By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor Law, University of Toledo College of Law
Obama admits on August 1, 2014 that the United States tortured Al-Qaeda detainee suspects after 9/11.
Let us take a minute to reflect on that admission.
Am I the only one who remembers the last twelve years of mendacity, denial and wordplay by Executive, Legislative and Judiciary leaders about what we were doing?
How about the Hollywoodization of torture starting with 24 and Jack Bauer?
Now that there is an admission that crimes were committed (as opposed to just saying mistakes were made), let us also remember the efforts to call our grunts who did the bidding “bad apples” or “loose cannons.”
That the grunts violated their UCMJ obligations means the few who were court-martialed were properly convicted. They violated the oath they swore.
But, those orchestrators of that torture also swore oaths and also violated those oaths. Those orchestrators in the Executive and Legislature were enabled by the hurdles put up by the Judiciary to block any civil accountability for the torturers by their victims.
That broader picture begins to show the breadth of the torture crime that – like an oil slick – oozes through every part of our governmental structure.
Now that the torture is admitted as malfeasance and not just misfeasance, that is progress in the United States game of seeing malfeasance at the bottom and only misfeasance at the top.
But when the top admits the malfeasance – the crimes – go right to the top and are owned by the United States and not just placed on some grunts at the bottom, then we need to address the logical next step.
The tone of the “what’s next?” answer is weak – it is the hope that a report when released will remind us for the future not to do this again. ThaT response, in the parlance, is not even a slap on the wrist. It is being put in a time out in the corner.
This approach insults the law banning torture and the ideals that underly the characterization of it as one of the greatest international crimes. It is like looking at the Cleveland torturer of the three young women for ten years and saying he should not have been brought to Justice.
In short, it is more mendacity by the state rather than the kind of forthrightness that the law against torture calls from each state.
High-level orchestrators have to be indicted and prosecuted. Anything less is just more show that is beneath the dignity of Americans and a betrayal of the law and our ideals. It is chickensh*t as it kowtows to horrible people with influence rather than exercising the power that comes from the light of truth and public criminal process. It ignores the rot in the house rather than bringing in the carpenter to make it stand true. The truth will set us free so please free America of the stink of the torturers.