For a nation currently undergoing a massive and ever-deepening financial crisis, a potential failure of Detroit, and now the threat of a possible influenza pandemic, the revelation of legal documents that explain that the United States has tortured detainees is a rough bite to swallow.
Perhaps that's why President Barack Obama expressed at first that he didn't want to investigate the previous administration's activities. Maybe that also explains why it seems that mainstream Americans aren't up in arms about the news. Both of those things need to change.
Obama has seemed a bit more open in the past few days to exploring the possibility of investigating Bush-era lawyers who found the legal justification for torturing prisoners. He has strongly asserted that he doesn't want to prosecute any of the low-level field workers who had performed interrogations, and that's a good thing. There's no reason to go after CIA operatives who believed they were working with the law on their side.
High-level officials are likely safe as well. There are whispers that the legal maneuvering to OK torture might very well have gone fairly high up the totem pole in the Bush administration. At this point, I don't think the country has the stomach for legal action against top officials who may have been involved, and I don't think they'd do much good. The American public doesn't seem to be at all as intense about this than they were about, say, Watergate, and no big heads need to roll in order to quell the public. Yet.
I find myself confused as to why, exactly, we're not extremely angry about this as a nation. The United States has tortured its prisoners, something long deemed illicit by our legal code. It is morally bankrupt in that it abandons American principles in order to "save America." It is bankrupt in practice in that no details have been released on any lives saved by information extracted from torture victims. In fact, torture is widely regarded in the field-level intelligence community as ineffective and counter-productive, as it often provides bad information that ties up FBI and CIA resources.
On top of that, there is a chance that it will soon surface that the Bush administration may have specifically given the green light on employing torture during interrogations to establish a fictional link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 as reality. This would mean the United States tortured prisoners to justify the Iraq war after it became publicly evident that the weapons of mass destruction were nowhere to be found.
Maybe, just maybe, if this turns out to be accurate, Americans will start to feel the appropriate level of anger at the dishonest work of the lawyers who twisted the United States legal system to find a way to make torture acceptable. With enough public outrage, Obama and Eric Holder, the attorney general, would be given the confidence to do the right thing and make public the full extent of the previous administration's highly unethical and perhaps illegal practices and take the next necessary steps in order to preserve the ideals of United States justice.
Alex Berberich is a sophomore Internation Relations major who is utterly outraged at the way people can mistreat each other.