The worst aspect of our post-9/11 policies wasn’t Iraq or Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. It wasn’t even that we (the people), acting through our government, tortured prisoners at Gitmo and in other known or secret prisons around the world. No, the worst is that, as the outline of these policies comes into hazy but unmistakable view thanks mainly to investigations carried out in Canada and Europe, we — the American people — are not demanding a full accounting of what was done …

… for the purpose of assuring that it can’t happen again.

This, for me, was the takeaway from the conference at Duke earlier this month, entitled “Weaving a Net of Accountability: Taking on Extraordinary Rendition at the State and Regional Level.”

We don’t want to know. But we need to know.

For the last eight years, we’ve been kept from the truth and/or told something other than the truth by our government; the not-surprising upshot is that we’ve accepted its fictional non-account of American actions in the so-called “War on Terror” rather than demand a true accounting. It’s not so much that Jack Nicholson (Col. Nathan Jessup in “A Few Good Men”) was right when he said of Gitmo, “You can’t handle the truth.” It’s that we’d rather not have to handle it.

But unless we do handle it, we’re lost as a nation.

Imagine that a nation’s chief executive orders people kidnapped, held incommunicado and tortured until they “confess” to something … and they’re not terrorists, and the dear leader knows it. Sound like East Germany? North Korea?

Now imagine that the people of his country know what he’s been doing, or could know, but they decide not to know too much, and anyway there’s nothing they can do about it.

When we decide there’s nothing we can do —

in an article written for the Truthout website.