Torture is an issue which defines America as a nation


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

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.