Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama's game

First off, the release of the torture memos is laudable and very, very important. And I think that Holder's assurances that CIA operatives not be prosecuted for war crimes they may have performed undeer guidance from the DOJ memos may be defensible for now. That's because the real targets for prosecution should first, and foremost, be the policymakers who ordered the torture. I don't want to see any more Lyndie England affairs, where some grunt takes the fall for official misconduct.

That said, Greenwald is critical of Obama's call for the following good reasons.:

The more one reads of this, the harder it is to credit Obama's statement today that "this is a time for reflection, not retribution." At least when it comes to the orders of our highest government leaders and the DOJ lawyers who authorized them, these are pure war crimes, justified in the most disgustingly clinical language and with clear intent of wrongdoing. FDL has a petition urging Eric Holder to immediately appoint a Special Prosecutor to determine if criminal proceedings should commence. Obama did the right thing by releasing these memos, providing all the information and impetus the citizenry should need to demand investigations and prosecutions. But it is up to citizens to demand that the rule of law be applied.

Here's what I think may be going on. I think Obama is in a very delicate situation here. The very last thing he wants is for this to be perceived as a partisan affair, mere retribution against the losing party using the legal system. Given the extremely toxic partisan atmosphere of modern US politics there will inevitably be some who will make this charge, but it is vital that it not stick. Obama seems to have the rare ability to look at the long-term and I think he's very, very reluctant to set any precedents down that road.

Therefore it's very important that he be seen as being forced to take action. He can't take the lead. That's why criticism from Greenwald and others is useful because it helps build that pressure.

If Obama had any interest in actually blocking the eventual prosecution of somebody for war crimes this would have been a good place to draw his line by redacting the hell out of the memos, as certain powerful elements apparently wanted. Instead nearly every damning word has been released.

Remember there is no statute of limitations for these crimes. I fully expect that prosecutions will come. Indeed, as more and more evidence comes out it the pressure will become irresistible. Remember that there are, apparently, videos and photos of much, much worse things that were done. "Murder and rape" were the words Sen. Lindsey Graham used.

By all means keep complaining. I doubt that Obama actually minds.

No comments:

Slate - Encyclopedia Baracktannica