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Laying Blame for the Past

April 23, 2009

When Barack Obama was elected President, I was obviously no fan. Yet a majority of Americans- not to mention nearly all my friends and co-workers- enthusiastically supported the man they thought would wisely lead us to a new era of politics beyond pointless political bickering. I thought they were wrong, but I hoped that I was instead wrong, and that my observations in the year preceding the 2008 election were perhaps nothing more than ungracious partisan swipes.

From my point of view then, the developments of the last week in particular come as no surprise, but I have to admit I have feelings of betrayal and outrage regarding the release of these torture memos and the threat to prosecute certain officials – Republican officials only- for their role in morally difficult circumstances.

The man promised to get the country beyond the disputes of the Bush era. And he has betrayed that promise, and put the security of this country irresponsibly, irrevocably at risk. It’s a disaster, all the more so because so many Americans- well meaning, good intentioned people- will be utterly unaware of it, praising this decision even, until it’s too late. Even then, with an American city smoking in ruins, they will still try to blame Bush and the Republicans for inflaming the anger of those who seek to do us harm. Peter Hoekstra puts it well:

Last week, Mr. Obama argued that those who implemented this program should not be prosecuted — even though the release of the memos still places many individuals at other forms of unfair legal risk. It appeared that Mr. Obama understood it would be unfair to prosecute U.S. government employees for carrying out a policy that had been fully vetted and approved by the executive branch and Congress. The president explained this decision with these gracious words: “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

Then, in what is becoming a pattern for this administration, he changed his mind and decided that prosecuting Bush- era lawyers might be a good idea. I’m lucky that the rest of my life is busy and good because to contemplate the wrongness and hypocrisy of this approach could occupy me for months and months. It will no doubt occupy the attention of our media and nation no matter what my schedule, and I guarantee you that getting past politics is not going to be on anybody’s agenda. This is war, and as much as the Democrats might relish the idea of winning it, I wonder if they have really contemplated the results of what they have done.

George Tenet, who served as CIA director under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, believes the enhanced interrogations program saved lives. He told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in April 2007: “I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.

To cast that aside at this time… words fail. It’s the triumph of the “weak, foolish and dangerously naive”.

Says this other WSJ editorial – study it carefully:


Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.

Policy disputes, often bitter, are the stuff of democratic politics. Elections settle those battles, at least for a time, and Mr. Obama’s victory in November has given him the right to change policies on interrogations, Guantanamo, or anything on which he can muster enough support. But at least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

The criminalization of policy differences: the Democrats dream come true. It’s almost like decreasing our security is part of the plan. Even I am surprised by the depths of the irresponsibility on display.

UPDATE: That said, I’m not at all sure that actual trials will in fact take place, partially because of the logic outlined in this piece

The Left won sweeping control of the federal government in 1976, in the wake of Watergate, so a naive observer who believed in leftist sincerity would assume that they would move aggressively to root out the evil that had spread throughout the American military, intelligence services and government in general. It would be insane to leave lieutenants who started their careers committing war crimes on a “day-to-day basis” in the military so that 30 years later they could rise into the ranks of top generals. 

Instead, they dropped the war crimes allegations as quickly as they could and moved to protect people like John Kerry from prosecution from the many laws he’d broken. (Kerry was a naval reserve officer at the time he made his slanders. If he actually had evidence of crimes he had a legal duty to report the specifics to national and international authorities. If he didn’t actually have evidence then he was responsible for acts against the good order of the military. Either way, he was headed for prison.)  In the process they oh-so magnanimously included an open ended pardon for just about any war crime anyone may have committed in Indochina. How big of them!

Magnanimity had nothing to do with the pardons. The leftists knew that following through on prosecutions for war crimes would have revealed virtually all of the charges to be false. The American public would have seen the leftists as the cynical hypocrites they were, and people like John Kerry could have never become senators or run for the presidency. 

Obama was mentored by these same leftists. From the beginning, he cynically exploited slanders against the current generation of Americans fighting the War on Terror to whip up support for him on the far Left. Now that he has power and following through on his slanders would cost some or all of that power, he will betray the far Left just as his mentors did. 

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Timmy C permalink
    April 23, 2009 11:01 pm


    Trying to follow you here. Are you:

    A. mad that Obama released the torture memos in general without giving blanket immunity to basically the entire Bush administration — or at least the lawyers — rather than just to the CIA interrogators?

    B. Or mad that he released the memos at all?

    C. Or are you mad that he actually changed the policy on waterboarding, week long sleep deprivation sessions, solitary confinement, carefully done beatings, etc?

    D. all of the above….

    Honest question, non-rhetorical.

    As a long time fan of “long bets” on the blog, here’s another from me. Obama — like he did today meeting with Congressional leaders –will use all his Presidential influence behind the scenes to keep Dems in Congress from doing any sort of “torture commission.” It won’t happen.

    Maybe Baybee will eventually lose his job, but no-one will be prosecuted any time soon.

    Obama will throttle down the voices calling for such a commission, and he’ll move on to managing the economic meltdown, the two wars, resetting our energy policy, and getting everybody affordable health care.

    But in my opinion, he’ll do so having moved one step forward in making the Terrorist recruiters job at selling the USA an immoral “torturing Great Satan” just THAT much harder.

    Timmy C.

  2. April 23, 2009 11:07 pm

    Why don’t you try reading some of the links.

  3. Timmy C. permalink
    April 24, 2009 8:39 am

    Hi Count. I actually did read the links, but they don’t make your POV any clearer…I was asking about what you think… And it really is a non-trick question, I’m trying to better get where you are coming from on the whole thing.

  4. April 24, 2009 8:50 am

    I think what the WSJ thinks. It’s that easy. You can pretend I didn’t write a word and just respond to the 2 editorials. I’ not here to help with your reading comprehension.

  5. Timmy C permalink
    April 24, 2009 12:40 pm

    I’d put the WSJ oped into the A or B camp, but your writing seems to be beyond that:

    For example, you wrote:

    To cast that [enhanced interrogation program?] aside at this time… words fail. It’s the triumph of the “weak, foolish and dangerously naive”

    So your post reads to me like going beyond what the WSJ article did and being mad at the change of interrogation policy in the first place, I think. Or actually more likely D “All of the above.”

    Did my reading comprehention do OK?

  6. April 25, 2009 1:30 am

    I don’t really understand what you’re getting at Timmy. I’m not that interested in rating what I’m mad at most. I wrote this in 15 minutes while making breakfast. If the assertions made are too opaque to you to handle I guess you’ll just have to move on.

  7. Timmy C permalink
    April 25, 2009 10:00 am

    Sure: as you lament that you aren’t understood by friends and readers, I was hoping you’d help me understand if you were mad at how Obama handled the torture memos, or THAT he changed the US interrogation policy in the first place….or both.

    I think from reading this, that you are mad at both. But was asking, so I could better get where you were coming from.


    • April 27, 2009 9:42 pm

      I’m not lamenting this one Tim! I’m also now acting upon the realization that it doesn’t matter how much I explain myself. You will still be uncomprehending. Instead of hearing the anger and trying to understand it- supposedly one of your most cherished values – you will instead skip that part and try to just convince me my feelings of outrage are “wrong”, that they are unfounded etc.

      Not to drill it into the ground, but this is yet another example of how you don’t really like to respond to any argument or assertion, but find ways to go off on tangents and nitpick in ways that are more conducive to what you have to say. I’m not trying to insult you, just point out the behavior.

      There are a great many assertions made in my post and the two editorials that you could choose to dispute. The fact that you have not done that, and instead expended all this energy trying to get me to rate what is the most important is just a diversion. Why, I cannot guess, but if you are honestly confused then I am honestly not interested in rating what’s the most important. It’s a monumentally uninteresting question to me, which I’ve communicated to you several times. But that seems not to interest you. In that, let’s be clear, there is a pattern: you almost always want to go off in an area that is not important to me or meaningless to the argument I’ve put out there.

      As a friend, I suggest that you perhaps examine why that would be the case. I have a blog where I rant about things that are important to me. Why would you always want to take the discussion in a direction I clearly don’t want to go? This is what I want you to understand. This is what I want to communicate. If you are confused, you can say you are confused to the point you can’t even comment intelligently on what I have written. That’s fine. I’m no genius and I make no claims to the clarity of thoughts presented here. But they are my thoughts and that is what is most important to me.

  8. April 27, 2009 6:59 pm

    The democrats need to be careful about the precedents they set here.

  9. Timmy C permalink
    April 28, 2009 1:37 pm

    Sorry Dave: I’m really not looking for any rating. I was only trying to figure out what you were criticizing and what you weren’t.

    You seemed to be criticizing not just the WAY or fact that obama released the memos, but also the fact that he changed the interrogation policy in the first place, which is much more than the WSJ article was saying.

    I wasn’t trying to send you on any tangent, but before I responded, nor was there any “gotcha” or trick in my question…I wanted to better understand what you were saying in the first place.

    I still don’t know, and you clearly don’t want to explain that.

    But I am curious, and do want to understand where you are coming from, even if you don’t think I do.


  10. David permalink
    April 29, 2009 10:40 am

    Just putting it out there….Who would Jesus torture?

  11. Tuttle permalink
    April 30, 2009 12:05 am

    Who would Jesus torture?

    Jesus isn’t charged with defending innocents from animals who want to saw your kids’ heads off with a rusty butcher knife.

    A friendly reminder for those among us who are “stuck on stupid”- waterboarding is used on OUR OWN TROOPS during training. Has been for 30 plus years. It is NOT torture by any definition. No permanent harm is caused.

    On top of that waterboarding is PROVEN to have stopped terrorist attacks and SAVED LIVES.

    Libs are too FRAKKIN’ WEAK to look evil in the eye and DEALWITH IT.

  12. Tuttle permalink
    April 30, 2009 12:07 am

    And why the FRAK didn’t the obama admin release data on the attacks STOPPED by waterboarding?

    Gutless traitors every one of ’em.

  13. David permalink
    April 30, 2009 1:13 pm

    Oh my! Tuttle! “Gutless Traitors!” (love your borrowed swear word from Battlestar). Such ejaculate is usually reserved for those that shout “Death to the Infidels”, “Imperialist Pig Dogs” and “Enemy of the State” (regards to Hannity for the latter).

    I have come up with two (possibly erroneous) conclusions:

    1. You are the Grand Inquisitor who has discovered time-travel and is coming to finish what you started.
    2. You are a reincarnation of the Grand Inquisitor who is still stuck in the mindset of the Dark and Middle Ages.

    So the golden rule that Jesus, and just about every culture has espoused is now going to be updated to “Do unto others what you would have done unto you (addendum “unless you don’t really want to”).

    According to the American government during the Korean war, water boarding was a terrible, in-humane torture when the Chinese Communists did it to our soldiers (and the Chinese were believing that they were the righteous ones, paranoid about the imperialist USA). Read Christopher Hitchens’ Vanity Fair article about the SERE program, and how he himself was water boarded and why he knows it is torture, why we shouldn’t do it, and why it doesn’t get us the correct information.

    May I also suggest you pay a visit to the socialist republic of England and go to the London Dungeon in Tooley Street. There you will find a wax-works museum depicting the history of the death penalty and torture in Europe over the last 1500 years. If you can hold the contents of your stomach in, you will see the godless, the infidels, the sick (mentally and physically), the debtors, the ‘enemi es of the monachy/church’, children, women, witches etc etc etc etc, being tortured in the most foul and wretched ways imaginable.

    There is a reason that we have a Geneva Convention, and we are not above it. Otherwise the standards and values that we supposedly hold so dear mean nothing, and we should become the monsters that want to destroy us.



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