A basic premise of the United States is that reasonable men (and women) can disagree. What has become obvious in the last few months is that it is no longer possible to remain reasonable and believe that what the Bush Administration did not torture. If you believe that, you're one of three things: ignorant, blind or dismissive of American law.
It's possible to be reasonable and believe that the torture was necessary. We live in a dangerous world, and the preservation of a civil society sometimes requires us to do uncivilized things.
So here we are: we know the law was broken, and those who broke the laws believe their actions to be necessary and justified. The way to reconcile those two things in our Constitutional system is to have trials. We do not, as a rule, allow politicians to decide, based on political convenience, that breaking the law was all right. It is the job of judges and juries, after a public airing of the facts, to decide that in specific, narrow cases, the breaking of the law was justified.
If we're a nation that believes itself to be a shining city on a hill, inspiration and role model to the rest of the world, we have no choice. The people who ordered and justified torture must be put on trial. Ugly and embarrassing as that spectacle will be, we can either begin the legal proceedings or demonstrate to the world that we are little different from those lawless regimes that allow their leaders to do whatever they like, no matter what the law says.
This is President Obama's test. He can either stand up for America -- for it's laws and taditions -- or he can let step gingerly away from them in order to preserve his own political comfort. Heroism lies in the former, national disgrace in the latter. It's his decision to make.