Mr. President You Are Making A Mistake
Dear President Obama;
Sir I have written you multiple letters on the frank necessity of the need to investigate the Bush Administration State Sponsored Torture program. This need was based on the public information available, which to me, as a citizen who believes that unprosecuted apparent crimes undermine the very basis for our justice system and the rule of law.
These letters were before your Administration released the DOJ memos outlining justification for the Orwellianly named “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Mr. President, you are an attorney, more importantly you taught law, and I ask you does what was written there seem like good law to you? Would you, even under any imaginable circumstances offer any legal opinion where waterboarding could be considered anything other than torture?
This is a critical question, Mr. President, because if you answer as I assume you would, that it is always torture then your position is an untenable one. On the one hand you are saying you know that waterboarding is torture, on the other your Chief of Staff Emmanuel is saying your administration will not take steps to investigate and prosecute the people who offered this advice, as though complicity, in fact conspiracy to justify and commit torture were not a crime. It has to be one or that other; there is no middle ground here Mr. President.
Reading Judge Bybee’s memo quite literally made me sick to my stomach. The cold, and seemingly pre-calculated justification of waterboarding (torture to everyone else in the world) was a travesty. The knowledge that it happened to Khalid Sheik Mohammad 183 times is horrifying to say the least. I do not need to remind you the United States has tried and executed enemy soldiers who have done this very act. We also tried and executed those in their governments who ordered and allowed such things to happen.
Mr. President, the rule of law can not survive if it is not applied as fairly as possible. If this were something which another nation had done to US citizens, where would you be on this issue? Would you really be asking them their government to turn a page, to draw a line under it and look forward not backward? This is also a very important question, for in failing to act as the law requires and very minimum investigate the apparent crimes, you are raising the likelihood that some US service member or citizen will be torture in just this way. Sir, with all due respect to you and your Office, if this is how you would protect Americans, then I suggest you consider what protection really means. It is more than just using our fearsome military when needed, it is about setting an example which might deter some nation states and having the moral authority to speak out against this. Right now you do not have that moral authority.
During the Primary Campaign season you said that following;
Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law — and I think that’s roughly how I would look at it.
When you said that, Sir, you inspired me to change my support from a candidate I not only donated to, but worked for in the Caucuses in my State. I found your frankness and willingness look at this issue and stand up for the rule of law to be that compelling. Now a year later, with evidence of exactly the situation you described, it seems you do not find it true under our Constitution that no one is above the law. Those who devised these justifications seem to be exactly that, above the law, and for the weakest and most self-serving of reasons, the political difficulty of investigating and prosecuting.
Was this merely a little bit of campaign fluff? Was it so casual to you that you will treat it as just a campaign promise to be broken and forgotten? If so, then I feel like a fool. I am not a political Pollyanna, I recognize there are things politicians say which are not going to be acted on, but I was fooled here, Sir. If that is the case, then I will, sadly, have to start parsing everything you promised and said. All those inspirational words, I will have to return to and with a cynical, jaundiced eye try to sort which you meant and which were just…politics. I think this is the saddest factor of the whole mess, many of the millions you inspired with talk of hope and change will now find it was just political, just what you felt you needed to do to become president. This may, in and of itself, be as damaging to our nation as the knowledge we are, in fact, a nation which not only tortures, but stands behind the act of torture.
Sir yours is a historic Presidency, as the first person of color to hold the highest office in the land. You are on the verge of being historic in another, far less flattering way; you, Mr. President, are in danger of being remembered for being the President who allowed known tortures to escape both investigation and prosecution. No matter what else you do, and I have hopes you will do many great things in your time in office; you will always have the fact you failed to go after known torturers, not because you could not, but because you would not.
Mr. President, for many years now I have been ashamed of the things my nation was doing; the unnecessary and unjustified War in Iraq, the holding without trial of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners and the general fear mongering of the so called War On Terror. Your election was a time of great pride for me, at last we could move forward wipe the stain of these actions away with the proper respect for the rule of law required by our founding document. I find that I can no longer be proud of my nation, nor you as our President, as long as you let torture, that most heinous of crimes, go uninvestigated.
Sir, you are being told there will serious consequences if you go forward with investigation and prosecution (if warranted) of this torture program. This is frankly true, but I have to tell you Mr. President, there will also be serious consequences if you fail to do so as well. We, as a people, can not turn the page as you would like, can not put this behind us if we do not investigate and prosecute. No people can, torture is a cancer which eats at the very fabric of a society if it is not dealt with directly. All you will be doing is pushing this problem further down the road, for some other President to deal with. If we are lucky there will be no further torture between now and then, if, as is more common we are not lucky then once again men will be tortured for supposed National Security reasons. If we are very unlucky, those men will be United States citizens.
Mr. President, you have the ability to make sure this does not happen. I implore you not to let political expediency lead you to a mistake which the whole nation will have to pay for. It is as simple as appointing a Special Prosecutor and letting following the law from there. I am, in short, Mr. President, asking you to remedy my faith in the rule of law, the office of the Presidency and you. It is a large task, but you have ascended to the leadership of our nation, this is job you asked for, all I ask is you do it, in the fashion I am completely sure you can.