Holder may have done some good things, but he also betrayed his country by not prosecuting torturers

It’s fun to see the differences between the mainstream media’s coverage of Eric Holder’s resignation as U.S. Attorney General and that of the right-wing media. The mainstream is praising Holder, in particular for his department’s actions to protect voting rights, decision not to defend the federal law against same-sex marriage, supporting sentencing reform and going after corporate criminals. The right-wing media is glad to see him go, mostly for the same reasons.  I write “fun” and not “illuminating,” because we learn nothing new from how the various media are analyzing Holder’s impact. Most people could have predicted that the New York Times would basically like Holder, while the Wall Street Journal would hate him.

But in the battle to define Holder’s legacy, virtually all the news media are leaving out the disgraceful decision that Holder and his boss, President Barack Obama, made early in their first term: not to pursue criminal cases against the traitors who betrayed American ideals and broke U.S. laws by creating a global gulag of torture chambers. Obama, Holder and their coterie of advisors declared that the past was the past and that it was better for the country to move on.  True, the torture stopped (as far as we know), but those like Dick Cheney, John Yoo, Jay Bybee and David Addington were let off the hook with not even a slap on the wrist.

Remember what these men ordered others to do: Pushed prisoners’ heads underwater until they were about to drown, pulled them up under and then plunged the heads into water again, multiple times. Made prisoners stand with their hands tied in an uncomfortable position for days on end.  Stripped and blindfolded prisoners. Set vicious dogs on them. Pushed lit cigarettes into their ears. Made them roll over excrement. Humiliated them by making them masturbate then taking photos of it.

Some of these prisoners were hard-boiled terrorists, but others were merely fellow travelers or completely innocent.  None of them received the due process that should be the right of anyone who goes through the U.S. judicial system, citizen or not. Of course, they never had the opportunity to go through the system, but instead were illegally dumped into torture chambers.

What did the torturers and everyone else learn from Holder and Obama’s refusal to prosecute the creators and implementers of the torture policy: That it’s okay to break whatever law and moral code that you like in the United States—as long as you are in power.

Whatever Holder’s legacy, refusing to prosecute the torturers is a blood-red stain on it that can never be expunged. Like Gerald Ford pardoning his former boss, Richard Nixon, it attempts to put a lid on a stinking cesspool which instead should have been drained and cleaned.


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