One of the saddest, most depressing, and most poignant facts of my life right now is that I have friends who still don't acknowledge that the torture of prisoners under American interrogators was ordered at the very top of the US government. The best friend that I have ever had doesn't seem to grasp the concept that just because Bush was outraged when the Abu Ghraib photos hit the press, that doesn't mean he wasn't behind the orders that produced them. It's maddening...we're not accusing Bush of being behind 9/11, or of Obama not being a citizen...the Senate Armed Services Committee and the International Red Cross have found that this was a systematic list of procedures and techniques to be used as routine interrogation techniques. NOT for any "ticking bomb" scenarios like on 24. And Bush knew about it, and acknowledged it in public. And yet, I still can't get him to see it.
It could be worse, though. One of my relatives shouted me down when I so much as used the word torture in conversation by demanding to know, "WERE YOU THERE?!?!?!" Answer: no, I wasn't. You weren't there at Pearl Harbor, or Gettysburg, or Golgatha, either, for that matter. The basic facts remain: American investigators tortured prisoners.
And a finer dissemination of the facts and a laying-out of the evidence than Andrew Sullivan's "Dear President Bush" you will not find on this Earth. It deserves to be held up to a level of near-reverence as any writing by Thomas Paine. He lays it all out for Bush, the entire torture timeline, and then cuts to the chase:
"The model is Ronald Reagan, who denied he had ever traded arms for hostages in Iran but eventually realized that that was indeed the consequence of the actions he took, the men he appointed, and the policy he pursued. Reagan’s speech to the nation on this matter was, in my view, his greatest, because it revealed humility and integrity. “First, let me say,” he told us in 1987,"I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration. As angry as I may be about activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities. As disappointed as I may be in some who served me, I’m still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior … A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.
"If you read the Red Cross report and the Senate Armed Services Committee report, I believe you will reach a similar conclusion about your own record on prisoner treatment. You may not have intended to torture people, but you did; you may have wanted to protect the country within the law, but that admirable desire too easily slid into your approval of actions that are indefensible, illegal, and deeply damaging to America’s reputation and honor. You were let down, as Reagan was. He took responsibility. You need to as well."
Read the whole thing, end to end. Then go back and do it a second time. Even more.
Those of you who have scorned us for questioning the war in Iraq, denounced us as "with the terrorists," questioning our patriotism and even our sanity, have no excuses any more. You are in league with those who approved of the worst mistreatment of human beings as is possible to inflict. Killing some of these people would have been merciful by comparison. The fact that they were terrorists and baby-killers doesn't matter--we are America, and we are supposed to be better than this. We can stand firm in the knowledge that our patriotism is the true version: a patriotism and love of our country strong enough and fearless enough that we will criticize our country when it is wrong and call for its leaders to do the right thing.
I hope Bush does it someday. If for no other--purely vindictive reason--I want to see the rug ripped out from under Cheney.