President Obama is resisting calls for an investigation into torture and other abuses during the Bush years, so the chance to learn from our mistakes is slipping away.
Mr. Obama understandably wants to focus on economic recovery rather than a dissection of the past. Why fritter political capital on an inquest that would antagonize Republicans and imperil our economy and his agenda?
Mr. Kristof calls for a non-partisan truth commission dominated by Republicans and ex-generals to probe torture, detention, and wiretapping under Bush:
As a nation, we’ve repeatedly trampled on individual rights during moments of national fear — the Palmer raids after World War I, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the McCarthy hearings at the dawn of the cold war. We may well do so again after the next major terror attack, particularly if it turns out to have been planned by people who were released from Guantánamo.
We’ll be better off if we come to some consensus on these issues. The Kerner commission on race and the 9/11 commission are both examples of how we as a nation used such panels to gain a better understanding of our shortcomings. Such a commission would also help heal the divisions with the rest of the world and help renew America’s reputation.
I am not sure how much of "the truth" needs to be classified and how much can safely be told but this approach is consistent with the stand taken by Jack Bauer. Presumably, Bush's supporters should not be afraid of the truth (if it can be told). Let the public learn and decide. The obvious caveat would revolve around whether this approach would preclude prosecutions; without such protection I assume a lot of people would take the Fifth and walk away.
Let me mock Mr. Kristof's second notion:
The second step has to do in particular with transforming Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Obama’s pledge to close the prison there within a year is a big help, but even so the word “Guantánamo” will live as a recruiting tool for Muslim terror groups.
So let’s do more than just close the prison. The best move would be to hand Guantánamo back to the Cubans.
Why spend tens of millions each year for a naval base that has very little military utility? We can project power in the region from Florida, and the main effect of the base has been to bolster Cuba’s Communist regime by creating a nationalist backlash and a scapegoat for the Castros’ repression and incompetence.
Granted, returning the base to Cuba may not be politically realistic. So here’s a fallback alternative: turn the base into a research center for tropical diseases.
Uh huh. C'mon, there are people all over the world who doubt that the US ever put a man on the moon. If we take Mr. Kristof's advice within ten years, "Gitmo" will be legend as the place where the US took prisoners in order to perform medical experiments on them. Maybe this is a good idea for some other political climate and audience, but not now.
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