Rejecting the Torture Legacy

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Wednesday, December 3, 2008; 12:00 PM

Of all the ways the Bush presidency represented a break with traditional American values, none is more shocking or grievous than the countenancing of torture. So it's no surprise that President-elect Barack Obama is under pressure to make the cleanest possible break from Bush's interrogation policies. And at the same time, debate is hot and heavy over how best to bring light and accountability to such a dark period in our history.

The latest push to renounce Bush's legacy is coming from a dozen retired generals and admirals who are meeting with Obama's transition team today.

Pamela Hess writes for the Associated Press: "They are going into the meeting armed with a list of 'things that need to be done and undone,' retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, chief of the U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994, said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

"'It is fairly extensive'"

Randall Mikkelsen writes for Reuters: "Barack Obama should act from the moment of his inauguration to restore a U.S. image battered by allegations of torturing terrorism suspects, said [the] group of retired military leaders. . . .

"'We need to remove the stain, and the stain is on us, as well as on our reputation overseas,' said retired Vice Adm. Lee Gunn, former Navy inspector general."

The group's list of anti-torture principles "include making the Army Field Manual the single standard for all U.S. interrogators. The manual requires humane treatment and forbids practices such as waterboarding. . . .

"Other immediate steps Obama could take are revoking presidential orders allowing the CIA to use harsh treatment, giving the International Red Cross access to all prisoners held by intelligence agencies and declaring a moratorium on taking prisoners to a third country for harsh interrogations.

"'If he'd just put a couple of sentences in his inaugural address, stating the new position, then everything would flow from that,' said retired Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes, whose regiment in World War Two raised the American flag on Iwo Jima."

As Mikkelsen notes: "Bush has repeatedly denied condoning torture, but the denials have widely rung hollow among U.S. and international audiences."

Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane write in the New York Times: "One of the retired generals meeting with the Obama team on Wednesday, Paul D. Eaton, who oversaw the training of Iraqi forces for the Army in 2003 and 2004, said in an interview Tuesday that it was crucial for leaders to send the right message on the treatment of prisoners.

"General Eaton pointed out that Vice President Dick Cheney once dismissed waterboarding, the near-drowning tactic considered by many legal authorities to be torture, as a 'dunk in the water' and said such statements influenced rank-and-file soldiers to believe that brutality was not really prohibited.

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