Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A War Criminal

President Obama, in defending his decision not to investigate and/or prosecute members of the Bush administration for war crimes for authorizing and implementing torture against detainees, famously said, "I prefer to look forward, not backward."

Too bad the would-be target of an Obama administration investigation into said war crimes won't let him.

In his memoir, In My Time, former vice (and de-facto) president Dick Cheney asserts with dogged determination (and that fucking arrogant smirk on his face) that "enhanced interrogation techniques" as practiced by the U.S. military and intelligence communities were legal and acceptable methods, and that he would not hesitate to use them all again if need be.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate has something to say about that:

Cheney is trying, in short, to draw us back into the same tiresome debate over the efficacy of torture, which is about as compelling as a debate about the efficacy of slavery or Jim Crow laws. Only fools debate whether patently illegal programs "work"—only fools or those who have been legally implicated in designing the programs in the first place.

In preferring to look forward now, with this memoir from a very substantial Republican occupying quite a bit of national news, President Obama reinforces the very valid point made by many on the left, including Glenn Greenwald, that Obama is just as guilty as Cheney of war crimes if he fails to prosecute. The Geneva Conventions make this plain.

So what is Obama thinking here? Is he wanting to save face because there might (or will) be things done on his watch that could raise the ire of his opposition, to the point where a charge of "impeachable offenses" can be levelled by the House Republican majority? Is he waiting till after his more-pressing domestic agenda is largely enacted? The government of the United States of America was based on the rule of law. This was what John Adams himself said. To me, Obama's inaction in the face of compelling evidence of wrongdoing, and in the face of a former vice president flipping the current President the finger and daring him to come after him is a more effective way to cheapen the Office of the Presidency than getting blown by an intern in the Oval Office and then lying about it. As President, I would risk my own neck and career to defend the Constitution. Isn't that what the oath is about?

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