Kristol wants rewards for torturers

KRISTOL WANTS REWARDS FOR TORTURERS…. Bill Kristol devotes his new Weekly Standard column to warning Republicans to expect to stay the minority party for a while. As he sees it, the GOP, if history is any guide, won’t have a legitimate shot at reclaiming the congressional majority until, at the earliest, 2012, and probably won’t be able to reclaim the White House until 2016.

With that in mind, Kristol ponders what Bush might do with his remaining weeks in office to help Republicans “get the credit they deserve for successes in Iraq and the broader war on terror.” As part of his list, the conservative pundit wants to see some pardons.

…Bush should consider pardoning — and should at least be vociferously praising — everyone who served in good faith in the war on terror, but whose deeds may now be susceptible to demagogic or politically inspired prosecution by some seeking to score political points. The lawyers can work out if such general or specific preemptive pardons are possible; it may be that the best Bush can or should do is to warn publicly against any such harassment or prosecution.

But the idea is this: The CIA agents who waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the NSA officials who listened in on phone calls from Pakistan, should not have to worry about legal bills or public defamation. In fact, Bush might want to give some of these public servants the Medal of Freedom at the same time he bestows the honor on Generals Petraeus and Odierno. They deserve it.

I can understand why Kristol might be worried about this. As we discussed last week, Newsweek reported that Obama is considering a 9/11 Commission-style investigation of the administration’s crimes torture interrogation practices.

But there are, not surprisingly, a few things wrong with Kristol’s request. First, there’s Kristol’s frightening belief that those who commit acts of torture deserve rewards. It’s just, on its face, twisted.

Second, there’s the fact that the Bush White House “isn’t inclined to grant sweeping pardons for former administration officials involved in harsh interrogations and detentions of terror suspects.” Why? Because a) the torture policies are, as far as the president’s team is concerned, legal; and b) pardons for those involved might lead some to think the policies weren’t legal.

And third, as Faiz Shakir noted, the idea of the Medal of Freedom going to U.S. torturers would be offensive, but it would also be consistent with Bush’s use of the honor: “In the Bush era, the Medal of Freedom has come to absurdly represent a reward for those who carried out policy failures at the urging of the Bush administration. By this standard, the implementers of torture and wiretapping certainly qualify for such a medal.”