I tend to agree with Shaun on this. I do not agree when persons complain that President Obama failed to close Guantanamo; Congress prevented that. In this case, though, he had freedom to choose, and he chose wrong.
And so we arrive at another defining moment in the long road since an incurious news media finally began acknowledging something that a number of bloggers, myself included, and civil libertarians had known for years: Despite repeated denials by George W. Bush and his coterie of henchmen, notably Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, they approved of Nazi-like torture techniques under the cover of grotesque legal opinions that violate the Constitution and Geneva Conventions.
One question that nags me, one that I suspect cannot be answered, is this: To what extent was the policy of torturing captives–and it was policy, not the deeds of the infamous “few bad apples”–motivated by simple sexual sadism, both immediate on the part of the torturers and vicarious on the part of those who authorized the policy?
But, as true as they may be, American politicians can no longer make those charges. Because the worst human rights violator in Cuba today is not the Castro regime, it’s us. It’s the U.S. government at our prison at the United States Naval Station Guantanamo Bay; first, under George W. Bush, and now, under Barack Obama.
Raw politics have stymied Obama’s efforts to close Bush’s Bastille. Congress has imposed completely unjustified restrictions on the movement of Guantanamo detainees to the United States for trial or even for repatriation or settlement in other nations. A Fox News echo chamber equates Guantanamo’s closure and detainee prosecutions in U.S. civil courts with being soft on terrorists, an absurd but effective allegation.
Why would a nation whose moral authority as a world leader derives from its commitment to the rule of law and due process establish a parallel legal system for foreigners only, designed to bend whatever rules are necessary to obtain a conviction? Here’s why: Vice President Dick Cheney, his legal attack dog David Addington and apparatchik John Yoo saw military commissions as the culmination of the president’s king-like authority. The Bush administration wanted “a permanent legal structure under the president’s sole command,” Bravin writes, with the power of life and death.
What folks are loathe to mention–especially members of the professional punditocracy–is that the Bush Administration was not only corrupt and incompetent, it was also cruel and sadistic, filled with not nice people.
It is distasteful that America’s Torquemadas have not been called to account–distasteful, but understandable, for, were they to be called to account, the persons who set them their tasks, the Pope and Vatican Council to their Torquemada–George Bush, Dick Cheney, John Yoo, Paul Wolfewitz, and their dupes, symps, and fellow travelers–would also have to be called to account.
Many observers believe however that the real “offense” in the eyes of the Obama administration was quite different. In 2007, Kiriakou became a whistleblower. He went on record as the first (albeit by then, former) CIA official to confirm the use of waterboarding of al-Qaeda prisoners as an interrogation technique, and then to condemn it as torture.
One of the perpetual intellectual and moral failures of the “Progressives” who continually rail against the President, doing stupid stuff like calling on persons “to primary Obama,” is their inability to tell who did what to whom. They seem to expect that, since President George the Worst acted like a dictator, President Obama should do the same.
At Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog, JM Ashby reminds us why the concentration camp at Guantanamo is still open.