Saturday, April 19, 2008

Obama on Bushco's War Crimes and Impeachment

During last week's big media focus on Bittergate, Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News took his opportunity when he had access to Barack Obama to ask him about how he would deal with the alleged (and I use that term loosely) war crimes of the Bush administration.

Here's his response:

What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that's already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can't prejudge that because we don't have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve.

So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment -- I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General -- having pursued, having looked at what's out there right now -- are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it's important-- one of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing betyween [sic] really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law -- and I think that's roughly how I would look at it.

I really don't know what could be more "exceptional" than the possibility that the Bush administration committed war crimes. But, when Nancy Pelosi took impeachment "off the table" months before the 2006 election, justifying that stand by saying that the Democrats would just be too darn "busy" if they won back control of the senate to be distracted by something akin to a "witch hunt", most of The Party fell in line. Well, they're were "busy" all right - busy siding with the Republicans and Bush while they enabled him to continue to destroy the country. Obama has obviously bought into that finger-wagging pronouncement, talking points included, and his statement minimizes those crimes by calling them "dumb" policies (which is exactly how he referred to the Iraq war - "dumb"). What kind of serious legal judgement is that?

When some Obama supporters at Daily Kos Obama were confronted with Obama's response, (a site whose founder called talk of impeachment "impeachment porn" in 2006 while doing everything he could to chase off impeachment supporters from his site - good little party disciplinarian that he is), some actually defended it by claiming that 1) Obama's life would be at risk if he actually gave an stronger answer and 2) that he'll apparently pull the impeachment rabbit out of his hat if he wins the presidency. Now why does that remind me of the "Is Nancy Pelosi a Freakin' GENIUS??" post, which a lot of people actually bought into, at the same site last year? And how did that work out, folks? Guess who's still gone unpunished for war crimes and his multiple violations of the constitution? Some "Freakin' GENIUS" she turned out to be.

So, excuse me if I mutter a little "pffft" at Obama's so-called promise to look into what the Bush administration has wrought on the American people, the millions of innocent Iraqis and the rest of the world while the Democratic party enabled him and chose to look away. The message is clear: once again the Democrats will be too "busy" trying to be bipartisan (a word which means they don't want to offend the Republicans' delicate sensibilities ie. they'll continue to buy into their fearmongering) if they win back the White House.

During last Sunday's CNN Compassion Religious Test Forum, Obama had this to say when asked about torture:

BROWN: Let's go to Dr. David Gushee, who is the president of Evangelicals for Human Rights.

Dr. Gushee?

DAVID P. GUSHEE, MERCER UNIVERSITY: Senator Obama, recently yet another disturbing memo emerged from the Justice Department. This one said that not even interrogation methods that, quote, "shock the conscience" would be considered torture nor would they be considered illegal if they had been authorized by the president.

Senator Obama, this kind of reasoning shocks the conscience of many millions of Americans and many millions of people of faith here and around the world. Is there justification for policies on the part of our nation that permit physical and mental cruelty toward those who are in our custody?

OBAMA: We have to be clear and unequivocal. We do not torture, period. We don't torture.


OBAMA: Our government does not torture. That should be our position. That should be our position. That will be my position as president. That includes, by the way, renditions. We don't farm out torture. We don't subcontract torture.

That lie is the Bush administration's "position" as well. Both Obama and Clinton have used that statement while ignoring the fact that the Military Commissions Act gave the CIA immunity from prosecution for torture. What are you going to do about that, Senator Obama?

No one who's seen the Abu Ghraib evidence can say that the US does not torture.

OBAMA: And the reason this is important is not only because torture does not end up yielding good information -- most intelligence officers agree with that. I met with a group -- a distinguished group of former generals who have made it their mission to travel around and talk to presidential candidates and to talk in forums about how this degrades the discipline and the ethos of our military.

It is very hard for us when kids, you know, 19, 20, 21, 22 are in Iraq having to make difficult decisions, life or death decisions every day, and are being asked essentially to restrain themselves and operate within the law.

And then to find out that our own government is not abiding by these same laws that we are asking them to defend? That is not acceptable. And so my position is going to be absolutely clear.

And it is also important for our long-term security to send a message to the world that we will lead not just with our military might but we are going to lead with our values and our ideals.

That we are not a nation...


OBAMA: ... that gives away our civil liberties simply because we're scared. And we're always at our worst when we're fearful. And one of the things that my religious faith allows me to do, hopefully, is not to operate out of fear.

Fear is a bad counsel and I want to operate out of hope and out of faith.

You can hope and have faith all you like but I noticed, Obama, that not once did you mention the victims of torture. Instead, you talked about the fact that torture doesn't work, that it's hard on America's military and that the US image has suffered. Where's the compassion in that?

I think it's also quite naive to think that America's "values and ideals" are not wrapped up in US military might. If he truly believed that, why has he promised to boost military spending and power while propping up torturing regimes like Israel? It may not be Bush-style fear that he's selling but there's no doubt that he has faith in using the military-industrial complex to fix US problems around the world. Just look at how hawkish he's been towards Iran and Pakistan. That kind of rhetoric is simply a repetition of neocon philosophy - might makes right. Obama may not be singing "Bomb Iran" as openly as McCain, but he certainly won't rule it out. Maybe they could do a duet. Obama's also quite on track for remaking the world in the US image. Just how much more American intervention can the world take?

For all of this Obama campaign talk about "change", what's obvious is that the status quo will remain very much in effect if Obama wins the presidency. He has a point when he complains about the distractions that have taken the focus off of the real issues but the fact is that all of these sideshows have probably benefited the candidate since, when it comes to matters of foreign policy and domestic accountability, Americans would just be in for 4 more years of hell no matter who wins.

It appears that the only place Bush administration officials may ever face responsibility for what they've done will be in a foreign court - and that can't come soon enough.

In the meantime, Obama won't have to worry about being tarred with that "witch hunt" moniker and that's just fine with him and the Democratic party.


"We'll make you see death"; A harrowing account from a man the CIA handed over to Jordan – smuggled from prison on tiny paper – exposes U.S. complicity in torture.

ACLU: Secret Bush Administration Torture Memo Released Today In Response To ACLU Lawsuit (4/1/2008)

US torture - when can the prosecutions start?

Top US general 'hoodwinked' over aggressive interrogation

Torture Questions Hover Over Chertoff

Minneapolis citizens calling for Bush arrest at GOP Convention

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