Thursday, April 9, 2009

Not Good

In several posts I've made my views known about torture; how it's damaged our country, and how it's been shown to have produced no useful information (there are many more posts than those links). As more information comes out -- most specifically, the report of the International Committee of the Red Cross is now available in full -- my opinion has only solidified.

So I share concerns of many liberals regarding the reluctance of the Obama administration to release the relevant documents, nor to consider prosecution of those who dreamed it all up. This article is a good summary. It includes this paragraph:

"...Sen. Dick Durbin was forced to tearfully apologize on the Senate floor for accurately comparing our treatment of detainees at Guantanamo to the techniques used in Soviet gulags and by Gestapo interrogation squads, but those who perpetrated these war crimes have apologized for nothing, remain welcome in decent company, and are still shielded by our Government from all accountability."

It's ironic, isn't it, that as our politicians have become so polarized, they are, in effect, protecting themselves. Basting in hyper-partisanship and hyperbole, our elected officials are actually playing softball with themselves. Ever since the impeachment of Bill Clinton over oral sex, any action taken by Congress actually to investigate serious and damaging crimes by our government becomes nearly impossible, because it will be seen as payback. So we can become international war criminals, and no one has the guts to act. (Speaking of guts, there's now some attention being paid to my fellow physicians, those who aided and abetted the torture.)

I wish I knew the reasons behind Obama's reluctance. My guess it has to do with the urgency of those things on the front burner: he doesn't want to risk cooperation from the rare Republican when he might need it. Likewise, as he's trying to rebuild connections with our allies, and to make a new path toward our enemies, it might be that he considers this the wrong time to open the sores. And yet, in the long run, I'd say that fully debriding the wound is the only way to convince the world how seriously we take it. Assuming we do.

How strange that -- Obama aside -- practically the only politicians and citizens calling for airing this out are Democrats. Why should it be such a partisan matter? By all definitions and by conclusion of the international body specifically and legally designated to identify and investigate torture, the US has committed war crimes. Isn't there a single Republican leader who finds that problematic? And, were it a Democratic administration that had done it, would they still be silent? For a microsecond? In fact, there are some who see the Republicans as so frightened over the release of the torture memos and related material that they are threatening the President over it. One can only wonder what they're so worried about.


The Barefoot Bum said...

The justification for a partisan political system is that partisanship is inherently good: because there is a partisan political system, each party keeps the other more-or-less honest.

Bipartisanship is nothing less than a call for a single party state.

Frank Drackman said...

Torture's still goin on, its just been shipped overseas, like most unpleasant manual labor jobs...Barak's not an Idiot, he knows if just one Gitmo Parole-ee blows himself up in some Mega Mall he can kiss a 2d term good-bye...

tribulation periwinkle said...

Thanks for writing about this. Abiding by the Constitution is not a party issue, and that is why Obama is being criticized by people on the left (as opposed to people in Dem party leadership who aren't issuing so much as a whisper of protest).

My guess as to why Obama is silent arises from history: the membership of the original "gang of eight". Remember them?

* Denny Hastert
* Nancy Pelosi
* Porter Goss
* Jane Harman
* Bill Frist
* Tom Daschle
* Pat Roberts
* Jay Rockefeller

Here’s what they were told and knew (WaPo link at my name):

"Vice President Cheney convened a meeting in the Situation Room at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 10, 2004, with just one day left before the warrantless domestic surveillance program was set to expire. Around him were National Security Agency Director Michael V. Hayden, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and the Gang of Eight — the four ranking members of the House and the Senate, and the chairmen and vice chairmen of the intelligence committees.

With a nod from Cheney, Hayden walked through the program’s vital mission [2]. Gonzales said top lawyers at the NSA and Justice had green-lighted the program from the beginning. Now Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was in the hospital, and James B. Comey, Ashcroft’s deputy, refused to certify that the surveillance was legal.

More than three years later, Gonzales would testify that there was “consensus in the room” from the lawmakers, “who said, ‘Despite the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, go forward with these very important intelligence activities.’ [3] ” By this account — disputed by participants from both parties — four Democrats and four Republicans counseled Cheney to press on with a program that Justice called illegal.

In fact, Cheney asked the lawmakers a question that came close to answering itself. Could the House and Senate amend surveillance laws without raising suspicions that a new program had been launched? The obvious reply became a new rationale for keeping Congress out.(emphasis added)

The Bush administration had no interest in changing the law, according to U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, chief of the federal government’s special surveillance court when the warrantless eavesdropping began.

“We could have gone to Congress, hat in hand, the judicial branch and the executive together, and gotten any statutory change we wanted in those days, I felt like,” he said in an interview. “But they wanted to demonstrate that the president’s power was supreme.”

This was a bipartisan effort, and it is exactly why Obama isn't acting. Torture, domestic spying, etc. are all of a piece.

Anonymous said...

"the impeachment of Bill Clinton over oral sex"

No. It was perjury--lying under oath in court. A felony.

Sid Schwab said...

Okay: trying to parse "is" and "sexual relations" while talking about oral sex. Admittedly pathetic and reprehensible. And compared to committing what are war crimes by every definition -- not just a felony but a capital offense -- and lying about that....

Frank Drackman said... by refusing to apprehend and prosecute these War Criminals in our midst, our President is in away, aiding and abbetting them...I mean he's the Commander in Chief, he can probably figure out where "W" and Cheney are...Lots of Germans got hung for doin less than that... Might want to get the exhaust on that Volvo checked Sid...


Anonymous said...

For about the 80 billionth time; he is Commander in Chief of the armed forces ...period!

Unlike Bush, he does not see himself as an elected dictator.

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