January 6, 2009

Actually, we can handle the truth

How sad for folks like the editors of the Wall Street Journal who see every question facing the country, even those that touch its deepest moral core, in purely partisan terms.

Here's today's rallying cry against a truth commission on torture and related crimes. Set aside that I'm not nearly as optimistic as the WSJ is pessimistic that such a commission is realistically in the offing, and just consider what they think is a winning argument for nipping it in the bud:

In particular, at their nomination hearings they're likely to be asked to support a "truth commission" on the Bush Administration's terrorist interrogation policies. We hope they have the good sense to resist. And if they need any reason to push back, they could start by noting the Members of Congress who would be on the witness list to raise their right hands.

Beginning in 2002, Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats (as well as Republicans) on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were thoroughly, and repeatedly, briefed on the CIA's covert antiterror interrogation programs. They did nothing to stop such activities, when they weren't fully sanctioning them. If they now decide the tactics they heard about then amount to abuse, then by their own logic they themselves are complicit.

You see, says the Journal smugly, "The real -- the only -- point of this 'truth' exercise is to smear Bush Administration officials and coax foreign prosecutors into indicting them if Mr. Obama's Justice Department refuses."

Since this "exercise" exists for now pretty much solely in the left-leaning media, I feel qualified to reply on our behalf that, no, the point is to get at the truth, heal the country, restore the Constitution, and ensure that such crimes are never committed again. It is, of course, preposterous to suggest that Democratic officials share equal responsibility with the Bushistas, but to the extent that they did enable the executive branch's culture of lawlessness, your damn right Congresspeople from both sides of the aisle should be hauled in front of the commission to raise their right hands. The Journal and its so-called conservative allies are so entrenched in the us-versus-them mindset, where "us" is the Bush administration regardless of what it does, that it thinks progressives will be equally defensive of all Democrats and agree to quiet down so that everyone gets off the hook. But one reason we elected an "outsider" to the presidency was to break that mindset. As I said, I don't actually believe Obama will spend much political capital on this issue (though he's at least showing signs of seeking a shift moving forward) but if he were to do so, I can guarantee that the left would not turn against him at the prospect of seeing Democrats held responsible for their own actions, or inactions. Quite the contrary, we want a truth commission because we need the truth — more than we need a cozy Democratic leadership.

Posted by Daniel Radosh

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