The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened to the public this week, a great unveiling that has reignited the debate about the Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques” (read: torture). One of the most controversial elements of the new museum is a video narrated by former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. The video explains that President Bush asked two “very important” questions in his decision to use torture in the post-9/11 “War on Terror”: was it legal? And was it necessary? When allegedly answered “yes” to both of these questions, President Bush proceeded in making detention and torture an instrumental part of his administration’s work.
The real surprise of the video, though, is in Rice’s suggestion that the United States was spared further terrorist attacks because of Bush’s detention and torture policies. Rice argues that, “The fact that we have not had a successful attack on our territory traces directly to those difficult decisions in a new kind of war after September 11th.” This is a dangerous allegation to make, and it underscores the need for our government to reconsider the effectiveness of detention and torture, a fight of which Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has been at the forefront.
Udall correctly commented that the video in the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum “could potentially leave thousands of visitors to the library with the false impression that this wrongheaded program prevented terrorist attacks here in the United States.” Udall seeks to correct the record on the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program and to declassify the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence more than 6,000 page report on that program.
Understanding the effectiveness of Bush’s detention and interrogation programs is particularly crucial as the U.S. now faces a new moral dilemma posed by the Obama administration’s drone programs and the new executive power to legally authorize the targeted killing of American citizens. To move forward without rectifying past misuses of executive power would likely make any hope of future executive accountability unattainable. In order to hold the Obama administration to a higher humanitarian standard and reject the executive power to assassinate American citizens, we must demand truth and accountability from past administrations as well. It is for this reason that Udall’s push to correct the record on the post-9/11 detention and interrogation programs and declassify the 6,000 plus page report is so crucial. You can support Senator Udall’s fight by signing BORDC’s petition to declassify the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report.