Pressure is building on the Obama Administration to launch a formal investigation of former President George W. Bush’s involvement in the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture. Bush has now admitted that he personally ordered waterboarding torture to be used against prisoners. Torture, including waterboarding, is a federal crime.
James Zogby, head of the Arab American Institute, has stated that Barack Obama himself would have legal responsibility if his government were to now to refrain from investigation. “To not investigate these bold admissions of guilt would make this administration an accessory after the fact,” he writes.
Zogby’s comment came after Jerrold Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, issued a statement calling upon Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to begin investigations and criminal prosecutions of the torture that Bush has openly acknowledged, in his new book, took place under his direction. Nadler wrote:
I am outraged by President Bush’s own admission in his newly released memoir that he personally authorized the use of waterboarding on detainees while in office. This admission, delivered without remorse or regret, reminds us disturbingly of the persistent lack of accountability and resolution in confronting the crime of torture committed by our own government. The only way forward is to appoint a special prosecutor with a broad mission to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute these known cases of torture.
Waterboarding has long been considered torture – a view shared by the Obama Administration – and committing or ordering torture is a severe crime under both international and U.S. laws, for which we have convicted foreigners and Americans in the past. The President is bound by the Constitution to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’ Failure to order a criminal investigation would be a serious dereliction of duty. With President Bush’s admission, no further excuses or evasions are conscionable.
Failure to provide accountability for torture will reduce American credibility among foreign nations and endanger American troops by enabling terrorists and future enemies to justify torture using Bush’s own words. We already have extensive evidence of how American torture has enraged foreign populations and recruited fighters for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and various Iraqi militias who have killed and maimed our troops.
The perversion of our laws and treaty obligations in order to support an illegal campaign of torture is a stain on the honor of our nation, and it is essential that those who committed these misdeeds be made to answer for their actions. As I have long said, it is imperative that the Department of Justice ensure that a special counsel fully investigates the commission of torture, follows the trail wherever it goes, and, if warranted, prosecutes accordingly. There is no legal or moral reason to insulate those who authorized or ordered the torture of detainees.