Friday, April 17, 2009

Protecting Torturers

Along with the release of partially redacted Bush administration torture memos in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on Thursday, Obama made the following statement (in part):

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.

Going forward, it is my strong belief that the United States has a solemn duty to vigorously maintain the classified nature of certain activities and information related to national security. This is an extraordinarily important responsibility of the presidency, and it is one that I will carry out assertively irrespective of any political concern. Consequently, the exceptional circumstances surrounding these memos should not be viewed as an erosion of the strong legal basis for maintaining the classified nature of secret activities. I will always do whatever is necessary to protect the national security of the United States.

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.

The United States is a nation of laws. My administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again.

The United States has been and continues to be a nation that skirts the laws. And if letting torturers get away with war crimes is one of that nation's "ideals", I expect to see pardons of those who were convicted of the Abu Ghraib torture atrocities from the Obama administration sometime soon.

Outrage mixed with many simply failed attempts to rationalize Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA perpetrators have been sprinkled through the so-called 'progressive' American blogosphere since Thursday in response to this "news". Well it's not news, for one thing.

Leon Panetta was quite clear during his confirmation hearing that his opinion matched that of Obama's when it came to this matter ie. no prosecutions. And what could possibly justify this position?

(Panetta) Having said that, I also believe as the president has indicated that those individuals who operated pursuant to a legal opinion that indicated that that was proper and legal ought not be prosecuted or investigated and that they acted pursuant to the law as it was presented to them by the attorney general.

Not only that, Obama's DOJ will be more than happy to defend you from prosecution too. So, the bottom line is that if some government lawyer writes a rationale that flies in the face of the law, the US constitution and international treaties, your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to act like an imbecile, pretend that you're not breaking any laws and just follow orders because, when push comes to shove, the US government has your ass covered.

Hopeyness is dying on the vine as Naomi Klein skillfully observes. Even Obama's new dog, whatever Michelle is wearing today and/or Obama's visit to Latin America aren't providing the much-needed escapism in the face of this pesky torture stuff.

It's been quite an interesting exercise to watch those who railed against torture while Bush was in office suddenly do an about face and support Obama's refusal to carry out his treaty obligations to prosecute the offenders.

Ironically, back in 2005, Bush said this:

"The only thing I issued was, don't torture. That's the policy of the government," he told a Knight Ridder reporter. "And we don't torture. And if there is torture, we will bring people to account."

And they did. At least as it applied to Abu Ghraib. (Stunning contrast, I know. But somebody had to point it out.)

The new Democratic president, on the other hand, has absolutely no interest in prosecuting anyone for torture and his people may have had something to do with Spain's AG refusing to prosecute the Bush 6.

Obama said he had not had direct contact with the Spanish government about the case but "my team has been in communications with them."

What do you suppose his team had to say about those prosecutions? Go right ahead?

And if you think you'll just hang onto that hopeyness because Obama might actually go after the Bush 6 himself some day, think again. The Bush administration, enabled by numerous Democrats and now sanctioned by this president, ensured that those in command remain untouchable.

The strikes against Obama keep piling up and it ought to be very clear that he will not be the champion of human and civil rights some made him out to be. He is not the second coming of Lincoln or MLK, after all. (Surprise!) Au contraire, political viability is at the top of his priority list.

For someone who touted himself as a Washington outsider who was going to bust in and change the place, (so he said, anyway), his actions to this point have shown that he's just decided to pull up the most politically comfortable chair in town while holding court just like every other politician there. He will not sacrifice his political career for something as apparently inconsequential as the rule of law or human rights. That is not going to change.

Mr "post-racial" and "post-partisan" is now also Mr "post-torture prosecutions". For someone who's already written not one, but two autobiographies in his short life, isn't it kind of odd that he excuses away his unpopular political actions by insisting it's better to look forward all of the time? Just how long does he think that attitude is going to keep him propped up?

And just like those of us who screamed for impeachment were pushed to the back of the so-called 'progressive' bus by the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Dem party online faithful (and operatives), we might as well get used to sitting in the crappy seats for a whole while longer. Because, just as Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, Joseph Stiglitz and others have been excommunicated by those Democrats who have complete faith in the financial gospel according to Obama, Geithner, Summers and the rest of the Goldman Sachs hacks now in government, you can expect to be keeping company with those radical, fringe lefty groups like the ACLU, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch if you believe all torturers and those who gave the orders and legal justifications should be prosecuted.

I know who I'd rather be sitting with. How about you?


You can read the actual memos here.

The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means

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