An old bumper sticker offered a stinging response to the Bush-Cheney regime’s enthusiasm for waterboarding: “Impeach Bush,” it urged. “Torture Cheney.”
Bush and Cheney escaped unscathed. The Senate has just released an astonishing report detailing the depths of their depravity, but neither is likely to end up before a judge.
Yet stunningly, there’s a new debate — this time within the Obama administration — about whether anti-torture treaties apply to U.S. troops and intelligence agents overseas.
Once upon a time, Barack Obama himself took a firm stand against torture. As a U.S. senator in 2005, he strongly supported a bill by his Republican colleague John McCain to prohibit American officials from engaging in cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of detainees — not just on U.S. soil, but anywhere in the world.
Then, on his second day as president in 2009, Obama proudly signed an executive order banning torture.
But now, military and spy agency lawyers are pushing the administration to embrace a loophole that Bush created after Congress passed the McCain bill.
Goaded by his snarling, autocratic vice president, George W. claimed that as commander in chief, he could override the torture ban if the cruelty took place in detention camps and other “black site” facilities on foreign soil.
Even though Obama’s 2009 executive order directly refuted the Bush “overseas” loophole, hawkish forces now want the White House to refute its own refutation, leaving wiggle room for torture in U.S. foreign policy.
Unfortunately, the Obamacans are wobbling, with some aides calling this change a “technical” issue.
Hardly! A ban is a ban — not a matter of fleeting policy, but of settled moral principle. It’s a statement to the world of who we Americans are.