The actions and reactions of Dick Cheney will be spoken about for decades, maybe centuries. And hopefully they will be a continued reminder–a signpost, if you will–to how America can be co-opted by someone so out of touch, so completely in his own world, as to turn America into many of the things we’ve worked so hard to change in other parts of the world.
Rule number one: America doesn’t torture. Period. This is not a negotiable area. But Cheney and his team of cronies felt–nay, knew–what needed to be done. And the rule of law was irrelevant. Now it’s altogether possible that Cheney truly believed this was what was best for the country. Perhaps his actions, all of them, are based in his deep love for this country and its citizens. I have my doubts about this, but even if it were true, you cannot take the law into your own hands or try to bend, stretch or alter the law to suit your needs.
Now that Attorney General Eric Holder has opened an investigation into the illegal torture practices used by the CIA in interrogating terrorist suspects, Cheney is livid, claiming the investigation “offends the hell out of me.”
Does he not get how his actions and the actions of the Bush Administration offended the hell out of many Americans and other citizens of the world? Clearly not. Cheney and company were rogue leaders. They ignored the rule of law and made a mockery of the constitution of the United States. That’s my opinion. Both now and then.
Cheney claims the use of torture was instrumental in preventing further terrorist attacks on the U.S. That may or may not be true. The newly released CIA documents claim, in fact, that it is difficult to make that assessment. Cheney claims this was the only way to defend the nation. American law suggests there are other ways. More humane ways. And regardless of whether or not these torture practices were effective, the bottom line is Cheney and the CIA may have taken the law into their own hands, regardless of intent. This cannot be allowed to happen.
Even Republican Senator John McCain who, himself, underwent torture as a POW, stated unequivocally:
“I think the interrogations were in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan. I think these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in Iraq… I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed. And I believe that information, according go the FBI and others, could have been gained through other members.”
However, Senator McCain, oddly enough, does not feel there should be an investigation:
“I believe the president was right when he said we ought to go forward and not back. I worry about the morale and effectiveness of the CIA. I worry about this thing getting out of control and us harming our ability to carry out the struggle we are in with radical Islamic extremism.”
It is here that I will differ in opinion with the senator. Law is, in part, a deterrent. It is not simply a punishment for specific behavior. It is in place to create responsibility. If you perform an illegal action, you will be subject to this specific consequence. Individuals or groups who break the law, do so with the knowledge that, if caught, they will face a court of law. If the school of thought with presidents and their administrations is that if you break the law and are caught, there is a good chance you may still walk away unscathed and not have to take responsibility for your actions, then we are opening the door to more presidents and administrations breaking the law with the knowledge that the consequences to them will be little if any. This goes against everything this country stands for, in my opinion. It goes against the very rule of law itself.
There are a lot of people out there, both here and abroad, who want many who worked within and under the Bush Administration to face a court of law to defend their actions. We MUST hold our highest officials to that rule, otherwise we have lost those qualities that make America a shining example of a better, freer way of life. A more civilized way. A way that respects all humankind.
I, personally, think we have a long way to go. But I’d like to see us take some further steps in that direction. Perhaps this investigation is one of those steps.