Tortured Inertia

Originally posted on my personal blog here.

Al Jazeera reports that Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked President Obama to prosecute his predecessor and many prominent members of the Bush Administration for torture of terror suspects in legal limbo at prisons like Guantanamo Bay.  “Instead of looking at isolated cases, Obama should probe those responsible for setting up the harsh interrogation practices at Guantanamo and the secret rendition programs overseas as America went to war in Afghanistan,” the humanitarian group said in a public statement.

It’s a well-intentioned plan, certainly.  That the American government tortures (even in spite of its own Constitution and legal code) is an established and despicable fact.  The problem is that the torture didn’t stop when Dubya went home to Texas in 2009.  As with so many other issues, Barack Obama has followed in Bush’s footsteps in matter of detainee treatment, secrecy, and rendition.

HRW is correct that we must be consistent in condemning torture when we find at home as well as abroad.  But the organization’s appeal to Obama as a potential ally is…credulous, to put it mildly.

This is a map from 2010, well into the Obama presidency:

Secret prisons are not a thing of the past.  They are not unique to the Bush Administration.  Torture is a bipartisan “necessity.”  Inertia has once again taken over.

Why would Barack Obama go after Bush Administration officials for policies he’s continued?  (Each word in that last sentence is a unique link, by the way.)  This call for justice from HRW is admirable but, unless it’s secretly intended to bring the spotlight to the remarkable lack of policy change we’ve seen on this matter in the past few years, it’s more than a little naive.

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