Bernstein considers the consequences:
If Obama and Holder decide to prosecute, there's little question of the results: Republicans of all stripes would rally around their now-persecuted friends from the Bush administration. Republicans of all stripes would feel the need to justify the actions that the torturers took, and to do so they would double down on tales of how effective torture was at supposedly stopping all sorts of nasty terror attacks.
Republicans, I tend to think close to unanimously, would refuse to have any part in any Truth Commission. They wouldn't serve on it, and they wouldn't accept its results; they would brand it a partisan witch hunt. Torturers and those who worked with torturers wouldn't testify. How could they? They'd be incriminating themselves and their coworkers. So the commission might demonstrate some of the truth, but would achieve no reconciliation at all. The deterrent factor for the future would rest on one thing alone, the ability of the Justice Department to obtain convictions and serious sentences, although such sentences would be gone, at least for policy makers once the next Republican president was sworn into office. And yet even then, the more Republicans solidify into the torture party, the more they would be likely to change the law and treaty obligations once they win the White House. In my view, a not at all unlikely result of prosecutions is withdrawal from Geneva during the next Republican administration.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.