It's easy to look at a new Rasmussen poll and think that the United States is no longer a nation of laws. In that poll, 54% think war crimes weren't committed by the Bush administration. Worse, only 25% do. 70% believe "it would be bad for the United States if the former president and senior administration officials were brought to trial for war crimes," with even 54% of Democrats agreeing.
But these are the results of a population kept in ignorance. The media, with their stupid "two sides to every story" reporting, felt the need to pretend that no one really knows what torture actually is. Congress, spineless throughout the Bush's two terms -- even when his approvals were in the tank -- got the vapors and fell into a faint every time someone mentioned holding any Bushie accountable for anything. There were investigations into all sorts of crimes, complete with sacrificial lambs, but when it came right down to it, the investigations didn't accomplish anything, because there was no action taken on the findings. If the public thinks torture isn't a war crime, the press and Congress can be blamed for it. When it comes to this issue, both have failed miserably. The correct response to Rasmussen's question about war crimes should've been "how the hell should I know? No one tells me anything."
Those who study the issue closely and have some expertise in determining torture have done just that -- determined that the US, under orders from the Bush administration, has tortured. There isn't any gray area here; it's a crime like rape or theft -- either you did it or you didn't, you can't kind of do it a little, but not really.
In July 2008, the Red Cross determined that torture was being used by the United States. The report, cited in Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals," tells us that the methods used on Abu Zubaydah were "categorically" torture and included being confined in a box "so small he said he had to double up his limbs in the fetal position" and waterboarding. The Red Cross told the CIA "that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted."
Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told CNN recently that the US had an "obligation" to investigate war crimes by the Bush administration, saying that there's already enough information out there to prosecute former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
"We have clear evidence," he said. "In our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, 'Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture.' So, there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but, nevertheless, he ordered torture."
But, as I said, the media has this idiotic "two sides to every story" theory, which allows any idiot to spew BS and cast doubt on any issue -- no matter how settled. They do it with global warming, they do it with evolution, they even did it with tobacco and cancer, and now they're doing it with torture. This doesn't inform, all it does is confuse.
"The problem for the Bush administration is that they perfected plausible deniability techniques," constitutional law expert Johnathan Turley told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an interview about Red Cross report. "They bring out one or two people that are willing to debate on cable shows whether waterboarding is torture and it leaves the impression that its a closed question.
As a result, people watch pundits try to talk over each other on cable news shows and actually come away from it less informed. There has never, in the entire legal history of the United States, been a time when waterboarding wasn't clearly torture. There has been no case where the defendant was charged with torture, but was later found innocent because it was "just waterboarding." It is torture and it is a crime.
Speaking to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, Turley explained that Obama is required to investigate and prosecute torture. If not, Barack Obama becomes an accessory to the crime. He told Olbermann he had "very little sympathy for the people that committed this torture. I've heard President Obama say we don't want talented people at the CIA looking over their shoulders. Well those talented people in this circumstance would be torturers."
"But in reality nobody thinks that they're going to be prosecuted," Turley continued. "They have something called the estoppel defense where they can say that they were told by people like John Yoo and others that what they did was legal. That does not protect the president and the vice president, and they're the ones and the people just below them who deserve to be investigated and they must be prosecuted if they've committed war crimes or we will shred four treaties and at least four statutes."
The majority of Americans who believe that war crimes weren't committed can hardly be blamed for their confusion. Torture apologists have used the media's "two sides to every story" reporting to their advantage, throwing doubt on what was once a widely accepted truth -- just as creationists have.
But the Barack Obama administration can't make the same claim. They know a crime has been committed and they have a choice to make. Barack Obama has said that we have to look forward, rather than look backward.
I can only hope this doesn't mean he'll look the other way. Because that would be a crime.