Getting Past Torture

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There was a touch of the Lincolnesque in President Obama’s statement on the release of the four Bybee memos last week. It smacked of the promise at the end of the Second Inaugural Address to “bind up the nation’s wounds.”

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong
views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark
and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges
and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time
and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is
embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our
core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must
resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf
of our common future.

But this is not just about a civil conflict between political opponents. Actual people–foreign nationals, for the most part–were tortured, under color of the Bybee memos. The last words of the Second Inaugural are a call “to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting
peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
” Such a peace, today, requires more than reflection and a commitment not to repeat past misdeeds.