In an uncharacterstically strong and principled lead editorial Feb. 19, the NY Times says its "Time for an Accounting" on Abu Ghraib and the administration’s policy on torture and detainment generally. Maybe, finally, a sign that elite consciences are beginning to stir. It is worth quoting at length:
Of all the claims of an electoral mandate made by President Bush’s supporters, none were as bizarre as the one offered by John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer who helped draft the cynical justifications for the illegal detention and torture of "unlawful combatants." "The debate is over," Mr. Yoo told The New Yorker, adding: "The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum." it’s hard to know what is most outrageous about those comments—that Mr. Yoo actually believes Americans voted for torturing prisoners or that an official at the heart of this appalling mess feels secure enough to say that. Certainly the worst possibility is that the public has, indeed, lost interest. The White House has done everything it can to bury the issue. Nearly a year after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the administration still drags its feet on public disclosure, stonewalls Congressional requests for documents and suppresses the results of internal investigations. But the issue is as urgent as ever. Hundreds of men remain imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, years after any information they had might have been useful and in defiance of two Supreme Court decisions. American soldiers hold thousands of Afghan and Iraqi prisoners under rules that remain murky, to put it charitably. American intelligence is still secretly detaining prisoners… And the administration continues to insist that the president has an imperial right to sweep aside the law and authorize whatever he wants. That includes flouting treaties that prohibit sending prisoners to other countries to be tortured… Members of Congress from both parties are proposing new laws on interrogations. Their intentions are honorable… But drafts of these measures risk endorsing some terrible practices… Anyway, it’s too soon for new laws; we still don’t know what happened and who approved it. But that task is now way beyond the purview of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which held important hearings on prisoner abuse. Republican Congressional leaders have made it painfully clear that they will not hold a real investigation. And no inquiry by the executive branch can be credible… The Justice Department can’t do it; Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was part of the problem. We strongly agree with the American Bar Association, which wrote to President Bush on Feb. 1 to urge the appointment of an independent, bipartisan commission with subpoena power. The bar association talked about Iraqi civilians in military custody, but we believe that a panel should look at all prisoners, all detention centers and all involved government agencies. Only a full accounting can begin to heal the nation’s image in the world, clarify the rules, punish those responsible and clear the names of the hundreds of thousands of other uniformed Americans who risk their lives to preserve human dignity and the rule of law.
Yes, that last sentence is filled with liberal illusions. But unless such lip service to consensus reality is paid by the Times (which is their job, after all), we are unlikely to see any real independent investigation—which remains an unlikely prospect at best, Times editorials or no.
See our last post on the ongoing torture affair.