Promising that “a new era of American leadership is at hand,” President Barack Obama has promised that the United States “will not torture” detainees. A series of presidential orders will outlaw rendition flights, order the closings of the CIA’s “black sites,” and outlaw the use of coercive interrogations, physical abuse, and waterboarding.
The move has been applauded by many, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said “a ban on torture says much about us - who we are, what we believe about human life and dignity, and how we act as a nation.” The Bush Adminiatration repeatedly insisted that they didn’t torture, but kept its definition of torture loose enough to allow a myriad of harsh interrogation methods.
And while Obama’s nominee for director of national intelligence refused to say whether he considered waterboarding “torture,” he assured that the practice would not continue under his watch. He likewise later told reporters that an Obama task force would examine past practices and said he thought agents who violated internal standards “should be held accountable.”
I will continue to disagree as vociferously as possible with economic or foreign policies of the new administration when I think they are ill-advised. But--if only for the sake of intellectual consistency--I will also accord President Obama full marks every time he does something right.
This is right. Taken in tandem with his EO on the closing of Gitmo, President Obama has moved to remove a major stain from the honor of the United States by disowning inconstitutional tactics that--Jack Bauer fantasies aside--have not made us one whit safer since 9/11.
Thank you, Mr. President.