It is a big deal, no doubt, that a mainstream news organization such as The New York Times has called on President Barack Obama to prosecute former Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials involved in the post-9/11 torture program.
However, when you analyze the prospect a little more logically, isn’t it a bit too naïve to even consider this possibility?
In the wake of the CIA torture report released earlier this month, the paper’s editorial board demanded the Justice Department launch an investigation into the controversial torture practices committed during President George W. Bush’s government as well as prosecute those responsible for it.
Among those singled out, besides Cheney:
“Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former CIA director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the CIA official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.”
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Oddly enough, Bush, the major architect of the Iraq war, didn’t make the list.
Moreover, the NYT editors addressed the request – of all the people – to Obama, who is himself responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians through his drone program in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
And just like Cheney, who has always maintained that the “enhanced interrogation” torture techniques are justified because they were used to “keep Americans safe,” Obama has also given the same excuse, for almost six years, to cover up what he likes to call “collateral damage.”
Considering this, it’s almost as if The New York Times has asked Obama to launch an investigation – wait for it – against himself. Absurd, isn’t it?
Also, the editorial board would do well to remember Obama’s “official” statement on the torture report.
The president couldn’t be more obvious to express his unwillingness to prosecute those responsible when he said “leave these techniques where they belong – in the past.”
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Apart from this, the Justice Department, which has the authority to pursue such cases, has also made it clear that it will not put any official on trial. As Al-Jazeera noted:
“The body most directly responsible for prosecuting U.S. officials is in Washington is the Department of Justice, but its officials say they have pursued two probes into mistreatment of detainees since 2000 and found the evidence was not sufficient to obtain a conviction.”
Even after reviewing the recent torture report – which explicitly stated how torture laws were violated – the DOJ did not think it offered “new information to reopen cases.”
Isn’t all of this (very basic stuff) enough to understand that no “torturers and their bosses” will be prosecuted?
Like we mentioned in the beginning, it is indeed a huge and unprecedented step on The New York Times' part call for legal action against a former vice president, but it’s an equally huge possibility that it just won’t happen.