Wired.Com has just released a set of previously unseen images from Abu Gharib that were recently used in a presentation on torture at the TED conference in Monterey, California. The photos are horrific (viewer discretion is advised) and will certainly reopen the global debate on torture and U.S. actions in Iraq. There is little doubt that the U.S. image in the world will take a further blow at a time when it cannot afford to take too many more.
There is no chance of restoring the U.S. reputation in the world unless we shift course on the issue of torture - unfortunately the Administration and Congress are incapable of dealing with this issue on their own. I have been urging for several years now that Congress moves to create an Independent Bipartisan Commission on Torture and Interrogation; it is past time that the U.S. comprehensively address the scandals of Abu Gharib and beyond.
Some may ask whether it makes sense to wait until we have a new President as there is a good chance that Administration policy will shift dramatically in 2009. My sense is that we actually need more than just a shift in policy going forward. There is a need for all the information on torture to be raised in a public setting and for the facts to be on display for both domestic and global public consumption.
Any Commission that is created should be tasked with bringing together a broad range of experts able to collectively comprehend the totality of the issue, its consequences and necessary policy prescriptions. The experts would be drawn from the intelligence, foreign policy, law enforcement, military, veterans, legal and human rights community. Additional members could include representatives of the faith community, theologians, cultural specialists and historians.
The Commission would publicly air its findings thereby ensuring that the country as a whole can move forward together with an understanding that an “end to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment” policy is both the morally correct thing to do AND is the best counter-terror approach for the U.S. to take.
Perhaps a national reporter could ask Senator Obama, Senator McCain and Senator Clinton whether they would ensure that such a Commission would be formed during their first 100 days as President.