I sat in the sun and ate fresh halibut with a friend of mine last night.
He’s German. He told me about watching the horrifying filmstrips and movies about the Holocaust in school as a child. Decades later, Germany is committed to acknowledging the crimes of the past, and determined not to repeat them. He said he was sickened…ashamed by the actions of men, but strengthened by the fact that the Nuremberg Trials held accountable, and eventually executed the war criminals. Because of this ultimate public accountability, Germany was separated from the Nazis who had ruled them.
War crimes. If a picture tells a thousand words, the pictures now being held back by Obama, scream volumes. Their testimony demands the light of day much like the men in our containment. The argument of “inflaming the terrorists” is out of touch at best. They already know. To deny justice while exporting “democracy” has fueled the flames of hatred and painted our hypocrisy like graffiti across the Constitution. The opposite of truth is cover-up.
We must face ourselves with proof. This is not Tupperware in the back of the fridge you throw out without looking inside…this is who we are.
A military friend of mine disagreed with me. He pressed me, “What do you want?”
“The truth,” I said.
My friend asked, “What would you do with the truth?” As he spoke, Jack Nicholson snarled in my head, “You can’t handle the truth!”
I answered, “I can’t handle the lie.”
“What if you could waterboard out the cure for AIDS? What if you could waterboard out the solution to your precious Arctic Ice dilemma?”
I thought about it for a second, it almost seemed like a trade worth making, almost reasonable…and I realized how this happened. The shiny, baited hook of fear caught in the throat of so many Americans begging for safety at any price-the same Americans who now defend torture. It’s too late to spit the hook.
“No. It’s a crime.” I said.
The Nuremberg trials proved not only the guilt of those tried; they cemented the civility and rule of law of the international community. Robert Jackson did not allow us to be defined by the evil nature of our enemies; thereby bringing forward “The Greatest Generation.”
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East prosecuted Japanese war criminals. The Class A war crime was described as “A Crime against Peace.” According to Japanese records, 5,700 Japanese individuals were indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Of this number, 984 were condemned to death.
In both Tribunals, those convicted were hung; stripped of the military custom of firing squad. In their final walk to the gallows they knew they’d been graced with justice; something they had denied millions.
Under our flag Americans have died to protect our ideals. Our flag was ripped apart during the Civil War; the mending made us stronger. What our flag symbolizes, is best said by Bruce Springsteen, “You know that flag flyin’ over the courthouse; Means certain things are set in stone. Who we are, what we’ll do and what we won’t.” The Bush administration did the unthinkable; they took our flag in vain. The traded it for torture, war, and lies.
So, now to answer the question of “What would you do with the truth?”
We must acknowledge the Rule of Law over partisan hackery. Put down the Kool-Aid, regardless of whether it’s Red or Blue. That this matter has become political is astounding to me. Those on the left that are willing to move along, or are trading the economy for justice, or fear those on the right calling war crimes trials “witch hunts”, are enabling partisanship where none should exist. There is a simple solution; present evidence and try the perpetrators. “Just following orders” was no defense in Nuremberg or Tokyo. “Just following orders” and waterboarding a man 183 times in a month is certainly indefensible today. Everyone involved from those that executed the enhanced interrogation orders, to Bush lawyers David Addington, John Yoo, and Jay Bybee, must be held accountable.
If found guilty, let them be sentenced.. On that day, the “R” or the “D” after someone’s name won’t matter; the “CWC”, convicted war criminal, will.
Then, like Germany and Japan, we will rebuild our identity beyond the crimes of regime holders.
For a solemn day, we drape our national monuments in black.
We wear black on our sleeves.
We resolve we will not let it happen again.
We show the world we have truly changed.