There are tragedies and then there are scandals. The killings of four Americans in Benghazi, as investigations by the State Department and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have already confirmed, was a tragedy, and likely a preventable one. But the Bush administration's regime of detainee torture was both a tragedy and a scandal. The use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, wasn't just a violation of U.S. and international law and a perversion of American values. Torture committed in the name of the United States is a national disgrace and a permanent stain that cannot be erased. And still there has been no accountability for those who ordered it, those who justified it and those who carried it out.
Which is why Republicans and their conservative amen corner now so cynically exploiting the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi must immediately join the call for declassification and public release of the Senate torture report as soon as possible.
In April, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted 11-3 to release its 6,300-page report on the uses and abuses of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency. With the support of Republicans John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), committee Chair Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has urged the White House to make public a declassified version of their findings that was four years and $40 million in the making. Unfortunately, McClatchy reported this week, that requested deadline of 30 days will be missed badly:
The procedure, however, likely will take months, several experts said. That's because it's complex and time-consuming. Not only does the CIA have to review information that came from its archives, but other U.S. intelligence agencies as well as the Pentagon and the State Department have to evaluate material that they provided, they said.For their part, the regurgitators of right-wing talking points like Rich Lowry ("The Benghazi Deniers") should have no issue with the torture findings being made known to the American public. Why should they "mock, stall and disrupt" when President Bush and Vice President Cheney boasted about waterboarding Al Qaeda prisoners, when torture architect James Mitchell recently claimed "it was not illegal based on the law at the time," when torture memo author Jay Bybee is now a federal judge and when former chief of CIA clandestine services Jose Rodriguez brags about having destroyed dozens of interrogation video tapes? Surely conservatives like Lowry (who praised Rodriguez for offering "a robust and persuasive defense of the enhanced-interrogation program") and Mona Charen ("I think he deserves a medal") have nothing to fear.
Especially when they accuse Democrats criticizing the House Republican show trial on Benghazi as claiming "there's nothing to see here." And especially when their doyenne Peggy Noonan in the spring of 2009 declared that torture—and the Bush administration legal documents justifying its use—should be neither seen nor heard:
"Sometimes in life you want to just keep walking. Sometimes, I think, just keep walking.... Some of life just has to be mysterious."To do anything else, the Wall Street Journal, Powerline and what seemed like the entire right-wing echo chamber chanted in unison in 2009, would be to "criminalize conservatism."
Until the Senate CIA report sees the light of day, the Bush administration's torture program will remain a tragedy and a scandal. Meanwhile, thanks to the same Republican Party, the tragedy of Benghazi has become a farce.