I have written many times in this space that I oppose any criminal prosecution of prior-administration officials on torture or other issues relating to the Iraq War and the war on terrorism, especially those CIA interrogators who relied in good faith on the instructions of policymakers and the legal opinions issued by Justice Department senior officials.
I have agreed with President Obama on the need to look forward, not backward.
But … I have changed my mind about the need to indict former Vice President Dick Cheney for complicity in illegal torture.
His insistence on putting himself on multiple TV programs and conservative radio talk shows, not only defending torture but offering the defense that it worked, has changed my mind. Not only that — he went on to attack Mr. Obama as weakening the United States in the war on terrorism because Mr. Obama immediately announced that torture would no longer be allowed.
Dem's fighting words. They are also, in my view, reckless and irresponsible. They seem to be laying down a marker that in case, God forbid, there is a terrorist attack, Mr. Cheney can be the first to blame it on Mr. Obama's policies and say, "I told you so."
Even more, they seem to be an in-your-face dare by Mr. Cheney to the U.S. criminal justice system: "I am Dick Cheney, I approved violations of the law in the name of the war on terror, and what are you going to do about it?"
It reminds me of Gary Hart's reaction in the early days of his 1988 presidential campaign to the rumors of his womanizing. Mr. Hart denied the charge — and then dared the media to catch him. Well, they took him up on his dare (specifically, the Miami Herald did). And they caught him — at least in a compromising situation that led to his withdrawal from the campaign.
So as to Mr. Cheney: I think it is time to take him up on his implicit dare and indict him for violating the 1994 federal law against torture.
Now this is of course good news because whether we like it or not, the media helps shape public opinion and public opinion helps shape policy decisions. But I also want to call attention to the analogy Davis draws with the Gary Hart situation. If only we had a media today that would take Dick Cheney up on his challenge in they way they did back then with Hart. Journalists who don't believe in "looking forward and not back" and who are determined not to "just keep walking". But you push for investigations with the media you have, not the media you wish for.