The NYT lays out some of the particulars, as well as where matters might go from here. I can understand on a purely legal-intellectual basis Obama's rationale for deciding to shield the CIA and private-contractor interrogators from prosecution - and it's surely going to save him from having to take extra flak in Congress and from the right, especially at a time when he's trying to keep more people inside the tent as he deals with the economy as well as Netanyahu's impending visit to DC and to the AIPAC meeting.
But I hope we all understand that the US - and Obama's touted policy of outreach and partnership vis-a-vis the rest of the world - are going to pay a major price, both in popular condemnation and in enhanced recruitment of both jihadists and local resistance fighters in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. In my opinion, the condemnation will be well deserved - and it will be difficult to counter the "recruiters."
I sincerely hope that Congressional Democrats will break with the president if he indeed is intent on turning the page on this entire matter. (Actually, what he's doing reminds me of something I read long ago - in Edmund Morris' book, I believe - about Theodore Roosevelt's reading habits: that when he read a magazine, he not only turned the page, but would rip it out and crumple it.) There needs to be a truth commission, a complete airing of what went on - and the option to prosecute the likes of Bybee, Yoo, and higher-ups needs to be kept open. We pride ourselves as a nation under the law (and, for that matter, under God), that respects international law (at least before Bush came to power) and human rights. To close down any further legal or investigatory options in the matter of government-sanctioned torture puts all of that to the lie. The US's standing to criticize the human-rights abuses of any other regime would be demolished. No more shining city on the hill.
UPDATE: check out Glenn Greenwald's take on all this at Salon.com - with links to a number of other perspectives.
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