Earlier this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a “truth commission” that would investigate torture during the Bush era — among other possible wrongdoing. But then the San Francisco congresswoman backed off. Is it because Bush officials told her early on that they were torturing people and she did nothing to stop it? According to the Washington Post, one of Pelosi’s aides was told in early 2003 by Bush officials that the CIA had waterboarded al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. The Post’s story comes on the heels of newly released CIA documents that show that Pelosi also was briefed in September 2002 about “harsh interrogation techniques” — although there was no evidence that CIA disclosed at that point that they had already waterboarded Zubaydah 83 times during the month of August 2002 — thanks to UC Berkeley professor John Yoo’s first torture memo.
So Pelosi apparently knew early on that we were torturing people, and essentially did nothing to stop it. The best she could muster was that she had “concurred” with a letter sent to the CIA by Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman in early 2003, questioning whether waterboarding “was consistent with the principles and policies of the United States.” Consistent with the principles? Waterboarding has been illegal for a long time in this country. We prosecuted our own soldiers in the Vietnam War for waterboarding prisoners. And Harman and Pelosi want to know if that’s consistent? No wonder Pelosi backed off the truth commission idea.
Still, just because Pelosi and other Dems knew about torture early on and apparently did not try to stop it, or even expose it, that doesn’t justify torture. Republicans are sure to use Pelosi’s hypocrisy as a defense for Bush administration lawbreaking. But in the end, that’s nothing more than a smokescreen. Torture is illegal, and those who authorized it, ordered it, and carried out, need to be brought to justice. As for Pelosi, she should be ashamed.