Some Democrats are questioning why president elect Barack Obama would appoint Leon Panetta, who is known as a budget expert, to head up the CIA. Part of the answer can be found in Panetta’s opposition to the torture of detainees.
In an issue of The Washington Monthly, Panetta wrote that fear has driven us to become a nation of armchair torturers, “Fear is blinding, hateful, and vengeful. It makes the end justify the means. And why not? If torture can stop the next terrorist attack, the next suicide bomber, then what’s wrong with a little waterboarding or electric shock? The simple answer is the rule of law.”
He laid out his view that America is above torture, “We have made clear that there are certain lines Americans will not cross because we respect the dignity of every human being. That pledge was written into the oath of office given to every president, “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” It’s what is supposed to make our leaders different from every tyrant, dictator, or despot. We are sworn to govern by the rule of law, not by brute force.”
Panetta made his beliefs clear, “We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground. We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.”
I think Panetta was tapped for this job to carry out specific reforms to the agency that Obama wants done. He is definitely not a long term appointee. I have a hunch that Panetta will be there only long enough to clean up the messes of the last eight years. No one should be surprised if Panetta would be in the job for only a year or two.
Panetta knows the bureaucracy of Washington in and out. I believe he was attractive to the Obama team because of his experience, and his position on torture. Panetta’s position on torture is the complete opposite of what we have seen during the Bush administration. If nothing else, the nomination of Panetta signals the end of the Bush policy of torture.