We now have the published Executive Suumary of the Senate Select Committee on Inteligence Torture Report. In one of Senator Diane Feinstein’s finest acts of public service, of which there have been many, she demonstrated great courage in rebuffing the efforts of intelligence officials and even the Obama administration itself (as evidenced by John Kerry’s call to her the Friday before the report’s publication) to “delay” publication of the report (until the Republicans took over the Senate and could kill it).
By standing up to defend the Constitution and Rule of Law in the United States, Senator Feinstein offered the nation’s citizens a new “Profile in Courage”–particularly important for the generations that will lead America in the future.
One cannot read the report or even reports of its contents, which reveal new forms of torture such as “rectal feeding”, without experiencing deep disgust and shame over the actions of the United States.
For over two centuries America had been “the shining city on a hill” that served as a beacon of hope for all those in the world who were subjected to torture and other atrocities, or the fear that selective terror can instill in broader populations.
America has a long and difficult road ahead if it is ever to regain its honor and moral purpose.
Those responsible for the policies and acts of torture under the Bush administration must be brought to justice, as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
Americans must examine their own individual responsibility, both moral and political, for the crimes of torture that were committed in their name.
Will that happen?
One day perhaps.
But for Barack Obama, the clock is ticking. He now has less than two years to act to restore the nation’s honor by removing those complicit in torture from high offices in his government, and by moving seriously to prosecute those responsible for the policies and acts of torture committed in the past.
Barack Obama, free from electoral pressures, needs now to think deeply about his place in history.
Will he be the president who evaded his legal obligation to prosecute those responsible for torture, or the president who restored the honor and moral purpose of the nation?
Each path is clear. Which will he take?
What will history have to say about Barack Obama and torture?
The Trenchant Observer