While most of us were going to class on Aug. 24, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a special prosecutor, John Durham, to investigate allegations of abuse of detainees that were in the CIA’s custody. Declassified documents refer to cases when detainees were threatened with harm to their families if they did not cooperate and cases when detainees were put through fake executions to frighten them. As it stands now, Durham is only authorized to investigate allegations of abuse of detainees, nothing more. Durham is not authorized to look into the legal justification for water boarding, sleep deprivation and other “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Holder should be applauded for his efforts to investigate serious claims of abuse. Clearly this kind of treatment of people, even if they are our enemies, is unacceptable by American standards of decency and respect.
It is unfortunate that the White House has not been more supportive of possible investigations into the treatment of detainees under the previous administration. When asked by members of the media, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said President Barack Obama wants to move forward. Moving forward is all fine and good, but the allegations that have arisen out of places like Guantanamo Bay and Baghdad Central Prison (formally known as Abu Ghraib) demand attention and investigation, whether by Congress or the Justice Department.
Many members of the opposition party have said that the attorney general should not look into this ugly part of our past, even if it is in cases of abuse outside the original legal justification. Move on, they say. By investigating the CIA and other agencies, we are undermining our own security and the security of our fighting men and women, they say.
No, what has undermined our security and the security of our fighting men and women are the very acts that the opposition seeks to defend. Our enemies have used the allegations of torture and abuse as rallying cries against our country. Why should we help them by continuing to ignore these allegations?
With the severity of the allegations before Holder, now is not the time to “move forward.” Now is the time for the Justice Department to launch a full investigation into the allegations of torture and abuse of detainees and the legal justifications of such actions. If investigations lead to the prosecution of former high-ranking officials, so be it. Revisiting these unpleasant parts of our history will not be easy or quick. It is for the sake of justice, that ideal that Americans hold so dear, that the Justice Department must start a full investigation. Without one, justice will not be served, and the crimes of the past will go unpunished.
Patrick Yoxall is a freshman history major from Auburn, Ala.