Liberal bloggers and cable outlets have been having loads of fun with the prospect that Spain may indict (opens in new tab) former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other top Bush administration officials on charges of torture and war crimes. But this is nothing to joke about. It's a serious, politically inspired attack on U.S. sovereignty, President Obama ought to speak out forcefully to nip it in the bud.
The Spanish indictments, if they are granted, are unlikely to result in arrests. Certainly, the U.S. would never turn the officials involved over to Spain, but the charges could make it difficult for the ex-officials to travel abroad. More important, it sets a dangerous precedent and we need to tell Spain in no uncertain terms to mind its own business. Let it go after the atrocities in the Sudan or civil rights in Russia before it gets involved in U.S. affairs.
But there are members of Congress and many others who may make a serious case for investigating the interrogation practices of the CIA and the military under the Bush administration. So far, Obama has been reluctant to go there -- not wanting unnecessary partisan furor and not wanting to take on a fight that seemingly has little to do with the future direction of the country, especially now that he's moving to make changes in interrogation policy.
But as Stuart Taylor points out in a thought-provoking column (opens in new tab) in the National Journal, there are too many legitimate questions about what happened to ignore. Taylor makes a strong case for the U.S. taking a serious look at whether abuses occurred, and he suggests doing that by appointing an independent outsider with impeccable credentials, backed by a special investigative unit. The ideal candidate would be a Republican known for his independence from both Bush and Obama and with personal knowledge of the horrors of torture. His name, Taylor concludes, is John McCain.
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