But we’re the greatest country on earth…and other lies.

The United States got caught again acting like a medieval king; you know, the guy who could make the rules but didn’t have to follow them?  As the Senate finally released a report documenting our despicable adventures into torture, all sorts of apologists have lined up to either defend the use of torture or to dismiss the transgressions as not that big of a deal.

Senate Republicans scrambled to silence Colorado Senator Mark Udall who had scathing words for Presidents Obama and Bush as well as the CIA.  Threatening to prosecute him for revealing state secrets, the GOP once again showed its true colors when it comes to civil liberties; and those colors are not very bright.  If it would make any difference to those making such decisions, this would be a great time to outline what “state secrets” are in what is at least nominally our government “of the people.”  More on this later.

Because the Senate report detailed what went on in the years following 9/11, there is no need to document here the shameful actions of our government under the direction of George W. Bush and his puppet master, Dick Cheney.  Under authorization of these two criminals, the CIA conducted heinous and illegal acts of torture against persons of interest to our government in the so-called “War on Terror.”  I suppose it could be viewed as less damning if the years of torture had saved a single life; but the Senate report shows that not one piece of useful information was obtained through torture.  Let that sink in.  Not one piece of useful information was obtained.

And what did we lose in the process? We lost more of the luster that we like to claim shines from our shores whenever comparisons are made between the U.S. and other countries.  It just got a whole lot harder to say with a straight face, “Yes, we’ve made some mistakes, but we’re still the greatest country on earth.”  A lot harder.  We lost the moral authority that has often bolstered our claims against the actions of other countries.  And mostly we’ve lost another battle in the war to prove to the world that we are indeed worthy of claiming the role of benevolent emperor.

We have made ourselves a larger target for those who already condemn us for how we treat other countries.  As people take to the streets in this country to show their outrage over our judicial system’s disinterest in prosecuting white police officers for their crimes against minorities, the rest of the world will see another article of clothing hitting the floor as we continue to lose at this high stakes game of strip poker.  Soon the emperor will truly have no clothes and any attempt to claim moral superiority anywhere in the world will be laughed at by friends and foes alike.

There’s plenty of blame to go around.  President Obama has done far too little to condemn the actions of his predecessors and to seek prosecution of those responsible.  There is no statute of limitations for crimes like torture, and now that Dick Cheney has publically admitted he ordered the torture, there is no reason why he shouldn’t spend the rest of his life in a federal prison.  When he said this week that he would do it all over again, he denied himself the opportunity to beg for mercy at his sentencing.  The Obama administration must proceed with prosecution of the perpetrators of torture or it will lose whatever credibility it has left on the protection of human and civil rights.

President George W. Bush must also face prosecution for his crimes, either here or in The Hague at the International Criminal Court.  The torturing of humans is not just illegal in our country.  It’s illegal everywhere in the world.  Just as the Bush administration brokered the “trial” and execution of Saddam Hussein for his human rights violations, so must we see that justice is done now.  Until we exhaust all legal remedies for this national shame, we no longer have the moral authority to judge the actions of other criminals who run other countries.

Claims of keeping “state secrets” have been long overused to protect bungling and illegal acts by our government officials.  I’m not suggesting that there are never things that should be hidden from the public.  But those things should be rare, and once the danger from revealing those secrets has passed, we, the people, should be privy to all the things our government has done in our name.  The criminal acts done in our name are not, and should not, be protected…even it means a former president and former vice-president get to be cellmates at Guantanamo until the day they die and face their maker.  That should be an interesting meeting at the pearly gates, eh?

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