On torture and the nature of politics

Ryan Day

When I first became interested in politics, I was what could be called a small-minded absolutist. As a part-time pacifist and a full-time Socialist, I was known to make claims or statements that seemed – to those that hovered in the world of the grey, outside the comforting realms of my black and white, anyways – to be, well, absurd.
These statements included things like “All killing is wrong” or “The capitalist state will always be oppressive.” As I became older – and it could be argued, more indoctrinated into the political system of the United States – I dropped most of this kind of thinking, instead adopting a more progressive, realistic approach. I made some concessions and pulled my head out of the clouds.
Politics have been exciting lately with the long-awaited exit of the Bush regime and the entrance of a new administration, an administration seemingly run on the ideas of hope and change. In the days leading up to Obama’s inauguration, I kept a close eye on the news and on the blogs, excited for every piece of information on how Obama is going to change this country for the better.
I got some exciting stuff, like how plans were already being made to shut down Guantanamo Bay. But I also read this: When Obama was asked if he would push prosecution for those involved in cases of torture in the United States, he said, “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”
What was this? The blogosphere exploded with speculation on what it could mean. Was Obama not planning to prosecute for torture? Was his “post-partisan” standpoint leading him to forget and forgive those involved in torture in the United States?
I was quickly swept back into the black-and-white thought patterns that dominated my mind when I was younger, and this is where I still sit as I write to you today. I have discussed Obama’s statement with people interested in politics, and they all say the same thing to me, namely, that Obama is trying to seem like a uniter and not a divider. If he were to prosecute, it would look vindictive in the eyes of the country and would undermine his entire “post-partisan” platform.
I understand their point, but I’m of the opinion that this is not something that can be politicized. And it shouldn’t be politicized. Major governmental figures committed major crimes in the United States of America. I have been told since I was young that no one is above the law, and this case is no different. Torturers need to be prosecuted. Period. It’s not even a question for me.
Will Obama look vindictive and partisan if he does decide to prosecute? I can’t say for sure, but the realist in me says that he likely will. Is that unfortunate? Yes, it is truly unfortunate that upholding the law can be seen as vindictive. But in the end, it’s upholding the law that is more important to me, as an American, as a progressive and as a human. No amount of politicizing will change my mind.