The only way to remove the stain of torture from America's name is for the man who authorized it to step up and take responsibility, Atlantic editor Andrew Sullivan writes in an open letter to George W. Bush. Dodging blame while his subordinates take the fall—and watching the country go through the agony of prosecuting them—is dishonorable, Sullivan writes. Worse, it leaves the door open for future presidents to return to the policy in times of war, with the same "polarizing, demoralizing, war-crippling results."
Treating combatants—no matter what their legal status—as human beings with human rights is a principle that lies at the core of Western civilization and the Christian faith, Sullivan argues. It's wrong to let those further down the chain of command take the fall for actions green-lighted by their commander-in-chief, he writes. Taking responsibility, and showing the world an "example of a democratic society confronting its own crimes, led by the man who authorized them, would itself help restore this country’s reputation. And yours."