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Why a Torture Investigation Will Be Good For Obama and The Country

May 6, 2009

The Obama administration and many of his supporters are of like mind in agreeing that a rigorous investigation into the Bush administration’s torture of detainees, though desirable on principle, would be destructive of the Obama agenda for correcting this country’s larger economic and political problems. Thomas de Zengotita, contributing editor at Harper’s, points out in an article for the Huffington Post that such an investigation might actually be a good thing for America, both in principal and in practice. He explains that Mark Danner, in an article for the New York Review of Books

explains why a formal investigation would be good for Obama and good for the country. He focuses on another question I have always shied away from, to wit: did torture “work?” As in, did it yield intelligence that helped foil another attack? Why did I shy away from that question? Same moral outrage reason. That torture policy was wrong whether it happened to “work” or not in some particular case. But this issue is at the heart of the Cheney position and Danner shows how carefully and cleverly he is putting it out there. First the claim that the torture did work followed by a call for the release of mysterious classified documents that he says will back him up. The fact that FoxNews pops up first on a google search for this story only buttresses Danner’s point.

Cheney and Fox (and Friends) are setting us up. They are gambling that another attack on American soil, perhaps a very serious one, is highly likely in the next few years. Are they hoping for it? I’ll report, you decide. But in any case, they are right. It is highly likely. And if and when it happens, then Cheney and Fox (and Friends) are going to be in a position to lead a Rightist Renaissance based on the claim that Obama Democrats have been soft on terror whereas, after 9/11, Bush and Company were tough on terror – and so prevented attacks. Movement conservatives and the Republican Party will be redeemed at a stroke.


Unless a full investigation of the whole torture issue yields a credible official conclusion, graven in the historical record, a conclusion that says: torture did not in fact yield any information that prevented another attack. That has to become the conventional wisdom before there’s another attack – or it will be game over.

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