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FDL Welcomes Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

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(Please welcome Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the comments — jh)

While most of DC wants to squabble over whether Nancy Pelosi’s non-briefing on torture in September 2002 makes her responsible for the torture that happened over a month before, one person has taken preliminary, public steps to investigate and hold those actually responsible for the torture accountable: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Last week, Senator Whitehouse held a hearing to learn what Abu Zubaydah’s FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan, and Condi Rice’s former Counselor, Philip Zelikow, could tell us about the Bush Administration’s torture program.

Today, Senator Whitehouse will join us to chat about where we go from here. In anticipation of this discussion, Senator Whitehouse sent along part of a speech he gave in January, calling for accountability.

As we look forward, as we begin the task of rebuilding this nation, we have an abiding duty to determine how great the damage is. I say this in no spirit of vindictiveness or revenge. I say it because the thing that was sullied is so, so precious; and I say it because the past bears upon the future. If people have been planted in government in violation of our civil service laws to serve their party and their ideology instead of serving the public, the past will bear upon the future. If procedures and institutions of government have been corrupted and are not put right, that past will assuredly bear on the future. In an ongoing enterprise like government, the door cannot be so conveniently closed on the closets of the past. The past always bears on the future.

Moreover, a democracy is not just a static institution, it is a living education – an ongoing education in freedom of a people. As Harry Truman said addressing a joint session of Congress back in 1947, "One of the chief virtues of a democracy is that its defects are always visible, and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected." Entirely apart from tentacles of the past that may reach into the future, are the lessons we as a people have to learn from this past carnival of folly, greed, lies, and sabotage, so that it can, under democratic processes, be pointed out and corrected.

If we blind ourselves to this history, if we pull an invisibility cloak over it, we will deny ourselves its lessons. Those lessons came at too painful a cost to ignore. Those lessons merit discovery, disclosure and discussion. Indeed, disclosure and discussion is the difference between a valuable lesson for the bright upward forces of our democracy, and a blueprint for darker forces to return and do it all over again.

A little bright, healthy sunshine and fresh air, so that an educated population knows what was done and how, can show where the tunnels were bored, when the truth was subordinated; what institutions were subverted; how our democracy was compromised; so this grim history is not condemned to repeat itself; so a knowing public in the clarity of day can say, "Never, never, never, again;" so we can keep that light – that light that is at once America’s greatest gift and greatest strength – brightly shining. To do this, I submit, we must look back.

Those are words I think many of us heartily support.

Please welcome Senator Whitehouse to FDL. As always with chats, take off-topic conversations to other threads. 

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