Today is a sad day. It is the ninth anniversary of the John Yoo-Jay Bybee “torture memos,” which were eventually withdrawn after unsuccessfully attempting to define torture out of existence. But it’s our actions since that time that truly sadden me.
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I am saddened that we have yet to charge a single person under the Federal Torture Statute for any torture ever committed in the name of the United States. Given the overwhelming evidence, how is that possible? How have we and our government officials let that happen?
I am saddened that the recent completion of the preliminary investigation by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham confirmed what many of us suspected: no one responsible for authorizing the torture program was ever the intended focus of that investigation.
I am saddened that no one can take seriously any claim that we live under the rule of law, applied equally to all of us.
I am saddened by the silence of my senators and congressman. I am saddened that not one of them has seen fit to ask how a former high-ranking public official, George W. Bush, can repeatedly proclaim his involvement in torture and no one in the Justice Department says a word, let alone lifts a finger. And both of Minnesota’s senators sit on a committee with oversight responsibility for the Justice Department.
I am saddened that Senator Klobuchar, in a meeting with a group of torture accountability activists, said torture was officially authorized and, other than line people, those responsible should be held accountable, but she would leave it up to the Justice Department. The same Justice Department that has opposed virtually every attempt on the part of victims of U.S.-committed torture to seek civil redress in our courts? Give me a break.
I am saddened that Congressman Ellison, when a Republican was President, saw fit to co-sponsor impeachment resolutions that included accountability for torture provisions, but now that we have a Democratic President who wants this issue to disappear, Rep. Ellison’s call for accountability has disappeared as well. No mention of it since President Obama took office. His statement at a public breakfast meeting that “I am not a prosecutor” just doesn’t cut it.
I am saddened that Senator Franken’s staff told our group that he was with us, but we have looked around and can’t find him. We have heard not a word from him about accountability for torture.
I am saddened by their capitulation to what is politically fashionable. We heard from them about the lack of political will to move on this issue. We heard requests for large numbers of phone calls that would give them cover. My God, we’re talking about torture here. I wish one of them would show just a smidgeon of political courage.
Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said that the United States, as the standard bearer for human rights, has a higher obligation to see to it that its standards are upheld and enforced. “Once the United States started to dip those standards,” she said, “it was like a tsunami of bad practice around the world.”
I am saddened that none of my representatives in Congress or the Senate seems willing to be the standard bearer. They and we are part of a tradition that created those standards. From Harold Stassen to Hubert Humphrey to Don Fraser, Minnesota has been the cradle of human rights standards. And now we lack anyone willing to ruffle some feathers and uphold that tradition. Even as both of our senators sit as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And even as Congressman Ellison holds the title of Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Today is a sad day.