Brilliant post, Judah. I was nodding my head as I read in hearty agreement, until the final two paragraphs, that is.
It would be nice to believe that a clean, orderly, non-partisan legal process run out of Congress or by some Congressionally appointed body could get to the bottom of all this and cleanse our collective conscience about past uses of torture.
But, I don’t think that’s possible. The debate that resulted from the actions of even the most well-intentioned investigative body on torture would probably not ultimately be about torture at all, but would end up being about settling political scores, and invading Iraq and many other things that the United States needs now to put behind it as it faces even tougher challenges ahead.
Secondly, even if we happened to stumble upon a reasonable process, would it even be possible reach a conclusion about who was responsible? Wasn’t this a collective, as opposed to individual failure? As David Brooks said on the Newshour tonight, who are you going to prosecute? The president? The guy who wrote the legal memos? Is writing legal memos illegal? The CIA personnel who were following orders? The members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who knew this was going on?
It’s going to have to be enough to admit the wrongs that were done, pledge that this won’t ever happen again and move on. And the Obama administration knows that. That’s why they initially arrived at the correct but unsatisfying (to both sides) policy of releasing the documents but not supporting prosecution. And that’s why there won’t be any commission, or any public investigation.