You know, there really wasn’t an overly long list of stuff we wanted from President Obama, and quite a few of them we were really willing to give a long wait time for. We recognized the economy would take years to fix, no one figured that Iraq would be empty of US soldiers overnight, and I doubt many supporters expected him to solve the health care dilemma before the first spring robin.
Most of the really pressing issues where what I think of as the “bleeding obvious” stuff. Things like “don’t spy on us illegally”, “don’t torture people”, and “stop doing things in secret”. On those fronts, Obama’s not exactly been the saviour we need. When I’d read that Bush was releasing the torture memos, I was overjoyed. When I read he wasn’t going to allow the prosecution of any of the guys who wrote them, I was dismayed.
Revealing a crime is useless if it doesn’t lead to action. Worse, actually, because then we know that someone got away with (literally, in this case) murder. It’s dangling a carrot in front of us and then locking it in a glass box. Rahm Emmanuel, a guy I normally like, defended Obama with the world’s worst logic:
“It’s not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution,” Emanuel said. “We have a lot to do to protect America. What people need to know, this practice and technique, we don’t use anymore. He banned it.”
This isn’t about “anger” (although I am angry). It’s about making sure this doesn’t happen again, and simply shaking a finger in a “now now, cut that out” kind of way won’t do it. It sends the message that massive breaches of US law can be made by government officials only to be simply shrugged off once discovered. No one else gets away with this nonsense. If you forget to pay a speeding ticket there’ll be a warrant out for your arrest within two weeks.
Then in came Hayden with even worse logic.
“What we have described for our enemies in the midst of a war are the outer limits that any American would ever go to in terms of interrogating an al Qaeda terrorist. That’s very valuable information,” Hayden said.
Now, to be fair, there are two ways to interpret this: the stupid way and the way Hayden probably meant it.
The stupid way is the notion that somehow knowing you’re going to be waterboarded means you’ll be able to handle it more easily. As Christopher Hitchens and others have noted, it doesn’t matter if you’re told something’s coming, it’s absolutely horrific when it happens. And since they waterboarded KSM a whopping 183 times in a month, it’s a safe assumption that you don’t exactly get “used to it”.
The way he probably meant it, which is still negated by the above, is that if the suspects know that the waterboarding won’t kill them or that the dogs aren’t ever going to maul their nuts off, the techniques will be less effective (remember, the threat of death is what makes it work). That might work, except we already had a 2005 report that 108 had died in US custody, who knows how many have since then.
Which only highlights the above point. With no danger of prosecution, there’s no guarantee that anyone will stay within the bounds we’ve set, and simply throwing Lyndie England in the can isn’t enough. Maybe she was acting out of line, but what about the higher-ups? It’s absurd to suggest that the order-takers should be punished but not the order-givers.
Ya screwed the pooch on this one, Barry-O, and the international community ain’t happy. We’re all thrilled that you’re doing the right thing on the economy, but if you don’t get on the whole “everything else” issue soon there’s bad times ahead.