’s district that Toomey needed to go, then we’d have a better chance of effecting change. We could drive the 10 minutes to our state legislator’s office and have a conversation with him and he could work to pull Toomey back from the Hill. I could also converse with friends in a neighboring district, and if they, too, are put out with Toomey, they could do the same thing with their state legislator.
As it stands now, I feel I have very little power to effect change with my senators and that is very unhealthy for our country because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to feel this way.
While I understand Sen. Mitchell’s point regarding why he thought the 17th Amendment was a good idea, I’d like to read both sides of the historical argument. I’ll reread the Slate article again, but it’ll have to wait til morning at least. My daughter’s fair entries are due Thursday, so we have to make sure everything is completed and ready by tomorrow and I have beets to can on top of all this! 🙂
There are a lot of us that believe the 17th should be repealed. There is a discussion group in Linkedin on this very topic. Morris Gosa is a trusted source and I recommend you check out his various discussions on the topic.
PrairieRose, I blame Toomey on Joe Sestak. He jumped the line. If Specter had won (and he would have had Sestak not taken votes from him) there was a better chance his coattails would have given us a dem governor. Had he been unable to fulfill his term Sestak might have been appointed.(my take on it). Corbett has made a mess of things, If he loses Toomey will end up getting tossed (I hope)
As for the 17th It might well become even more partisan, the republican or dem dominated legislature putting in their own puppets federally. I prefer the people having a choice (as limited as they have become but still the social positions alone are important distinctions.)
John and Prairie Rose – it appears that the Democrats in Arizona are taking some of your advice and not putting their top candidates on the primary ballot where there would be a run-off with independents who can vote. They will be voting for the candidates in caucuses.
“Prairie, I did not bother to look up dem because I have no doubt they used voice votes but you made this partisan. Here is what the repubs did, as one example.”
I did not intend in any way to make the conversation partisan (sorry, my tired brain could only remember what the DNC did to disenfranchise their members–it seemed particularly unfair because the guy doing the vote redid the voice vote like three times before going with the teleprompter cue or something https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cncbOEoQbOg). You are quite correct that the RNC was also guilty (I could only remember bits and pieces of the issue and was too tired to research the examples).
“The repubs even in their own convention do not tolerate much dissent”
Yes. Grrrr. So much for that Big Tent idea.
“Witnesses say that Teleprompter scrolled “the ayes have it” even before the voice vote was taken. Also, video of the rule change vote at the Republican National Convention shows that the vote seemed to be a toss up with no clear winner and yet the ayes were immediately declared winners.”
Thank you for jogging my memory. 🙂 So, voice votes just really need to be done away with at every level. Though, do you suppose they’ll do a voice vote to determine whether or not that’ll happen–with the ‘nays’ having it on the teleprompter even before the vote is taken? 😉
PrairieRose, LOL, Yep, that’s exactly what they would do I would bet. (Voice vote to require rollcall votes so they can say the “nays” have it.)
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