"Patriotism is supporting your country all of the time, and your government when it deserves it." -- Mark Twain
Well, the other shoe has finally dropped. And it fits a left foot. Nancy Pelosi's, as a matter of fact. Many others' too, most likely. With the newly released memo showing that she and Porter Goss were briefed on Bush administration torture policy as a early as September 4, 2002, a lot of inexplicable behaviors are starting to make sense. It has always been hard to fathom why she would declare -- and apparently enforce -- a party policy where "impeachment is off the table". It was hard to fathom why others in Congress, even a trooper like John Conyers who laid out the case for impeachment, were so resistant to actually pursue it once their party gained the majority in Congress.
A couple of years ago I spoke to Congressman David Wu (D-OR) after a town hall meeting and he gave me a well crafted but unconvincing explanation why he considered impeachment to be off the table. He said the evidence did not meet the very high bar required for impeachment. Taking the nation into a costly war on the basis of spectacularly faulty assertions of non-existence WMD's and where "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of invading Iraq (according to Sir Richard Dearlove, former chief of Britain's MI6) didn't meet that high bar? I couldn't fathom why he and so many others in the House and Senate didn't want to touch the issue with a ten-foot pole.
And now, in 2009, another set of crimes comes to the fore, this time involving torture. And again, there is that reluctance to touch them with a ten-foot pole. The torture memos that President Obama himself ordered released, provide inescapable evidence of war crimes committed during the past administration(s), yet he declines to pursue investigations, saying it's time for "reflection, not retribution". Such inaction brings his own administration perilously close to complicity in those crimes. Why the reluctance? I understand that he doesn't want to hobble his ambitious programs for recovery, or set off a powder keg that will blow away everything he's trying to accomplish. But as Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley says, he doesn't have a choice in this matter. He is obligated by Article 2 of the Constitution to make sure the Justice Department prosecutes crimes where there is compelling evidence. And there is, oh boy there is.
Now, with these new revelations about Nancy Pelosi's early knowledge of the government's policy of EIT's (enhanced interrogation techniques ... torture by any other name), it's all starting to make sense. She, and who knows how many others in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, could well be charged with serious, serious crimes -- up to and including war crimes. Investigations might well take down many in Congress and elsewhere in government. So be it. If you have a suppurating wound, covering it up with a bandage without treating it is about the absolute worst thing you can do. It may be painful to clean it up, but that's the only way it will heal instead of killing you.
Unlike many in this country (apparently), I have great faith in the strength and resilience of America to tackle many challenges at the same time. Truth be told, it was a lack of faith in American principles that got us into this horrible mess in the first place, that led men like Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales and Jay Bybee and others to bypass the rule of law and from there to embrace the heinous torture techniques of our enemies (using the SERE program as a "how to" manual!). However good their intentions for protecting our country may have been, their subversion of American and international law has brought dishonor upon our nation -- and has increased our danger, not diminished it. That subversion of all we believe in, those crimes left unaddressed, are the suppurating wound that needs to be cleaned up, not covered up.
The law is no place for politics, so get it out of that arena! An independent special prosecutor needs to be appointed and given free rein to follow investigations wherever they may lead. The composition of Congress may change as a result, but I have great confidence that we will manage somehow and come out stronger than before, don't you?
We're at a crossroads of history and the world is watching. As a beacon to nations, they want to know if we -- when the chips are down -- have got the guts to uphold the American principles that they admire and have themselves emulated over the past two centuries. It would be shameful if our failure to clean our own house forced countries like Spain, inspired by American ideals, to stand up for the rule of law where we won't.
The question facing us is simple. Do we as a people have the courage to demand that our government uphold the rule of law -- and lift Lady Liberty's sputtering torch up high again -- or will we allow our leaders to shove this loathsome torture business down into a dim basement, hoping no one will notice when the sickening stench comes seeping back out from under the closed door?