As evidence continues to mount on the use of torture by American forces, we should be able to concede that it is wrong, un-American, and even criminal. Only the limited backers of the Dick Cheney-David Addington-John Yoo school of anything goes and to hell with the law would disagree.
What to do for the nation to clean up this mess and move on? The best way is to appoint a small bipartisan commission to collect all the facts and give this ugly episode full transparency. The wrong way to go would be congressional hearings. There is no way to avoid them going fiercely partisan and ending with show trials that would be a circus.
The commission would resemble the 9-11 panel headed by Republican Thomas Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton. They produced a sound report, but the former administration only nodded in their direction and dismissed nearly all their recommendations.
A Republican like Howard Baker and Democrat like John Glenn would make credible and respected leaders of such a commission.
Further, once the commission reports its findings, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder should call off any indictments or ultimate trials for wrongdoing. Some on the left would scream, but they should be silenced.
A notable exception to the lack of prosecution is the person of Jay S. Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge for the Ninth Circuit. It was Bybee, as an assistant attorney general, who wrote the critical memo upholding waterboarding and other brutal forms of interrogation.
The Washington Post reported on April 25 that Bybee's friends say he regrets the outcome of his green light.
It is far too late for that "I'm sorry."
Bybee should be impeached by the House, tried in the Senate, and removed from his lifetime post if convicted. The country cannot have a federal jurist who sanctions criminal behavior.
Cheney, the former vice president, continues to be the outspoken bad actor of the last eight years. He still insists waterboarding is just fine and has produced tangible results. Not many in the intelligence community agree with him and, in fact, say torture is counterproductive.
In recent interviews, Cheney says it is likely the country will be hit again by terrorists. Sure, it could happen again and he would then crow that he gave the warning signal. If such action does not occur, no one will remember his words.
Cheney's conduct is beyond reprehensible. As John McCain's daughter put it. He should just "go away." No one should forget that Obama won the election in large part due to the Bush-Cheney record at home and abroad.
But the country does need to move on. Let a commission do a painstaking and thorough job, release the findings and everyone lower their voices, but after Judge Bybee is no longer called a judge.