Craig’s Departure, the Ban on Publication of Any Torture Photograph, and Reaffirmation of the Prohibition Against Torture

Excellent articles by Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf in TIME and by Laura Rozen on her Foreign Policy blog on Politico suggest that Greg Craig, the White House Counsel, was dismissed because, among other reasons, he championed too vigorously the cause of coming clean on torture.

An unexpected consequence of Craig’s losing the battle over publication of photographs of torture has been action by Congress and the Obama administration to block publication of all photographs showing torture after September 11 during the Bush administration.

The dismissal of Craig reminds us that torture will not be done with us until we are done with torture.

A process of purification of the national spirit, of atonement for sins that have been committed, of reaffirmation of the fundamental moral and religious values that have been violated, is required if we are to be done with torture.

Wholly aside from the photographs, it is urgent that the full facts regarding the use of torture and other inhuman treatment by U.S. agents be made public, in words, now.

If nothing is done to bring to justice–or at least accountability before a Truth and Reconciliation Commission-–those responsible for ordering or committing torture while employed by or acting under the authority of the United States, these same individuals will be subject to arrest and trial in other countries,

With respect to torture, there is only one goal worthy of the history and traditions of the United States in protecting human rights.

That goal is “zero tolerance for torture”, by the United States, or by any other country.

The U.S. administration should be urged to put the issue of torture behind us by coming clean. There is no challenge more fit for President Obama than the passionate defense of a fundamental moral principle that is vital to our nation’s character, and our essential purpose in the world.

Rather than dodging charges of torture in the recent past, the United States should be leading a movement to end all torture, in all countries, now.


Could it be that the ECC’s very limited statistical sampling of the August 20 election results–examining only polling stations representing the most egregious cases of fraud–vastly understates the real extent of the fraud, and hence the likelihood that Karzai can actually beat Abdullah in a second round?

Isn’t it time now for an emergency reorientation of our policy towards the Karzai government, with a view toward decisive action in the coming days? During the Cuban Missile Crisis, it should be noted, President John F. Kennedy was not engaged in a wide-ranging policy review, but rather using his Executive Committee to help him decide how to deal with missile-laden Soviet ships bearing down first on Cuba, and then directly on U.S. navy warships blocking their route to Cuba.

President Obama’s policy review is valuable and should continue, but he needs to focus now on the ships bearing down on us and Afghanistan in the next few days.

The Trenchant Observer


The situation in Afghanistan is desperate. As President Obama and his advisers debate how many additional troops to send to Afghanistan—at this time…the debate…does not address the diplomatic and political failures which have led to our current predicament….If their critical nature and root causes are not grasped and addressed, the dispatch of additional troops to Afghanistan will not reverse a deteriorating situation, just as the dispatch of additional troops in 2008 and earlier this year failed to halt the advances of the Taliban.

One overriding fact remains. Our diplomacy in Afghanistan has not been successful. It has failed. It has failed in a catastrophic way.

Following catastrophic diplomatic and political failures, we may need a new diplomatic team in Kabul, better decision-making structures and personnel at State, more vigorous Congressional oversight, and a whole rethink of whether the “aid and development” element of our strategy in Afghanistan, as currently implemented, makes any sense given our experience on the ground. Certainly we need to bear in mind that our counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq, to the extent it has been successful, has depended in critical part on free elections and the development of a legitimate government that could gain the support of the population. Finally, we should never lose sight of the fact that what we do about the election fraud in Afghanistan will have profound repercussions in Iran, and beyond.