President Bush is lying to the American people.
Those are words that I have never uttered before in public. To make such a serious allegation against my country’s leader is not something I do lightly.
Consider the President’s words in Panama: “We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do … to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture.”
As the President well knows, the sad fact for all Americans is that many of the interrogations we have conducted are not within the law. As many current and former government and military officials recently told PBS’ Frontline, we have tortured – and even killed – prisoners in our custody.
Government documents obtained through our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit describe hundreds of incidents of torture and abuse in excruciating detail. It is clear that these are not the actions of a few rogue soldiers. The mere existence of thousands of government documents on torture underscores the systemic nature of the problem. There are also videos and photos showing torture and abuse that government lawyers are fighting like mad to suppress.
If the President really wished to solve the torture scandal that has marred America’s standing at home and abroad, he would own up to what has happened. He would ask the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to investigate and prosecute the torture and abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. He would not threaten to veto the legislation proposed by Senate Republicans led by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, which would ensure that no one is above the law, and no one – regardless of their office or rank – can order anyone else to break the rules and abuse detainees.
Holding high-level government officials accountable for torture and abuse is the only way to ensure that we will not repeat these mistakes. And upholding the rules of war will help ensure that no member of the U.S. military is subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment when they are captured by the enemy.
But our president’s lies merely add insult to the very real injury that has already occurred.