“It takes one’s breath away…”

Here is Norm Ornstein, eminent political scholar, on the Republican efforts in Congress to sabotage Obamacare — “it is simply unacceptable, even contemptible…and it takes one’s breath away.”

“But to do everything possible to undercut and destroy its implementation—which in this case means finding ways to deny coverage to many who lack any health insurance; to keep millions who might be able to get better and cheaper coverage in the dark about their new options; to create disruption for the health providers who are trying to implement the law, including insurers, hospitals, and physicians; to threaten the even greater disruption via a government shutdown or breach of the debt limit in order to blackmail the president into abandoning the law; and to hope to benefit politically from all the resulting turmoil—is simply unacceptable, even contemptible. One might expect this kind of behavior from a few grenade-throwing firebrands. That the effort is spearheaded by the Republican leaders of the House and Senate—even if Speaker John Boehner is motivated by fear of his caucus, and McConnell and Cornyn by fear of Kentucky and Texas Republican activists—takes one’s breath away.”

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So that we never forget…

I saw this sign, “Torture is always wrong,” outside a Presbyterian church in Columbus, Indiana during my recent visit there. It can serve us well as a reminder that it is ten years ago this week since lawyers in the Bush Administration issued the “torture memos” justifying torture.

“Torture is always illegal,” writes Morris Davis, law professor and retired Air Force Col. and former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in today’s Los Angeles Times. “And we should mark the 10th anniversary of the effort by the Bush administration to justify torture, remembering that as a nation founded on religious and moral values, we must work to ensure that U.S. government-sponsored torture never occurs again.”

“Torture apologists” and Osama bin Laden’s death

As I pointed out yesterday, with every hour we learn more about how Osama bin Laden was tracked down and killed.

Front-page articles in today’s New York Times and Washington Post are, of course, a must to read, but I would also point to The New Yorker’s website, and its blog News Desk, where invaluable reading can be found in a number of articles by the staff, in particular Jane Mayer’s piece on the new torture debate in the “Bin Laden Dead: Torture Debate Lives On.”

In comments about bin Laden’s death, leading Republicans like Dick Cheney have praised President Obama, but many of the comments have been stingy and some have completely avoided giving Obama any credit, as Sarah Palin did not do in a speech yesterday in Colorado. In many of the Republican comments Obama’s success is really the result of the foundation laid by President George W. Bush, including the harsh interrogation methods – – torture, plain and simple — against al Qaeda members in secret prisons and at Guantanamo.

Jane Mayer writes:

Well, that didn’t take long. It may have taken nearly a decade to find and kill Osama bin Laden, but it took less than twenty-four hours for torture apologists to claim credit for his downfall.

Mayer refers to the organization “Keep America Safe”, where Cheney’s daughter Liz and Bill Kristol published a “victory statement” that praised the Bush administration’s interrogation methods, without mentioning President Obama at all.

Also Slate’s legal columnist Dahlia Lithwick writes about “torture apologists” in her comments, “Closing Pandora’s Box”.

She writes: we can never prove or disprove, that the Bush administration’s interrogation practices led to bin Laden’s death. All we can say with certainty is that we tortured. And we must now decide if we want to continue to live like that.

With Bin Laden’s death, let’s simply agree that the objectives of the Bush administration’s massive anti-terror campaign have finally been achieved, and that the time for extra-legal, extra-judicial government programs—from torture, to illegal surveillance, to indefinite detention, to secret trials, to non-trials, to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay—has now passed. There will be no better marker for the end of this era. There will be no better time to inform the world that our flirtation with a system of shadow-laws was merely situational and that the situation now is over.

Conclusion: a better America!