I've supported Obama pretty much from the start. We've donated to his campaign, we lived and feared and hoped along with him right until the victory. I cried at his inauguration. And I relaxed afterwards. It was a feeling as if finally the adults have come back home. Now I could rest and not fret about every single move that was made in US politics. Finally, the sensible people were in charge and I could go on with my own life.
Over four years ago, right after Bush's re-election, I wrote a letter to my US family. I described my bitter disappointment, my disbelief that Americans could vote for someone who would not follow up and uproot the evil that was Abu Ghraib. Americans like some of my family. I warned them that we Germans had lived first hand what evil was, that it liked to hide and make seemingly sensible arguments, that it liked to prosecute its enemies with labels like "unpatriotic" and use phrases like "who is not with us is against us". I wrote that that it's hard to stand up and unpopular, but necessary. Evil needs to be countered when it is still small, it needs to be dealt with swiftly and consequently. There cannot be any excuses. There cannot be any exceptions.
What I received back was outrage. Well, first, there was complete silence. Then, I got attacked by a distant family member I didn't know (and who had not been on the recipient list). Then I was called anti-American, that I had no say because I was not American. In not so many words it was made clear that because I'm German, I had no right to judge others -- when in my mind, this is exactly our job in the world; we know where it can lead. In the end, to prevent a rift in the family, I had to apologize. Nobody has ever talked to me about politics ever again. None of my US family has ever read my blog (or HDTD) again.
Years later, some family members told me that they had always been against torturing of prisoners, when I clearly remember discussions that contained phrases like "we don't really know whether there has been torture" and the famous ticking time bomb was mentioned. I still feel bitter about this episode, both about the reaction from the other side, and about my own.
I feel I should not have given in for peace's sake. I failed my own standards and it still makes me angry that I wasn't smart enough to argue my convictions.
But I really don't think I could have changed anything or anybody's mind.
I did think I changed something by helping Obama become president.
His announcement that all those involved in torturing and covering up torture should not be prosecuted is a big blow to me. I'm upset and angry and very, very disappointed.
Torture can never be excused. It can never be tolerated. It has to be prosecuted and it has to be punished with legal means every single time. Bybee needs to be impeached. The CIA agents and all those who followed orders have to be prosecuted. Following a criminal order is a crime, not a simple failing.
I'm sorry, Mr. President. This decision is wrong.