Eating our Vegetables

The New York Times’ Editorial Board has rather suddenly found the boldness to call torture “torture” and is now calling on the government to release the “bad” photos from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Shall we forget the past and reward good behavior going forward?

I’m talking about the NYT‘s Editorial Board, not the country, silly.

In my opinion, the most galling thing about this debate and this legal dispute is the government’s argument that releasing the photos will so enrage international opinion that people will rise up and just start slaughtering Americans in retaliation.

When a country commits acts that are nearly universally considered to be crimes against humanity, and are actually supposed to be considered crimes against humanity, then the offending country has to be held accountable in some way. The way America can show that it is different from the thugs who torture people in Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia or Syria or North Korea is to admit what we did and enforce the law.

Hiding the evidence is not redemptive in any way. If the New York Times can come around and admit that the U.S. government had an official policy of torturing people, then the Obama administration can come around, too. They’ve never denied it in words, but they keep going to court to try to shield us from the truth and protect us from the consequences.

The better path is to stop resisting and let the law do its work.

Otherwise, we might as well be Uzbekistan.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at