Interrogation Nation

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate
offers the smartest take so far on George W. Bush's noncoerced
confession that he authorized waterboarding and aggressively defended
torture as part of his "legacy" to future presidents:

The old adage held that if they couldn't get you for the crime,
they would get you for the coverup. But this week, it was revealed that
both the crime and the coverup will go permanently unpunished. Which
suggests that everything in between will go unpunished as well. In an
America in which the former president can boast on television that he
approved the water-boarding of U.S. prisoners, it can hardly be a shock
that following a lengthy investigation, no criminal charges will be
filed against those who destroyed the evidence of CIA abuse of prisoners
Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. We keep waiting breathlessly
for someone, somewhere, to have a day of reckoning over the prisoners we
tortured in the wake of 9/11, without recognizing that there is no bag
man to be found and that therefore we are all the bag man.

President Barack Obama decided long ago that he would "turn the
page" on prisoner abuse and other illegality connected to the Bush
Administration's war on terror. What he didn't seem to understand, what
he still seems not to appreciate, is that what was on that page would
bleed through onto the next page and the page after that. There's no
getting past torture. There is only getting comfortable with it. The
U.S. flirtation with torture is not locked in the past or in the black
sites or prisons at which it occurred. Now more than ever, it's feted on
network television and held in reserve for the next president who
persuades himself that it's not illegal after all.

Since Barack Obama became president, the debate over torture
in America has taken a morally corrupt turn. Defenders of the old
regime continue to defend the use of torture as essential to the
nation's defense. Their claims are contradicted by the facts: torture
was used to extract false confessions that fueled, among other things, the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses.
The fact that America tortured is still a principal recruiting tool for
radical Islamists. But Obama has kept silent in the face of all of
this, not wishing to engage torture apologists in debate. More
significantly, he has apparently encouraged his Justice Department to
squelch any meaningful investigation of torture, in violation of the
clear requirements of law. A policy that says "don't look back" means
the triumph of torture: while we may not be captives of our past, we are
the captives of our perception of the past.
When one side offers an airbrushed version of the past and the other is
silent, then, in the binary world of Washington, victory goes to the

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