Conservatives are torn. On the one hand, a “truth commission” to investigate enhanced interrogation techniques employed by the Bush administration would criminalize policy differences, potentially tag the Bush administration’s good faith efforts to prevent a second 9/11 as “war crimes,” and tear the country asunder. All that strikes conservatives as dangerous in the extreme. And yet … the temptation to plunge into the abyss is palpable.
Tom McGuire writes:
So speaking as someone with no love for either Bush or Obama’s likely agenda, I say to the Truth Commission idea, bring it on. Nancy Pelosi being sworn in to lie about what she knew and when she forgot it — she has to be less dangerous to the country that way.
The idea of a truth commission is tantalizing for those itching to puncture the bubble of hypocrisy that has enveloped the Democratic-controlled Congress. As Porter Goss, former head of the CIA and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, noted:
I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as “waterboarding” were never mentioned.
Visions of Nancy Pelosi on the stand, caught in a web of denial and finally revealed as an abject liar, dance in Republicans’ heads. (“So you were briefed, Ms. Pelosi, and never objected! You never moved to cut off funding, did you?”) The desire to settle the score with those who vilify in hindsight but cheered contemporaneously is understandable.
And there is also the underlying suspicion that public truth commissions would prove so controversial and explosive as to permanently hobble Obama’s domestic agenda. Even Obama’s team sensed the danger of this as they pulled back last Thursday, suggesting that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to go dredging up the past. But the prospect of Obama’s ultra-liberal agenda grinding to a halt is precisely what is intriguing for conservatives, who recognize they are running out of procedural roadblocks to halt nationalized health care and the Democrats’ parade of statist proposals.
But most alluring for conservatives is the hope that the argument would finally be joined and the facts presented to the American people to establish what they have long argued: tough tactics (short of the common-sense understanding of “torture”) were used to save lives. The Bush administration, they hope, would finally get the credit it is due for keeping us safe for seven years after 9/11.
And this is the argument that seems to petrify liberals who have relied on the deeply held but factually dubious proposition that this was all “done for nothing.” In their eyes the Bush team was not only barbaric, but stupidly led the country down the path to moral ruin for no reason at all.