Why We Need to Prosecute Our Torturers
Just when you thought Republicans couldn’t sink any lower, they ask Dick Cheney, the guy who screwed up Iraq, for advice on how to fix Iraq. Seriously, I’m not kidding.
On Tuesday afternoon, the former Vice President spoke to House Republicans at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, where he urged them to take a hard line in the fight against ISIS. The meeting was basically the GOP’s version of a pep rally, and Cheney spent most of the time bashing “isolationists” and talking about how the Bush administration put the U.S. in a position to “win” in Iraq.
Naturally, of course, he said nothing about how everything that’s going wrong in the Middle East right now can be tied back to the Bush administration.
According to the New York Times, “[Cheney] did not discuss the fact that many ISIS leaders were former Iraqi military officers who were imprisoned by American troops, nor did he dwell on the sectarian divisions and bloodletting since the 2003 American invasion.”
Excuse me for a second while I go barf.
Dick Cheney has absolutely zero business giving anyone advice on anything, and if there’s anyone who deserves to be shunned from American public life for the rest of his existence, it’s him. Amazingly, though, Republicans don’t seem to care. They’re just thrilled that Cheney took some time out of his very busy warmongering schedule to come and speak to them.
Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger, for example, told the Guardian that Cheney’s speech to Republicans yesterday “was a great message, something we needed to hear” and said that he hoped it “was an awakening that we have to be very strong.”
Unbelievable. Are these people living in an alternate universe or something? It’s like the past 11 years just didn’t happen as far as they’re concerned. Dick Cheney is a war criminal and a liar, and should be rotting in a prison cell in The Hague, not giving motivational speeches to Republican lawmakers who're trying to look tough during an election year.
The fact that he isn’t in jail, though, and the fact that he is making motivational speeches shows how badly we’ve never come to terms with either the Bush administration or its crimes. And that’s a big problem.
When we, the supposed leaders of the free world, don't punish the worst political criminals in our history, it sets a terrible example for the rest of the world. And when we fail to come to grips with our own country’s crimes, we don’t have any business calling out other countries for their crimes.
To see how badly our not prosecuting the Bush war criminals is affecting the rest of the world, all we need to do is take a peak across our southern border at what’s going on in Mexico right now. According to a new report from Amnesty International, the use of torture by Mexican authorities has grown by over 600 percent over the past decade as the War on Drugs has spiraled out of control.
This is a humanitarian disaster, and under normal circumstances the U.S. government could use its clout as the world's leading democracy to pressure the Mexican government into changing its ways. But thanks to the Bush administration, we have no moral authority left. We can talk all we want about human rights and respecting the rule of law, but when people like Dick Cheney are allowed to get away with running an illegal and unconstitutional torture program, everything we say rings hollow.
Sure, the Obama administration ordered the CIA to stop torturing people five years ago, but until Dick Cheney and everyone else who actually authorized and ran that torture program are sent to jail, or at least publicly repudiated, countries around the world will continue to imitate our bad behavior and use us to justify it.
Like it or not, as the most powerful country in the world, the United States sets the gold standard for global behavior. So when we do terrible things and nobody is held accountable, that gives the green light for everyone else to do the same. But being the most powerful country in the world is also opportunity, an opportunity to show other countries how things should be done.
That’s why it’s time we put Dick Cheney and the other senior officials in the Bush administration who promoted torture on trial for their crimes. This isn’t about politics, it’s about common sense.
If we ever want to be a moral authority in the world again, we have to lock Bush, Cheney, and everyone else in their criminal crew in jail and throw away the key. Every moment they spend outside of a prison cell is a mark against both our democracy and our standing as the supposed leader of the free world.
It’s as simple as that.