Unconscionable, Unconstitutional, Illegal, and Barbaric
Executive Director of the ACLU, Anthony D. Romero, penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times ahead of the release of the damning Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture by the Bush Administration in the years immediately following the September 11 attacks. The bombshell that was the 500-page Executive Summary detailed the barbarism that was carried out in the name of every American citizen, though it clearly stands in stark opposition to the values we hold as a nation. From the highest echelons of the Bush Administration to the mid- and low-level government agents who actually perpetrated the policy, not one prosecution has been attempted. And we are unlikely to see any such prosecution as, for many, the statute of limitations has already run out.
A highly polarized and partisan nation has run to their respective camps to decry or defend the findings in Tuesday’s report. This fact, paired with the political unwillingness by President Barack Obama to hold anyone directly accountable, makes the possibility of any future prosecution even less likely. The likelihood that a future administration will see how this episode has played out and craft another program of torture in a time of national chaos is a near certainty. Romero, identifying it as the option that is least bad, has come up with a rather elegant solution: Pardon Bush and those who tortured.
Romero’s argument is completely sound. While a presidential pardon is usually granted to those who have already undergone prosecution and have been found guilty, the precedent for pre-emptive pardon was established nearly 150 years ago. President’s Lincoln and Johnson issued pardons to Confederate soldiers in the hopes of re-establishing national unity. To move the country beyond the embarrassment of the Watergate scandal, newly sworn in President Gerald Ford pardoned the disgraced Richard Nixon. President Jimmy Carter, on his first day in office, decreed a blanket pardon to anyone who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War. President George H.W. Bush pardoned senior members of Reagan’s administration for their involvement in the Iran-Contra affair. The pre-emptive pardon has been with us for some time and it serves as a diplomatic backhanded compliment. You can’t forgive someone of a crime unless you have given voice to what they have done as being criminal.
“The spectacle of the president’s granting pardons to torturers still makes my stomach turn. But doing so may be the only way to ensure that the American government never tortures again” – Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU
Tuesday, December 9, 2014 was definitely a sobering day for America and her citizenry. We were shown just how easily our values were abandoned in favor of naked barbarism in a time of crisis. Our greatest presidents on their darkest days have resorted to actions and tactics we later identified as abhorrent. Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, Roosevelt’s Japanese-American detention camps, and Bush II’s embrace of interrogation techniques long since proven ineffective were all brought about by existential crises. We must learn from them and promise to ourselves and the world we will never entertain that villainy again. Calling the perpetrators criminals and pardoning them is the first step. As Rachel Maddow stated on her MSNBC program last evening, “This report that came out today…this is the only reckoning we are ever going to get. How can that be?”
The American ideal of justice likely leads many to want to see a very public display, a trial, that will hold someone, anyone to account. The truth of the matter is, some 13 years on from the inception of the American policy to torture our enemies, no trial will ever be held. Romero’s call to pardon those who authorized and who engaged in this unconscionable, unconstitutional, illegal, and barbaric torture policy is our last hope to hold all involved to any account and thus, set a damning precedent that any who wish to use torture in the names of Americans in the future will think twice, knowing that prosecution will be all but certain.
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Alan hails from the great state of Texas by way of Florida and New York. He began his news/OpEd writing career serving as the Community Editor of the Times-Record News in Wichita Falls, Texas while completing his Political Science/Spanish degrees. He later took his talents to a handful of online outlets where his writing focus was on Science, Health, and Technology. Addressing Politics, Foreign Policy, and Social Justice returns Alan to where his passions lie. Proud to be part of the inaugural team for Reverb Press, Alan looks forward to any and all feedback that results from his articles and features.