[If] liberals or progressives express any concern over Bush officials returning to power, they should understand that Obama’s commitment to moving forward instead of looking backward has already empowered these officials. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former counterterrorism head for the CIA, Jose Rodriguez, have all appeared on television to evangelize and preach the Gospel of Torture and how it is effective—that they believe it has disrupted a number of terror plots.
These officials have been vindicated by Obama’s administration, which has let them escape accountability. And, as I have written, without accountability or justice, those who were at the center of acts of torture may work to clear their name, as if they never committed any wrong. They may suggest that if what they had done was criminal, they would have been put on trial. They may point to the absence of prosecutions and say Obama was just spouting hot rhetoric. Civil liberties and human rights advocates and the antiwar or peace activists are all just a part of focus groups, which Obama figured out were misguided once he was introduced to officials from national security agencies.
Parts of history can be rewritten to cloud the record of what really happened. That does not just mean aspects of these torture techniques not repudiated by the lack of investigations into former Bush administration officials may seep back into US interrogation policy but also that abusive techniques like stress positions, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement will likely become more and more entrenched in policy.
Whatever Romney might do as president, if elected, Obama would bear a certain level of responsibility. He had the opportunity to be a leader and, in the first months in office, make use of people like Attorney General Eric Holder and former White House Counsel Gregory Craig. He consciously chose the vacuous and morally bankrupt path laid out before him by his former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and his former Senior Advisor David Axelrod. He chose continuity of government over justice for victims tortured while Bush was president, over ensuring a culture of impunity would not further seep into the government effectively decriminalizing torture. And, as a result, he ensured officials could return to the halls of power to promote their “Torture Works” ideals that support the myth that America must be able to torture people and torture people in secret in order for the country to survive and prosper. [++]