As was noted yesterday, we’re engaged in this utterly surreal dance where the morally blind are leading the ignorant. We still don’t know what has been done in our names. Were it up to them, we would never know. But trust us, they say, we did what we had to protect you. We won’t tell you what. And, oh, by the way, please pardon us for our misdeeds, if any.
So many layers to the torture debate, but for me this is the icing. In an op-ed piece, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman writes:
Under cover of the controversy involving the military tribunals and whether they could use hearsay or coerced evidence, the administration is trying to pardon itself, hoping that no one will notice. The urgent timetable has to do more than anything with the possibility that the next Congress may be controlled by Democrats, who will not permit such a provision to be adopted.
Creating immunity retroactively for violating the law sets a terrible precedent. The president takes an oath of office to uphold the Constitution; that document requires him to obey the laws, not violate them. A president who knowingly and deliberately violates U.S. criminal laws should not be able to use stealth tactics to immunize himself from liability, and Congress should not go along.
The President would have us believe that he would do anything, bear any burden, to protect this country, even strap on the flight suit himself and land on an aircraft carrier. But in a day and age when the Commander in Chief is not required to literally stand in harm’s way, the only burden he must actually bear is to uphold the Constitution and see that the laws are faithfully executed.
It is a significant burden–not the burden of a soldier in Anbar, to be sure–yet a real burden nonetheless. But much as he did in the National Guard as a callow young man, the President, having failed in his duty, is trying to wriggle out of any accountability for his failure.
We will prosecute the lowly reservist at Abu Ghraib, who when outmanned and under regular mortar attack, snaps and commits depravities that are strikingly similar to the “interrogation techniques” authorized by the President. But for the President and his entourage, we offer the equivalent of a tax break for the rich, a pardon for all their sins.
The sinner, in most Christian tradition, must first acknowledge his sins before he may atone for them. This President, I expect, will never regain the moral high ground, if he ever held it. And if he insists on and is given a pardon for himself, then this country will miss its best opportunity for a complete accounting of what we did and to whom. The longer we put off that accounting, the longer it will take to regain the moral high ground.