Tag Archives: torture

Is Torture Probe Risk For Obama’s healthcare plan?

That’s how some media are describing the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to name a special prosecutor to look into CIA prisoner abuse cases. There are worries the fallout from Holder’s decision could distract attention from President Barack Obama’s continuing efforts to reform the healthcare system.

Eric Holder, President Obama
Eric Holder, President Obama

Why one would have anything to do with the other is for bigger media minds than mine. The Attorney General’s decision seems perfectly rational, and in fact the only thing he could do after new details emerged about “enhanced” interrogation techniques used after September 11th. President Obama is also correct in leaving the decision about what to do in Holder’s hands.

The AG acknowledged his decision would be controversial, but after all, that’s why he’s making the big money, isn’t it? The question now is whether those who have wanted accountability for torture during the Bush years will stand behind Holder as he takes flack for naming career prosecutor John Durham to head up this investigation.

As we’ve seen with healthcare, silence on the part of one side gives the other free rein to control the debate in the court of public opinion. And what will they say? Obama doesn’t care about national security, that he’s undermining morale at the CIA, that these allegations are old news.

And who will lead the charge? Could it be the Darth Vader of Bush era interrogation, Dick Cheney? They’ll trot him out, for sure. In fact, they won’t need to. He’ll start magically appearing on the Sunday talk shows again, and accuse the Obama Administration of offering aid and comfort to America’s enemies.

It’s all so predictable.

What can’t be predicted is whether those who side with justice on the issue of torture will be proactive, or just watch the firestorm from a distance. Let’s be clear. There is no excuse for linking healthcare to investigating torture.

Those who do so ought to be called on it immediately.

Progressives in this country don’t know their own strength. If seeing to it that suspects America detains in the future aren’t subjected to “enhanced” interrogation is important, get behind Holder and Obama. And then, push for the investigation to include not just the grunts who carried out these activities, but those who ordered them to do so, or looked the other way while it was happening.

None of this has the least little bit to do with keeping America safe. It’s about keeping America America.

What do you think? Is probing torture risky for President Obama’s healthcare reform?

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Eric Holder to the Rescue?

If there’s one area of the Obama presidency that’s been vexing to many of his strongest supporters, it’s been his reluctance to take a hard look at the past sins of his predecessor.

Specifically, questions about torture, illegal surveillance and the like have been given short shrift by this president.

torture

The thinking of his inner circle seemed to be that dredging up the past serves no purpose, even if laws were broken. That rationale was bogus from the start.

Now it looks like things are changing, and light may finally be shed on alleged misdeeds of the Bush cabal. The president and his people, or at least most of them are starting to realize that some of the stuff Bush and his people allegedly did can’t be ignored. The “let’s move on” school has suffered a serious setback. With allegations that the CIA, at the behest of Dick Cheney, put together a counterterrorism program without letting Congress know, and that Attorney General Eric Holder may name a special criminal prosecutor to probe whether US interrogators tortured suspected terrorists, those who have been pressing the administration to get the facts have new and potent ammunition.

Even the naming of a prosecutor may not go far enough if all they’re looking at is some CIA grunt who may have gone too far. Who were the lawyers, who were the policymakers who either affirmed the use of torture or looked the other way when they knew it was happening? The narrow focus of a Justice Dept. probe may not get all the facts. And of course, there’s already pushback from Republicans with a raft of silly pronouncements about why there should be no investigation at all.

“What’s going to be the positive result”? asks John McCain. “This is a terrible trend”, argues Texas Senator John Cornyn. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama could only come up with Dick Cheney’s service to his country. All these arguments are so weak as to be laughable.

However, don’t think for a minute that some of these Republicans won’t try to hold Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court hostage to stop any serious attempt to hold anyone accountable.

Think it can’t happen? Think again. Washington ‘Beltway’ politics is a strange and often ugly thing to watch.

Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing starts Monday. Watch some of these same senators try to drag out that hearing while at the same time, on the down low, they try to horse trade with President Obama. This is where AG Holder comes in. There are reports that, even though he’s been a reluctant convert to the idea of looking at this stuff, he’s not really on board with the idea that the president’s political advisors were calling the shots against a serious investigation.

So, is it Eric Holder to the rescue,

eric.holder

or does the Obama Administration need to go even further in probing Bush era misdeeds?

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Barring Torture Photos- Obama's Blunder?

Nothing hurts President Barack Obama with his base quite like reversing course after making a firm commitment. That’s why his latest flip flop, in moving to bar the release of photos documenting the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan is sure to grate. Wasn’t it just recently the White House said wouldn’t fight the release of these same pictures?

We know the president’s rationale. as he’s articulated it. US military commanders expressed to Defense Secretary Gates a good deal of unease about the release because they fear it could inflame anti American sentiment and put soldiers at risk. Gates then went to the president and told him of those concerns. As valid as they may be, the reversal could stir up a hornet’s nest of problems for the Obama Administration.

There’s a court case here, involving the ACLU. They had prevailed both at the federal trial court and appeals court levels. The agreement to release the photos was crafted to end the litigation. It’s entirely possible that not only could Obama lose in the court of public opinion on this one, but in the courts as well.  That combination would be a body blow politically as well.

How will the president respond to critics who say his “troops at risk” explanation is little more than a blind to mask a capitulation to the Dick Cheneys of the world? And isn’t he trying to take away one of the most powerful tools in making sure torture doesn’t happen again by letting the public see what it really looks like? And raising the red flag of national security sounds an awful lot like the president who just left office, doesn’t it?

No one, repeat, no one wants to put US soldiers at more risk than they face in their normal duties. However, something is getting lost. It is the act of torture, not the release of 2000 pictures, that creates anti-Americanism abroad. The act of releasing them ought to be seen as a symbolic purge of this type of intelligence gathering. Cheney can caterwaul all he wants about the valuable information torture provided. It is he who puts American troops in harm’s way with his constant attempts to defend the indefensible.

Now Obama is starting to look just like him to some of those who worked most passionately for his election. Some media reports say many of the Bush Administration’s fiercest critics felt betrayed and blindsided by Obama’s decision.

Should they be? You tell me?

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