OPINION: President Obama’s Moment Of Truth

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Beating, pulling at a fingernails, burning with hot irons, suspension from ceiling fans. No, you read correctly this is not an anachronism for some 9th century feudal lord dispensing medieval punishment on his peasant followers. This, my friends, was a vital part of the Bush Doctrine and their war on terror. Since the release of the classified torture memos, there has been a plethora of evidence indicating that the Department of Justice signed off on torture and clearly implicates the Bush Administration for war crimes.

President Obama and Eric Holder, the man who would most likely be responsible for assigning a lead prosecutor if he chooses to do so, as well as many prominent conservatives have shown great disdain and question the legality of the state sanctioned memos.

Harold Koh, the Dean at Yale Law, and a former lawyer at the Office of Legal Counsel under Ronald Regan had this to say: “…the Bybee memo is perhaps the most clear legally erroneous opinion I have ever read.” He goes so far as to say that it was a “clear violation of international law and human decency.” Even Bush-era officials have distanced themselves from this memo. Many of them are still looking for work and have recanted Bybee’s memo as “abstract academic theory”. Anthony Gonzales’ reticent response during his hearings at the Senate judiciary committee five years prior should have been a clue.

Impeachment of Bybee and disbarment of John Yoo

So what is Obama to do? You’d think with his background as a student and teacher of constitutional law, he would be vehemently opposed to such gross abuses of power, but his belied comments regarding the “memos” has left much to be desired. He is willing to acknowledge that Bush’s far-reaching attempt to redefine established military policies (in compliance with the Geneva conventions) were wrong but is not willing to go beyond plain rhetoric.

Mr. Obama, I have some legal counsel for you: The only way to address these deplorable actions and appropriately address the gross abuses of power is criminal prosecution and making sure these policies are never repeated. What leg do we have to stand on when we scold China for their human rights abuses, or question Iran about their state affairs if our own house is not in order?

Many people have argued that there is enough on Obama’s plate, but how can we, as a nation, move forward without correcting and learning from our mistakes?

It’s understandable that Obama is unwilling to open Pandora’s box. But if he is earnestly seeking to restore American credibility and standing abroad, criminal prosecution is the only acceptable route. The mandate should be relative to an individuals involvement in conceiving policy. There have been models for this, from the Nuremberg Trials to the South African Truth & Reconciliation hearings. Holder should immediately appoint an independent prosecutor, seek disbarment and criminal prosecution of both Bybee and Yoo and go down the chain of command similar to how it was done in the Nuremberg trials for top level officials. And for low-level interrogators, many of whom have publicly renounced water boarding, they should be given amnesty but be ordered to give detailed accounts of the effectiveness of their interrogations and the subsequent results.

And the committee leading these trials MUST be independent.

A perfect chance for Holder to redeem himself

Holder, who is still haunted by the Marc Rich pardon, can redeem himself by seeking prosecution. Here’s the hilarious irony of this situation: Congress was willing to impeach Bill Clinton, a sitting president at the time,  for receiving some under the table satisfaction. Sure, the “legal” issue was his alleged perjury. But the point here is that there has been precedent set for the impeachment of presidents. If we, as a nation, can stand by and allow a sitting President to be impeached, why can’t we bring prosecution against an entire administration that bastardized our nation’s Constitution in the name of false security?

Beyond any other crisis the nation faces right now (economy, Iraq, unemployment), the question of prosecuting those responsible for the torture of anyone under U.S. custody is our defining moment. The decision to go forward with prosecution will do more to uphold American values and ideals than any decision Obama has had to face.

Step it up, President Obama. THIS is truly your moment of truth.

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Ali Abidi is a writer and entrepeneur based out of Staten Island, New York. He produces beats for a rising band of hip-hop artists and is venturing into the big, bad world of t-shirt design. His work can be found (and purchased) at illminds-inc.com & imiisthelabel.com.

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