At some point--and I'm not really sure when, why, or how--a perception arose in the minds of many Americans that somehow the President was more like a king. Stay with me here, for a moment. What I mean is that every time a major decision in America needs to be made, it feels as though people are waiting for the President to make it.
Take, for example, the torture memos. You've heard about this, right? The Justice Department released four Bush-era torture memorandums to the public, following an ACLU lawsuit claiming the Freedom of Information Act. The contents are simple. They are an examination on the legality of torturing prisoners of the so-called "war on terror". Another way of looking at it is trying to find a way to ignore US and International Law prohibiting torture.
And then, the NY Times reports, Obama tells Congress that "a full inquiry" into the torture system would "steal time and energy from his policy agenda."
I'll just bet that Congress breathed two huge sighs of relief when he told them that.
The first sigh would be because Congress--Republicans and Democrats--were complicit in the torture system, since the Bush Administration briefed them on it.
The second sigh would be because a full investigation of the Bush Torture system would no doubt lead to uncovering the covert tortures authorized by Democratic and Republican regimes going back decades.
The only problem is that of course Obama won't be making an inquiry into the torture system. He can't. It's not part of his job. The investigation of possible violations of federal law is the responsibility of the Justice Department. The prosecution of possible violations of federal law is the responsibility of the Justice Department.
Why the perception that it's somehow King President's responsibility? I'm not sure, but I'll be it has something to do with the prior administration keeping the Justice Department leashed like a pet, and of the simpering acquiescence of its Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez.
So if someone argues that it would be a "distraction" to investigate the torture they are either lying or repeating a lie someone else told them. So don't be afraid to call bullshit.
The other issue that some people feel is worthy of debate it not about whether torture was legal, but whether it was necessary. That maybe these steps needed to be taken to save lives, and law could not predict the state our nation is in.
Let me put it to you this way: If another nation committed any of these atrocious acts against an American soldier or citizen, our righteous fury and indignation would know no bounds. So to claim that it's not okay for them to do it but is okay for us would make you either a hypocrite or a total idiot.
Let me put it to you another way: Can we really expect an extremist religious or political group to not retaliate if we start torturing its members? How many lives are we actually saving?
There is room for only one debate.
The debate is not over the efficacy of torture. The debate is not about the legality of torture. The debate is not about the morality of such tactics.
The only debate we should be having is over how many people should be indicted for crimes committed in the establishment and enactment of the torture regime.
My opinion is all of them.