Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Theory of Relativity

We have written on multiple occasions about this administrations criminal culpability for its use of torture. However I did not expect the almost brazen admissions that we would be subjected to by the chief architects of that policy. Both the President and Vice-President have admitted in interviews to knowledge of and approval of torture. They seem to believe that there is no chance of any repercussions for their transgressions of international law. President Bush is basically using the same defense that served Richard Nixon so poorly. That being that if the President does it, then it isn't a crime.

Over the weekend Barack Obama, when questioned about possible criminal charges, said that his administration would like to focus on looking forward, not backward. The defense that the people who could be charged in these cases is going to be that had legal clearance (in the case of administration figures) or that they were simply following orders (in the case of the CIA operatives) to engage in the torturing of detainees. Barack Obama has promised a return to at least an appearance of transparency in government and a rebuilding of America's moral standing around the world. If his administration were to start off by forgiving the sins of the previous administration, it would be an exercise in moral relativism that would be the opposite of what he has promised.

I am sure there are many Democrats in Congress (I'm talking especially to you Diane Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller) who would be happy if this kind of talk would just go away. There are many in the Democratic leadership who were informed of the illegal activities of the Bush Administration and did nothing about them. In fact, I am sure that there are more than a few who agreed with their tactics. If indeed there were to be an independent investigation into the use of torture in the Bush Administration, the Democrats in Congress will certainly not come out of it with clean hands. I think that the softening of Obama's stance on the possible prosecution for torture is coming from his talks with the Democratic leadership.

The Bush administration has provided a clear example of moral relativism. In their minds, torture was only torture if they said it was. Illegal wiretapping was only illegal if they said it was. In their world, the Constitution and the laws of this land were obstacles for them to navigate around by the tools at their disposal. The Democratic leadership in Congress went along with that attitude and are therefore just as culpable for the crimes that took place. Our new President has a chance to show that the ideals and morals that America has always prided itself on are more than just window dressing. I understand that there are incredibly pressing problems that have to be the priority of the new administration. However, there must also be an admission of what was done in the name of the citizens of this country by those who held our morality cheaply. I am not asking for wholesale prosecutions, but I am asking that the crimes that took place in the name of the citizens of this country be exposed. I am asking that those people responsible are named and exposed to public scrutiny. I am asking that the criminals, who are hiding under the guise of politicians, be exposed for what they are. They are not patriots (which is what they would have us believe), they are the opposite of that. They are enemies of the Constitution. They are the enemies of what this country was founded for. They are the enemies of the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

This is one of the first conflicts that President-elect Obama has had to face between campaign rhetoric and actual governing. There can be no doubt that the United States Government approved of and carried out a program of torture. I'll say that again, THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT THAT THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT APPROVED OF AND CARRIED OUT A PROGRAM OF TORTURE. Those are the facts. President Obama can either chose to do nothing about that, or he can show the citizens of the US and the rest of the world that the rule of law actually means something. He can either show that the words in our Constitution are universally meaningful or universally meaningless. He can show that the United States believes in it's own laws or that we apply them only when we feel like it. He can either chose to engage in moral relativism or in morality. The choice is his.

1 comment:

Jack Jodell said...

Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Bartlett, Yoo, Rice, Mukasey, et al, are indeed guilty of war crimes or being accessories to those crimes. They should all be tried, convicted, and punished severely. This worst of all administrations in history has practiced and gotten away with the Machiavellian belief that the end justifies the means. It is VERY disappointing that the Democratic leadership has not pursued justice. They are collectively as weak as Harry Reid's personality, and it is a real tragedy. Democrats: Do your duty! It's high time for some morals and true leadership!