I posed this question on Facebook last week and my feed exploded, so why not here? Shortly before President Bush was to step down from office in late 2008 early 2009, there was a subtle campaign by conservatives to have Bush pardon certain government officials for war crimes related to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, or something Liberals like to call Torture. It failed but now the ACLU is suggesting that President Obama do just that — issue presidential pardons for President Bush, Vice President Cheney and a host of other Bush administration officials over multiple cases of water boarding and other war crimes that pervert American ideals of the rule of law and justice.
From the NY Times:
BEFORE President George W. Bush left office, a group of conservatives lobbied the White House to grant pardons to the officials who had planned and authorized the United States torture program. My organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, found the proposal repugnant. Along with eight other human rights groups, we sent a letter to Mr. Bush arguing that granting pardons would undermine the rule of law and prevent Americans from learning what had been done in their names.
But with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all — because it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.
That officials at the highest levels of government authorized and ordered torture is not in dispute. Mr. Bush issued a secret order authorizing the C.I.A. to build secret prisons overseas. The C.I.A. requested authority to torture prisoners in those “black sites.” The National Security Council approved the request. And the Justice Department drafted memos providing the brutal program with a veneer of legality.
My organization and others have spent 13 years arguing for accountability for these crimes. We have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor or the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, or both. But those calls have gone unheeded. And now, many of those responsible for torture can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has run out.
What is the difference between this — essentially granting tacit pardons for torture — and formally pardoning those who authorized torture? In both cases, those who tortured avoid accountability.
But with the tacit pardons, the president leaves open the very real possibility that officials will resurrect the torture policies in the future. Indeed, many former C.I.A. and other government officials continue to insist that waterboarding and other forms of torture were lawful. Were our military to capture a senior leader of the Islamic State who was believed to have valuable information, some members of Congress would no doubt demand that our interrogators use precisely the barbaric and illegal methods that the Obama administration has disavowed.
This op-ed actually appeared shortly before the report was released. For those of you who can stomach Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, former VP Cheney was on last Sunday’s program defending the use of torture. Some hauty observations from the Daily Banter are worth reading.
My conservative friends have taken to calling Liberals against Torture “pro-Terrorist” and add Facebook memes of ISIS severing heads of American hostages or images of bodies falling from the World Trade Center to justify American Government sanctioned torture often of innocents in Iraq. Some point to those civilians killed by Drone strikes under Obama’s leadership while failing to address the vast numbers of Iraqi civilians killed from 2003 to 2009. One conservative made a bold statement on Facebook that all Muslims want to kills us.
The question is quite simple; should Obama pardon Bush and Cheney for war crimes?