AZ Republic editorial board taken over by the staff of The Onion

23 Apr 2009 09:06 pm
Posted by: Donna

Has to be what happened. It’s the only logical explanation for this howler of an OpEd on possible torture prosecutions.

By opening the door to investigations – and, quite plausibly, criminal trials – of former Bush administration officials for the decisions they made in the aftermath of Sept. 11, President Barack Obama is threatening to untrack his ambitious political agenda.

Indeed, it threatens far more than just the president’s policies. The potential consequences of the president’s decision on this matter ultimately may mar Obama’s entire promising legacy.

Health-care reform . . . tax reform . . . the many and sweeping social policies that the new president envisioned prior to his election . . . all of it could be consumed in the grand, spiraling, political spectacle that surely will erupt should hearings and investigations commence.

There will be no oxygen for anything else. Is this really what the president wants?

Nice concern trolling there but just because George W. Bush couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time doesn’t mean the new administration can’t multi-task.

Wasted policy goals, however, may be the least of the president’s concerns if he fails to resist the maelstrom he is helping to gather.

By acquiescing to his angriest, most vindictive, Bush-loathing base, Obama risks unleashing political and cultural divisions that would make the battles over the Clinton-Lewinsky affair seem like child’s play.

Let us take at face value the president’s expressed wish that investigations should proceed in some sort of detached, non-partisan manner. It is just . . . not . . . going . . . to . . . happen.

Right, because torture is only the concern of vindictive Bush-loathers. Yeah, they’re only people who care about the fact that top officials in the Bush administration violated international and domestic laws and tarnished our image in the world. Oh, and I seem to recall the alacrity with which the Republic reported on every salacious detail of the Lewinsky scandal 10 years ago. Seriously, this has to be from The Onion.

Let us take at face value the president’s expressed wish that investigations should proceed in some sort of detached, non-partisan manner. It is just . . . not . . . going . . . to . . . happen.

Exhibit A: Obama has made the discouraging mistake of placing the decision on whether to proceed with this impending battle royal in the hands of Attorney General Eric Holder.

For all his attributes, Holder’s political history is one of intense political partisanship. By turning the matter over to the AG, Obama guarantees the trajectory of the investigation will not be for purposes of illuminating the historical record.

And everyone knows that a politicized Justice Dept. is a bad, bad thing. *cough* fired U.S. Attorneys *cough* *cough* Alabama Governor Don Siegalman *cough*

Last week, the administration released a portion of a memo written by Obama’s own intelligence director, Dennis C. Blair, about the Bush-era interrogation techniques. The following observation by Blair was deleted from the publicly released version of the memo:

“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al-Qaida organization that was attacking this country,” Blair wrote.

The full memo, leaked to the media by an Obama critic, suggests the White House already is playing politics with this volcanic issue.

Here’s what Admiral Blair said in a statement issued on April 20: “The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means,” Admiral Blair said in a written statement issued last night. “The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.”

Yep. You can probably waterboard a murder suspect into a confession in an American police station but there are good reasons why that sort of thing would get thrown out of court. Some people need to start watching a little more Law and Order and a little less 24.

The president has been maddeningly unclear about whether he truly will torture the nation with this bitter witch hunt.

He has personally declared – many times – his distaste for pursuing this act of vengeance. Only Sunday, top aide Rahm Emanuel said the president believed “those who devised policy should not be prosecuted.” Yet, just two days later, Obama laid out his framework for events that could lead to precisely that event. This is, charitably, a display of gross inconsistency.

Maddening. So maddening, that the hyperbolic use of a torture metaphor is required. And bitter witch hunts are IOKIYAR. As is gross inconsistency.

George W. Bush is not the only 21st-century American leader who has made morally ambiguous decisions regarding his nation’s enemies.

Since President Obama took office, missile attacks on suspected al-Qaida leaders – as well as dozens of reportedly innocent bystanders – have intensified in the mountains of western Pakistan.

Pakistani leaders have (officially) condemned the attacks and their terrible collateral damage as a lawless affront to a sovereign nation. Anti-Americanism in Pakistan is rising fast.

Even now, somewhere in White House files, memos outlining the administration’s morally dicey choices – about where, when and why to kill people who may or may not have been our enemies – may await examination by the next administration.

For the sake of those officials who see their decisions as tough choices based on a desire to keep their nation secure, let us hope the next president demonstrates more discretion than the current one.

Non-sequitur much? Deaths of civilian bystanders are certainly a tragedy and most assuredly entail some morally dicey choices, but torture doesn’t. Collateral damage isn’t always avoidable, but torture always is.


  1. Comment by aikanae on April 23, 2009 11:08 pm

    Nice post.

    Another irony was the fact Bush administration designed their interrogation program (before lawyers memos) after techniques used by other countries known to (get this) elicit FALSE confessions. It’s called SERE and was covered by Maddow recently (episode called Tortured Logic).

    Most people with common sense could have figured out any information they got would be worthless .. unless they also knew there wasn’t any information to get (you know, from taxi cab drivers, janitors, and the like).

    We should have one on the financial melt down as well. How about wire-tapping? Is it really just torture this guy complains about or any investigations?

    The truth is that any investigation is going to lead back to the X-whitehouse and a lot of people know it. They are trying to save their own ___. Few people would pay attention to them again.

    And that’s the point. Doing an investigation, prelude to criminal charges, sets history correct. That makes it far less likely anyone else can do the same.

    It’s not possible for the US to “move forward” without knowing what happened so that we know what to do so it never happens again.

    That’s not what the GOP had in mind. That’s also why we can’t compromise.

  2. Comment by Donna on April 24, 2009 10:57 am

    Oh I know, aikanae. One of the most common ‘confessions’ they were trying to elicit was the supposed links between Saddam and Al Qaeda. IOW, false confessions. Yeah, they really emulated the Spanish Inquisition and Salem witch trials in that respect. I’m sure the information they got was every bit as valid as if the people had confessed to being heretics or witches.

  3. Comment by Stephen on April 24, 2009 12:02 pm

    I’m torn about this.

    The impeachment trial of Clinton was a bad time for America. Clinton couldn’t get anything done. It just dominated everything. It was also a rallying point for the Democratic party. I don’t want this to be a rallying point for the Pubs. I’m happy to see them organizing their circular firing squads and throwing teabagging parties.

    President Obama can walk and chew gum at the same time, but most Americans would be focused just on the trial and not on any of the policies he’s trying to put into place. Americans need to get health reform done now, Americans need to get their retirements & social security fixed now, Americans need the economy fixed now, Americans need energy, education, environment fixed now. Bush can wait. Hell Bush let Bin Laden run around for 8 years.

    As much as I’m disgusted by our former president, his people, and the things they did, I can be patient. I can wait until President Obama gets the things done he needs to do first. I can wait until 2013.

    I don’t want him to have to weigh getting America fixed vs. getting America justice and decide the only way to get things done would be a presidential pardon.

  4. Comment by Donna on April 24, 2009 12:40 pm

    It’s a fair point, Stephen but whatever we do, the conservatives are getting out with their spin on it and I don’t want to see a repeat of when Clinton let the sordid Iran/Contra cast of characters go because “we have more important things to focus on right now”. I mean, look what happened with that? They showed right back up to wreak more havoc in the Bush admin! Neo-cons are akin to a chonic disease like herpes – they may lay dormant for a while but they never go away.

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