Accountability is pretty much off the radar of the anti-war movement. At the recent United National Peace Conference in Albany, no workshop dealt with the issue of holding accountable those who committed/are committing crimes in our names.
People sometimes ask me, "Why do you focus on torture? The wars are a much bigger issue; the drone attacks alone kill many more people." Some point out that legal memos justifying aggressive wars were more damaging than memos "legalizing" torture. I'd respond that there's something especially reprehensible about the one-to-one, face-to-face aspect of torture. Plus the political spectrum opposed to torture is much wider: those who want to protect our own soldiers, limited government advocates, law-and-order types, plus the human rights/anti-imperialist/peace activists.
I was missing the more important point: the issue of accountability. Accountability is crucial to preventing the third, the fourth, the fifth war coming down the pike. Whether it's Kyrgystan or Uzbekistan or Myanmar, if we begin to hold government officials accountable now, those are the wars we might prevent. And though I don't relish putting anyone in jail, locking up those responsible for crimes of war might be the way to do just that.
But we're not going to lock up government officials for prosecuting aggressive wars. There's no public appetite for such accountability yet. But the officially and proudly proclaimed policy of torture gives us just such a possibility. As Rahm Emanuel has said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do." Don't let the callousness of that statement blind us to some truth within it.
That's why accountability for torture is vital. We can create this mindset of accountability that may make future warmongers think twice.
August 1 is the eighth anniversary of the John Yoo/Jay Bybee torture memos. Eight is enough! Join the 24-hour Fast Against Torture (FAT) beginning at 6:00 p.m. that day. Go to your local federal building on Monday, August 2, for whatever time you can, to demand accountability. We in Minneapolis are having a 12-hour vigil that day. Call the U.S. Attorney in your area and ask: With all the allegations and confessions of torture from high government officials, why has no one ever been prosecuted for it? (The only person ever prosecuted under the Federal Torture Statute was Chuckie Taylor, and that was for torture done for the country of Liberia.) Contact President Obama and Attorney General Holder. Write a letter. Wear an "8" on your forehead on Aug. 1-2. Help us create a climate of accountability.
Accountability is the ultimate in anti-war work. Let's prevent the wars of future decades; they need not be inevitable.