Obama, Cheney, the CIA, and the Waterboard Scandal

President Obama is walking a tight rope when he decided to release previously secret Bush administration documents exposing the truths about torture of suspected terrorists.

As if this should come to a surprise to anyone, early during the Iraq War and the “War on Terror” the Central Intelligence Agency used the method of “waterboarding” to get information out of prisoners who might have knowledge of terrorist activity or an impending terror attack against the U.S.

Bush, but I suspect Dick Cheney more so, authorized these controversial methods in the name of national security. Information regarding secret CIA detention centers in Europe caused controversy, as well as stories of abuses at military prisons in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. These events, while shocking and appalling in their own right, are nothing new.

The reason why this story is so significant is because America gets to see straight from the CIA’s playbook the methods used to torture prisoners. This isn’t revealed through a secret leak or an anonymous source. These memos were released via executive decision. Obama thought these are dark secrets from our not-too-distant past that the people need to know. In order to start national healing and reconciliation, we must have the truth exposed. Besides, the administration received heat from a pending ACLU lawsuit that argues the memos should be released under the Freedom of Information Act. So, its time had come.

Public outcry has poured out following Obama’s decision. Some criticize him for revealing government secrets, some criticize his promises not to prosecute those responsible for drafting the torture manifesto into law, and others criticize whether this will cause strain between the White House and CIA.

Mostly, people are criticizing the methods of torture itself and the fact that Bush hired a legal team instructed to write them into law. The attorneys responsible for justifying torture are Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and Steven Bradbury, who all worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. These people are responsibility for creating our laws. If these are the precedents being established in our legal system, watch out.

These developments should upset Americans everywhere. We should be a country that treats its prisoners with compassion, not like dogs. It has been said that a nation should not be judged by how they treat their law-abiding citizens, but how they treat their prisoners. How we treat our enemies tells us more about who we are than anything else. Waterboarding terror suspects, where the victim goes through a simulated drowning experience, has no place in a first world democracy like ours.

Those defending the memos argue the CIA and Justice Department were living under the fear brought about after 9/11. Their embarrassment over letting 19 Saudi terrorists come into our country and kill nearly 3,000 people explains why they would draft torture into law. Cheney argues that valuable intelligence has come out of waterboarding. He says attacks similar to 9/11 were prevented because of these methods. He says that. But is that actually true?

Regardless, in the future, we should not let fear rule our lives. We should remember that we are just as safe today as we were on September 10, 2001. We have a new president and a seemingly new outlook on U.S. foreign policy. I hope this is a lesson we can all learn from. When we let ourselves become scared of terrorists, we become terrorists. We do things that we would never have done before.

I am glad that we no longer torture our enemies. Now we just bomb them. If we want to achieve anything resembling world peace, it all starts with our laws. Just laws create just societies. If we allow torture to enter into our law books again, no one knows what sorts of tyranny will follow then. I hope I am not alive to see that.

The media and the American people need to be more watchful in the future. We need to make sure our lawmakers create laws that uphold democratic values, not pervert them. This goes for the current administration as well. The fact that President Obama is popular right now should mean nothing. We should pay attention to his policies just as much as we would if Bush were still in office. As it has been said before, vigilance is the price of freedom.

So please, be vigilant.

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