Commentary: Bush-era torture must be investigated

This editorial appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

Sometimes we have to dig up the past to get the future right. This country's descent into the practice of torture is one of those times.

Such an investigation would be painful and distracting. But avoiding the truth would be even worse, costing the United States any claim to moral leadership.

The demands for an accounting will only grow as more Bush-era secrets become public. Particularly noteworthy was the report last week by McClatchy Newspapers that Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld pressured interrogators to use extreme methods to prove a non-existent link between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein.

Like the Chinese Communists, from whom we borrowed "enhanced interrogation" techniques, we were torturing to extract false confessions. It wasn't about defending America; it was about defending the Iraq War's false premise.

American voters renounced that false premise in the last election. Still, it's easy to understand why President Barack Obama might rather close the book on past abuses and keep Congress and the public focused on the enormous problems ahead.

The economy is still in shambles, al-Qaida allies appear to be on the verge of taking control of Pakistan and Shia-Sunni tensions are resurgent in Iraq. Obama's plate is overflowing with Bush leftovers.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.