Yesterday the U.S. Senate released the long-awaited report on CIA torture. In an OpEd in the New York Times, Anthony Romero, the president of the American Civil Liberties Union, stated that he thought the people involved all the way up to the President should be pardoned. Romero’s logic was that only a crime could be pardoned, and therefore by pardoning these people the President would be a acknowledging that crimes had occurred.
Were only that easy.
Today, CNN reported that in response to that release, former VP Cheney said that he would do it all again and that report itself was deeply flawed. In that same response he indicated that he hadn’t actually read the report. Where I come from, before one can be forgiven, one must first seek forgiveness. Those who tortured but do not see the error of their ways must learn that a civilized society rejects them and their ways. The best way to convince them and others that we think torture is wrong is to hold those who are responsible accountable in a court of law. Mr. Cheney may never have been in the chain of command. What we see from him is simple puffery, an attempt to grab the microphone once again. His actions are those of a chicken hawk.
Some of the people who committed torture do in fact regret their actions, as was all too clear in an editorial in yesterday’s New York Times from former intelligence officer Eric Fair. Mr. Fair freely admits that he tortured. However, he did so under the color of authority of the United States. It is therefore not appropriate for the President to pardon him, either; because neither the President nor the people of the United States are the aggrieved. Rather, it is for the President to apologize to the victims on behalf of the United States in whose name these acts were committed, and for the Attorney General to prosecute. Once that has happened, and if the victims wish it, then and only then should he consider pardons. I would go so far as to add that Mr. Fair is also an aggrieved party, as he has scarred himself through this experience. Maybe the next person called upon to torture will learn how to say “no”. Maybe the Senate report will help us understand what happened, so that it does not happen again. It happened on our watch.