I hear President Obama and his staff talking about looking forward not backwards; don’t stir up controversy about the BushCo torture abuses since they’re in the past and opening that Pandora’s box might torpedo what we want to achieve in the future.  On the same topic, but with a slightly more corrupt slant, Republicans like David Brooks say things like this:

But I’m saying … is this something we want to go back and criminalize?

First, crimes are in the past by definition.  Who would be stupid enough to seek justice for future crimes?  We don’t ignore crimes because they happened in the past; we pay police to investigate and solve crimes, we appoint judges and empannel juries to secure redress for actions that have already happened. In doing so, we insure the safety and integrity of our society. Why are these torture crimes any different?

Second, when we determine that an action that took place in the past was a crime, we have not criminalized that act, we have simply affirmed the criminality inherent in the act.  Isn’t it obligatory to do so if we are to think of ourselves as just people?