David Broder's WaPo piece calls on Obama to "Stop Scapegoating" Bush's torturers, but Broder does little other than offer scare quotes around the word torture and impute things like "populist anger" and "an unworthy desire for vengeance" onto those of us who recognize that the law was broken--and who expect those transgressions to be investigated and prosecuted. His use of the word "scapegoat" in the title and in this passage
But having vowed to end the practices, Obama should use all the influence of his office to stop the retroactive search for scapegoats.
suggest that Broder is unfamiliar with the origin of the word "scapegoat" (from Leviticus 16):
The scapegoat was a goat that was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. [...] Since this goat, carrying the sins of the people placed on it, is sent away to perish, the word "scapegoat" has come to mean a person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes. (Wikipedia)
Absent the crucial factors of innocence and distraction, the investigation and prosecution of war crimes is in no way "scapegoating" torturers and their enablers. At Harper's, Scott Horton has a few words about Broder's apologetics, writing that "There's hardly a truthful statement to be found anywhere in Broder's column:"
Since I am an advocate of accountability, and Broder presumes to question my mental health, I'll offer a personal response. I have no interest in vengeance or retribution, but I have a strong interest in upholding the rule of law and in stopping torture. Unlike Broder, I do not consider the law to be a political plaything but rather a repository of our highest values. The United States has a series of criminal statutes which apply to this situation and which were violated. Further, the United States signed a very important international convention under which it promised to open a criminal investigation into any credible allegations of torture. At this point there is a uniform consensus that the United States is in breach of its treaty obligation. (A matter of indifference to Broder, apparently). Moreover, its conduct is sending a clear message around the world: the prohibition on torture is a trivial matter which can be defeated by a tyrant in any corner of the world. All he needs to do is hire a lawyer and have him issue an opinion that when he tortures, it's completely lawful.
During the Clinton impeachment era, Broder was indignant about mendacity ("We don't like being lied to," Washington Post, 2 November 1998), but he's all too willing to excuse far worse when the liars are fellow conservatives. Glenn Greenwald delivers the coup de grace to Broder's screed, observing acidly that:
People who bear culpability in the commission of destructive and criminal acts always oppose investigations and accountability -- i.e., what they'll call "looking backwards" or "retribution." They're the last people whose opinions we ought to be seeking on that question.
Frank Rich's NYT column on the banality of Bush's White House evil notes that "there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus 'intelligence' from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding:"
...we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to "protect" us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from "another 9/11," torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House's illegality.
At Washington Monthly, Hilzoy notes the armchair-psych slurs and asks "who died and made David Broder Sigmund Freud?"
If we care about the rule of law, and about the idea that ours is a country of laws, not of men, then we should investigate those who break the laws, especially when they hold high office. The Presidency is a public trust, not a license for criminality.
Not any more, it isn't...