I hear Bill Kristol is ok with investigating and prosecuting torturers so long as we throw in some Democrats. Well, yeah, if Dems are implicated in the design and implementation of this policy, they, too, should be held accountable. If it can be shown that Dem leaders signed off on this, they should, indeed, be exposed and prosecuted. But if they did, and it's by no means clear that they or others did, theirs are sins of omission and cowardice rather than commission, of being to weak to resist evil rather than being its active proponents.
But whatever the truth might be, we know that Kristol/Limbaugh/Hannity crowd will do everything it can to brand lawful investigations and prosecutions a vengeance-driven witch hunt unless an equal number of Dems and Republicans are prosecuted. As we saw during the Clinton years they are experts in the high art of the moralistic witch hunt designed for no other purpose but political payback. And that's all they know. A principled, lawful attempt to get to the bottom of this is not even a possibility in their imaginations; it's certainly not something they'd ever do. But why should we care what they think? Why should they have any credibility at this point with anyone in this country who is sane and serious and who cares about the country's future?
Garrison Keillor is a Liberal and generally a sane and serious person, but he, too, writes today that we should just move on. Does his argument open up new ground not already explored by elite defenders of existing power? I don't think so:
Holding the Bush administration responsible for torture would give us some high political drama that would feed the media goat for the next two years and also sap the body politic. The healthcare system would go unfixed, schools would crumble, basic public services would deteriorate, all so that the left could have at the right. I am an old museum-quality Northern liberal, and I know something about the righteousness of my confreres. I've been with old lefty friends who can get emotional about the Haymarket bombing in Chicago and the innocent men railroaded to the gallows, but dear hearts, it happened in 1886. Let's move on.
Retribution is not smart politics. That's part of what killed Rudy Giuliani's run for president, the voters' sense that he was possessed of a cruel urge to pay back old debts. He was meaner than we want a president to be. I agree with Sen. John McCain when he says, "We need to put this behind us; we need to move forward."
I generally find Keillor a sensible commentator, but he's just wrong here. He calls himself a museum-quality, old Northern Liberal, and it's precisely the wishy-washy unprincipled, aw-shucks, let-bygones-be-bygones attitude he demonstrates that is at the heart of why Liberals are such pushovers by people on the right who mean business. This is precisely why sensible Americans see Liberals as weak and unprincipled. The people who mean business feed off this weakness, and the designers of torture policy, if nothing else, they are people who mean business.
Maybe I'm naive to think that vengeance isn't really the issue here for most people, and that because there are some fanatics on the left, like those on the right, operate only in this context of political payback, that's reason enough to prevent the law from taking its course. It doesn't matter that Keillor or anyone else sniffs vengeance in some of the left-leaning types he knows. The real issue, and it's so obvious I cannot believe it isn't even mentioned in his argument, lies in that we cannot allow such an egregious flouting of American and International law to go unprosecuted.
To do so sets a terrible precedent for the future that insures that future flouters will know that they have nothing to worry about. It also sends a terrible message to the rest of the world that we are no longer a country of laws, but a country dominated by an elite class that gets to do anything it wants with impunity. What astonishes me about liberals like Keillor is that he probably thinks this Bush-era torture policy an aberration, and now that we have Democrats in office again we don't have to worry because these aberrants will never again assume influential positions in the government. It's astonishingly short-sighted.
I, like most Americans, have no interest in vengeance. I just want to make sure this never, ever happens again. If you have an argument that shows clearly how we can let these crimes go unprosecuted and not fear that as soon as Republicans come into power that such policies won't be once again implemented, I'll listen. But no argument I've heard yet defending "moving on" has done that. So the people on the right like Kristol and Limbaugh will scream bloody murder about the unfairness of it all does not mean that it is unfair or that it is solely motivated by political payback. It means letting the law take its course, and sane Americans know the difference.