Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sex Scandals and Torture: A Case of Misplaced Moral and Legal Outrage

So let me get this straight: when Clinton had inappropriate sex in the White House, people (and by "people" I mean Beltway journalists along with Republicans of all stripes) were willing to spend tens of millions of tax dollars to investigate (I believe Ken Starr spent in the ballpark of $75 million on his investigation). No laws were broken, but it was relentlessly covered in the media and the impeachment hearings were broadcast live.

And yet the Bush administration broke the law by authorizing torture on enemy combatants, and now many of the same people who wanted Clinton thrown out of office are saying we need to let this go. "No need to bring up the past. Let's look forward in the name of post-partisanship." Never mind that, effective or not, torture was -- and is -- a felony in this country.

I'm not giving Clinton a free pass. His actions were deplorable. But not felonies. And you couldn't pick up a paper or turn on a TV without hearing the latest about it.

Of course the torture stuff is all over print and broadcast media these days, but for some reason the Beltway press is playing it as Obama's problem. Never mind that guy who had the job before him who actually approved the illegal interrogation techniques.

I'm not going to argue the effectiveness of torture. Many people say that it worked, but I've seen more evidence that the most useful information was gleaned from subjects before they were waterboarded. Still, let's ignore this and go back to my original point: torture is a felony, and we're just supposed to shrug our shoulders and let it pass?

I don't think the grunts who administered the waterboardings should be prosecuted; they were just following orders. I think the people who approved the use of those techniques should be, however. Their twisted logic justified techniques that, once shown the light of day, are not standing up to the rule of law, and those people should be held accountable no matter what their prior status or title was.

Why are so many people -- especially the Press -- suggesting that high-level government officials aren't subject to the same laws as everyone else? For more on this topic, see Glenn Greenwald.

Where is the moral outrage? I'm pissed that the previous administration authorized this barbaric treatment of prisoners, and I'm pissed that it looks like they'll be allowed to get away with breaking the law without facing any consequences. How can this be less worthy of investigation and prosecution than a president having an extramarital affair? Between this and the free pass on the illegal wiretapping, I just don't know what to say anymore.