John McCain: Let Bygones Be Bygones

Created: April 27, 2009 09:05 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he opposes prosecution of former Bush officials for torture, because even though the abuse of detainees violated the law and further endangered not only U.S. servicemen but the entire country, “We need to put this behind us,” he told host Bob Schieffer. “We need to move forward. … We need a united nation, not a divided one.”

It’s John McCain the presidential candidate all over again — stand up for principle and back down from it all in one sentence. Listen to Sunday’s interview here.  In one breath, McCain is saying we shouldn’t “criminalize policy differences” or “settle old political scores”, and moments later he’s acknowledging that the United States violated two of the most important international legal treaties it has ever entered: the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, signed by President Ronald Reagan.

The mantra that we shouldn’t criminalize bad advice keeps being repeated, particularly by Republicans opposed to any sort of investigation. But it completely ignores the fact that if that bad advice was intentional – as much of the evidence seems to suggest — and if it was directed by senior policymakers, then both the lawyers and their bosses have broken the law. And as McCain himself implies at the end of the interview, the Convention Against Torture requires the United States to prosecute violations.

Unfortunately, Schieffer didn’t press McCain to clarify his contradictory answers.

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