My guest today is progressive activist and frequent OpEdNews contributor, the PEN. Welcome back to OpEdNews, PEN.
JB: Over the last several years, we've covered a wide range of subjects, including saving the bees, net neutrality, the toxic TPP [still being pushed ahead], Citizens United and your various film endeavors. What's on your mind today?
PEN: The big news of course is the long delayed release of the Senate torture report, the summary of that in the first instance, and an issue we've been shouting about for many years now. And the most remarkable new development in response has been the jaw-dropping call by the president of the ACLU to pardon Bush and his fellow torturers, on the argument that this "may be the only way to ensure that the American government never tortures again."
JB: You've got to be kidding, PEN!
PEN: I wish we were. This has got to be hands down the sappiest suggestion we have ever heard. Pardons would send one message and one message only to the would be torturers of the future, full steam ahead and there will be pardons for you too! The ACLU's president's proposal would lockdown guarantee that the American government DOES torture again!
The fact is that while President Obama may have exercised his personal DISCRETION to repudiate torture (as far as we know, and while the drone murders continue), it remains a US policy option for the future. All it would take would be another single terrorist attack of any kind, and any future president could put America right back in the torture business big time in a heartbeat, based on the categorical and elective refusal to prosecute for these war crimes of the relatively recent past. This very day, John Brennan, current CIA director refused to say that they would not do the SAME thing in the future, stating "I defer to the policy makers in future times."
We'd like to emphasize that this is NOT a political decision, nor should it be. John McCain (himself a victim of torture) in particular should be applauded for his courageous words of truth on the Senate floor. And what is most appalling to us is the failure almost across the board of any so-called viable candidates for the next presidential election to speak out on this. What a despicable collection of unmitigated cowards and angle shooters! And by the way, the correct response is in fact that this should not be a political decision, and none of them even have the gonads to say that much.
Some in responding to the release of the Senate torture report have opined that with the Republicans taking over the Senate that nothing can now be done. To prosecute or not prosecute is not a decision for Congress regardless of who is in the majority. This is a decision for the Justice Department. To President Obama's eternal shame he clearly interceded with Holder to derail any such prosecutions, for misguided (to say the least) reasons of political expediency. If he thought going easy on Bush would gain him Republican cooperation in Congress he was a complete chump. And were he to pardon Bush now, it would be one final kick in the teeth to his supporters.
The response of the right wing, gung ho supporters of American torture, has been predictably lame, a mixture of (1) this is old news (as if there were any statute of limitations, and exploiting the Republican's OWN longstanding opposition to the release of the report), (2) they were just following orders (the very defense rejected when Nazis committed virtually identical acts of torture), (3) torture worked (with the only witnesses for that the torturers themselves, which have been systematically debunked), (4) and it was all legal (because the torturers contrived their own tortured legal opinions to justify themselves).
Well, guess what, bank robbing works too. It's a way to get money. But it is no less a crime. No bank robber has ever been acquitted based on the sheer and naked promise that they won't do it again, a promise that we can not even count on here, and would be fools to believe even if there was one.
JB: Do kudos go to outgoing Sen. Mark Udall for releasing the report altogether? I understand there was a lot of pressure on him not to do so.
PEN: The public face out in front of this has been Senator Dianne Feinstein, but this was a whole committee decision, one that we suspect could not have happened come next January, given that the Republicans are taking over this Senate committee as well then.
The question then is what are WE going to do now. The first thing we are inclined to do is pile on the ACLU with action page submissions to call them out on their unprincipled reversal. Their president says his new proposal turns his stomach. That part he got right, it is stomach turning. And the same message needs to go to President Obama, NO pardons.
We produced a whole full length feature dramatic film about all this two years ago, The Last War Crime, and we have encountered nothing but roadblocks and censorship trying to get the word out about our first movie. Cumulus Media Inc., the second largest conglomerate of radio stations in the country, refused to run an ad for the film on their flagship Washington DC news/talk outlet. We filed a federal lawsuit challenging this, and we have an appeal going with still a breath of life in it about that. Viacom (MTV) also refused a paid ad for their Times Square jumbotron, but we felt the best test case was the radio station, which is under FCC regulation.
Anyone who wants a DVD screener copy of The Last War Crime movie now can get one for a contribution of any amount on our page for latest film project, Citizens United, The Movie, which is also now nearly completed.