Thursday, April 16, 2009

Of Torture Memos And Presidential Statements

I am not going to be all cute with my links in this blog post, I will link to several sites for you to go and get the information. But this is more of a rant for me so I am just going to give it to you from my perspective.

I was heartened earlier today to learn that President Obama and the Department of Justice had decided to release the OLC memos from the Bush Administration that authorized torture on enemy combatants. This good feeling was soon dashed after reading the accompanying statement from President Obama. The statement was problematic on several levels for me so I will just tick them off.

President Obama justified releasing the memos basically by saying he did it because the information was already out there. Let that sink in for a moment. In his own words he told us bluntly that he wasn't doing this for the public good or for transparency's sake. No he was doing it because hell we were only going to see what was already widely reported. So the question becomes, what about the memos and the methods or torture that we DON'T know about that happened under Bush?

Secondly President Obama reaffirmed his right to prevent judicial review of documents much like the OLC memos by invoking the states secrets clause. Not only was a 180 degree turn from then Senator Obama's rhetoric on the campaign trail decrying Bush's excessive use of the clause it also came off to me as pretty obstinate in reading it. As in he seemed to be saying "Just because I released this stuff don't think it means anything has changed". That for me was pretty fucking discouraging. Is it the end of the world? No. But it does bring down considerably my respect for the man. You are only as good as your word, and that applies even to politicians.

Thirdly there was the wording that President Obama used to describe why he feels we should move on. "Now is the time for reflection not retributions"....Really? Well then I would love to ask Obama what exactly is justice if not retribution? Do we put people in prison to make them better people or to punish them for the things they have done? And ironically just a little further on in the statement President Obama invoked the rhetoric "We are a nation of laws". So how does that work? We are a nation of laws but we aren't going to prosecute the people that we know broke those laws? Then what use are the laws in the first damn place?

Fourthly and this isn't my fight but I understand those who are upset about this, why in the hell give amnesty to the people who actually committed the acts of torture? I personally would much rather just investigate the prosecute the people who ordered it, but I was struck by something very blatant in those memos. These memos were written in such a way as to be seen as a response to an inquiry. So someone was REQUESTING the ability to torture. Not only that, time and time again in these memos the Bush Administration lawyers referred to information provided to them by the people requesting the ability to torture, that was meant to help make the case that what they were requesting wasn't torture. In fact if the memos are factually correct, then it was the people who were requesting the ability to torture that provided the lawyers with the SERE information that figured largely in the memos themselves to justify things like waterboarding and stress positions. It seems apparent that the torturers were not just innocent bystanders but willing accomplices. And if careerist at the CIA have a problem with that maybe its time for a purge. With the unemployment rate being as high as it is some how I would think there are plenty of people on the street that would love to have those jobs and have the requisite background.

Now the truth is today the only thing that changed is that I actually decided to listen to what President Obama has been saying instead of trying to give him excuses for his words on the subject to this point. In the past when he has said he wanted to look forward not backward I came up with all manner of excuses for why he was using that rhetoric. And "clearly" it was all just a fake out and that eventually he would sanction investigations. But if it wasn't clear then, its abundantly clear now that the truth is President Obama has no interest whatsoever in investigating the Bush Administration for torture and war crimes. And as I said before its VERY dissappointing.

Now I am just a nobody with a blog so who cares right? Well I can tell you this much, for as much as President Obama is given credit for his campaign's use of new media to help get him elected, actual people still had to do the phone banking and networking, voter registrations and the GOTV efforts. And what I can tell you is that Obama's campaign was so successful with this because most of the volunteers were so impressed with him as a candidate. He seemed so much more than just a regular politician who would care more about covering his ass than the public good. Who would care more about helping middle class families than getting re elected. If President Obama continues to at least appear to be covering for President Bush quite a bit of that luster will be knocked off of him. He won't be hope and change anymore, instead he will be same old same old. And if he loses those most loyal fans of his ironically enough he is going to hurt his chances at getting re elected immensely rather than help them.

I hope that at some point he either reads the polls or notices the tone in this country and reverses field with respect to investigations but for now I am taking the man at his word. He wants to look forward not back and thats just something we have to accept. But it doesn't mean we have to back off from pressuring him on it. Instead if anything it means we need to put MORE pressure on him to get him to change his mind. I don't care how much you support President Obama the thing you have to realize is that at some point he will no longer be President. Whether its after 4 years or 8 at some point someone else will be sitting where he is sitting. If these people don't get investigated its likely that at least a few of them will find their way back to Washington. All you have to do is look at the Cabinets of Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 to realize that this kind of recycling goes on when we drop the ball on investigating these kinds of abuses. So unless you want to see Bybee or Bradbury or any of the other authors of those OLC memos back in Washington circa 2016 I suggest you make your voices heard.

Links to stories about the OLC memos





Greg Sargent

Think Progress

Steve Benen

Also, what Keith said:


  1. I want to know the reason why Obama is invoking the state secrets issue. I'm certain why the Bush Cabal did it: for power and money and to make their dicks look bigger. But WHY is Obama continuing? Is it for power? Is he the sort of man who values power for power's sake? Is it for money? Will he stand to make money from it? I can't bring myself to discuss the dick issue, but I'm fairly certain this isn't Obama's concern.

    My point is that I voted for Obama because I believe his judgment sound and I support him based on my belief. Which in the big picture doesn't sound that different from what Bush supporters trumpeted for years and that makes me throw up a little. Still, I find myself considering that there IS something there regarding state secrets, etc. that Obama now knowing, has to take into account.

    Does this make sense? Am I as bad as I found Bush supporters to be in their support of a plainly idiotic and self-enriching administration.

  2. I don't think you are as bad as Bush supporters and yes it makes sense. Up until I read his statement yesterday I felt exactly the same way. But I think it springs from a wanting to not be wrong about the guy. Wanting to believe that he MUST have a reason for invoking states secrets otherwise we were wrong about him all along. Now I don't really think there is necessarily anything wrong with invoking states secrets when its warranted. Its the over doing it that is worrisome. But the whole tone of the statement yesterday made me reexamine everything he has said since winning. So far he hasn't said one thing that should lead any rational person to believe that he wants an investigation into the torture committed under Bush. In point of fact just about every statement he has made on the subject has pointed to the exact opposite of just moving on. For that reason I have decided to start taking him at his word instead of imagining all the great reasons he might have for what he is saying. Or what magical noble motives he might have for not wanting an investigations. I will be happy if he contradicts himself and ends up ordering an investigation, but no evidence so far actually points to that and I have started to believe it aint happening. And in the end it will come back to bite him and us in the ass no matter how noble his motives are anyway.

  3. nader paul kucinich gravelApril 18, 2009 at 8:26 PM

    This is the Lawyered-up Propaganda produced for mass consumption.

    The REAL memos are leaking out all over the place ~

    Thank you whistle blowers!


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