Rich Yeselson remarks that Obama’s appointments to torture-relevant positions in the White House and DoJ are “like crosses held up to Cheney’s Dracula.” Wish I’d said that.
Just now on NPR John Lewis was talking about Bloody Sunday, when a horde of Alabama State Troopers beat, whipped, and gassed marchers in a peaceful voting rights demonstration. That was only part, of course, of a decades-long campaign of official and unofficial terrorism aimed at maintaining the system of racial domination. Very few private citizens, and virtually no public officials, were ever prosecuted for their roles in that terrorist campaign.
It’s easy to forget it now, but back then the question of equality for blacks, and especially voting rights, was considered a policy question, with (otherwise) respectable voices on both sides, just like the question of torture today. No one denied with a straight face that the laws had been broken, but to some those violations seemed to be justified by necessity: to defeat “Islamofascism” now, to protect the “civilized” whites of the South against being ruled by their inferiors then. (That was the view of William F. Buckley, for example.)
So here’s my question to those who warn against “criminalizing policy differences” by putting on trial torturers, those who ordered torture, and those who provided legal opinions intended to facilitate torture: Was it right to give the official white terrorists of the South effective amnesty for the crimes they committed against the foot-soldiers of the Second Reconstruction? If it wasn’t right, what’s the morally significant difference?