If the United States is (1) a nation of laws and not men (as we often say), and (2) we actually give a shit about human rights and due process (as we often say), then our obligation is clear:
The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of [this] Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.
The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.
President Ronald Reagan, in a signing statement on the ratification
of the United Nations Convention on Torture, 1984
Part of morality, whether for a person or a state, is not doing bad things. The other part is owning up to them when you do. We blew the first part, and I suspect we’re going to blow the second, as well.
h/t Andrew Sullivan. Image via Architect of the Capitol.