Given that the Washington Post editorial board was pretty sympathetic to some of the Bush administration’s more outlandish national security claims, it says a lot that they’re not willing to follow Dick Cheney down his rabbit hole in regard to Attorney General Holder’s decision to re-investigate allegations of abuse — including murder — contained in the recently de-classified CIA Inspector General’s report.
Correcting Cheney’s false assertion on Fox News that President Obama had promised that “there wouldn’t be any investigation like this,” the editors make the important, if obvious, point that there are few people in American political life less qualified than Dick Cheney to cry “politicization“:
Mr. Cheney is right when he argues that these incidents already have been investigated; prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia and at Justice Department headquarters looked into the abuse allegations and concluded that prosecution was warranted in only one case, involving a CIA contractor. Under normal circumstances, that would and should be the end of the matter. Yet Mr. Cheney is wrong to argue that only partisan politics on the part of the Obama administration can explain the decision to reopen the cases. If anything, the politicization of the Justice Department during the Bush years is to blame for the need for further investigation to ensure that the decision not to prosecute was justified.
Leaving aside why Cheney continues to be treated as a remotely credible voice on these issues, given both his major role in facilitating the abuses being investigated and his extensively documented enthusiasm for saying things that are not true, as Ken Gude demonstrated yesterday, the strongest case against re-investigating these abuses is extraordinarily weak.
That said, while it’s good that we once again have a Justice Department that’s interested in looking into things like murder by U.S. government employees, as I wrote last week I’ve become convinced that we need a deeper public investigation of how the United States became a torturing nation under the Bush administration, and how the ground may have been laid for it by previous administrations, in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. As Admiral Mullen recently noted in his critique of strategic communications, deeds matter more than words. Given the prominent role that torture (and U.S. support for regimes that employ it) has played in the radicalization of extremists from Ayman al-Zawahiri on down, America’s willingness to investigate and hold accountable those who tortured would send a strong positive signal about how a free and democratic country deals with official abuse.
And, frankly, if the CIA torture program was as necessary and effective as Cheney and his flunkies continue to claim — despite the absence of such evidence in the IG report — it seems that few would have more to gain from such an investigation into the Bush administration’s detainee policies than Cheney.