The question before the president today is not whether to prosecute his predecessors for war crimes; it is simply whether to release the memos that the Bush administration drew up describing in gruesome detail the torture techniques they authorized - or to cover them up. There are zero national security interests in keeping such information secret. The ICRC report has already detailed what was done to many high value detainees, and the methods are unequivocally war crimes, and known across the world. To directly attach such torture techniques to the specific decisions of the Bush administration merely provides accountability. No more; no less. It provides transparency.
If Obama, for some reason, decides to prevent us from seeing exactly what was done then he will achieve only one thing: he will tell the world that the US has indeed authorized and practised war crimes while simultaneously telling the world that America will not be accountable for it.
He will betray all of us who supported him to restore the rule of law. He will, in fact, merely confirm the worst fears of what was actually done while making himself an accomplice to protecting the war criminals who did it. And please don't even begin to spin us with the following:
"We want to maximize the amount of information available to the American people," said a senior administration official involved in the discussions, adding that such a policy has to be balanced so it "does not damage national security interests."
National security interests would only be damaged if the US were seen to be continuing the cover-up of war crimes begun by Bush and Cheney. If CIA staffers believe that covering up war crimes is integral to maintaining their morale, then we need new CIA staffers. This is not about persecuting the CIA. It is about maintaining basic political accountability for decisions and policies that were illegal, unconstitutional and immoral.
There is no compromise possible here, Mr president. Do the right thing.
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