That, in a nutshell, is the twisted Washington mentality when it comes to lawbreaking: when political crimes become so blatant and extreme that they can no longer be safely excused (Watergate, Iran-contra, Abu Ghraib), then it's necessary to sacrifice some underlings who carried out the crimes by prosecuting them, but -- no matter what else happens -- the high-level political officials responsible for the crimes must be shielded from all accountability.
I fear that this is exactly how Washington operates. The governing class, which includes the Washington Post (an extended arm of the government in so many ways and filled with 'journalists' whose goal in life is becoming friends with those in power) has no interest in exposing that they went along with a policy of torture for years. The overwhelming concern of a man like Fred Hiatt is to protect his neocon friends who devised and implemented torture as a standard operating procedure. The last thing the Washington Post would want is any inquiry into those really responsible for turning the US into a torture-state. Because those people - Rumsfeld, Yoo, Cheney, Bush, Addington, Libby, Rice, Tenet, Ashcroft, Bybee - are part of the inner circle. They are the Washington over-class, the people Washington Post journalists and commentators have dinner and cocktails with. You can't accuse them of war crimes. How rude! So find someone outside our circle, and prosecute them. It worked once with the Abu Ghraib scapegoats. Why not find some more?
The Washington press corps still refuses to call the Bush techniques torture, adopting the lies of the government as truth, allowed brazen defenses of torture on its op-ed pages, has one columnist, Charles Krauthammer, who has pioneered and championed the torture of prisoners, fired anti-torture columnists like Dan Froomkin, and now want to cast a blessing on the torture program by singling out just a few who went beyond it. So they get the appearance of actually caring about the subject while protecting their friends from any unpleasantness caused by brutally torturing hundreds of prisoners. I mean: how can one invite Don Rumsfeld for a salon at Lally Weymouth's house if he is, gasp, a war criminal? But Rumsfeld is a war criminal, and he should be treated as such in Washington. He isn't. Because he is of their class. Lynndie England, doing what Rumsfeld told her to do? She went to jail. Rummy gets a fat book contract and invites to Washington parties.
The longer I have lived in Washington, the more corrupt it appears. That includes large swathes of the press. The cooptation of the Washington Post by the torture-mongers should therefore come as no surprise - and Obama's refusal to investigate torturers is a reflection of his own so-pragmatic-it's-cynical belief that such matters do not really count for much - certainly not as much as a successful presidency. This is not a conspiracy. It's just the kind of elite corruption you usually see in banana republics with no rule of law and a coopted press.