The Torture Memo

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Ben Cohen
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Abu Ghraib by rhondawinter.

A prisoner is abused at Abu Ghraib(photo by rhondawinter)

By Ben Cohen

The release of the Bush Administration's memos on torture has the media and blogosphere alight, with a ferocious debate on Obama's decision not to prosecute the people responsible. The memos revealed what we already knew - the codification of the use of torture, and the legal manipulation the Bush Administration used to justify it.

Obama must be given fair credit for his decision to publish the memos, but his refusal to prosecute those guilty of war crimes is a massive blow to his image as a true reformer. It adds to the nagging notion that Obama is indeed just another politician, a cautious centrist without the courage to follow his convictions. Obama has urged the nation to move on from the disgusting behavior of the Bush Administration saying it is a "time for reflection, not retribution."

How Obama can justify this to himself is beyond me. Those guilty of torturing other human beings, regardless of the legal advice they were given by their superiors, should be put in prison. As should those who ordered it, and those who condoned it. 'Following orders' is not an excuse for such crimes, and to claim otherwise disgraces the trials at Nuremberg and the ideals the international community have striven to build over the past 60 years.

We should also be mindful that this is a minor footnote in the enormous litany of crimes committed by the Bush Administration. While the codification of torture is horrific, the act of preemptive war is far worse, and there is little from the new administration or mainstream media about that.

The memos that definitively proved the use of torture as policy provided a glimpse of hope for the progressive community that the Bush Administration may be held accountable for at least some of its crimes.

Now that glimmer has gone.