By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
On Meet the Press this Sunday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration is weighing whether to release additional CIA memos from the Bush era on "enhanced interrogation." Similarly, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Defense Department will soon be releasing an additional 21 photos showing instances of alleged prisoner abuse at U.S. military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What possible good can come from this?
Even though the president made clear that he was opposed to any sort of independent commission holding a public review of the issue, some on the left continued to call for exactly that on the Sunday news shows:
"I know some people say, 'Let's turn the page.' Frankly, I'd like to read the page before we turn it," [Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy] said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
He said he wasn't seeking vengeance. "I want to know who was it who made the decisions that we will violate our own laws; we'll violate our own treaties; we will even violate our own Constitution," he said. "I want to know why they did that; what kind of pressures brought them to write things that are so off the wall; and to make sure it never happens again."
Mr. Leahy said he agreed with the idea of releasing more memos and information from the discussions on interrogation techniques.
Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, echoed Sen. Leahy's comments. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, he said, "I think an independent person ought to make assessments on all Americans as to whether or not we committed crimes or not."
A clear-eyed view from overseas, from Clive Crook in the Financial Times: "The drive for prosecutions is a furiously partisan project. The Democratic left is plainly out for revenge more than for justice—and Mr. Obama is wavering in the face of their rage. Already, little hope remains of a bipartisan approach to the myriad problems that confront his administration. If the president fails to get a grip on this new controversy, the prospect of any such co-operation will be nil."
Crook is right: Of course Leahy is seeking vengeance. Carl Levin wants to widen the revenge-taking to making "assessments on all Americans," which I guess means each of us is about to be hauled in for questioning. Leahy says he wants to know who "made the decisions." It's obvious to anyone who's been following the news who the decision-makers were: high-ranking officials across the Bush administration with the approval of leaders in Congress. Leahy wants to know "why they did that." Again, it's obvious why—because we were under attack from terrorists on American soil and had every reason to believe the attacks would continue. Leahy wants to know "what kind of pressures" they were under. Even I can answer that one: They were under extreme pressure to protect innocent American citizens from further attack. There wasn't one of us who thought another attack wasn't imminent.
We can all remember the blame game that began in the days right after 9/11 ... the accusations relating to U.S. forces letting Osama bin Laden go years earlier, the allegations that airport security might have been tighter, the questions about the clues and warnings that went unheeded by the administration. No one wanted to look like they were the weak link that allowed this to happen. And no one wanted to be unprepared when it happened again. In Washington, D.C., we all stocked up on extra food and emergency supplies, and we listened to all-news radio all the time. Those were dark days in the weeks and months after the terrorist attacks—easy to forget now, in the light of day.
The president has outlawed the future use of waterboarding. That's fine. Yet the calls for prosecution keep coming and the memos and photos continue to be released. The long-term effects of this "drip-drip-drip" are countless: the loss of bipartisan cooperation on many issues, the damage to our relations with our allies, the message sent to our enemies, the effect on our soldiers, CIA agents, and national security team...the list goes on. Whether you agree or disagree with the use of "enhanced interrogation," again, what possible good can come of all this?