April 21, 2009
After saying that Bush-administration lawyers who drafted guidelines for interrogations of terrorists, Obama [is now] Open to Inquiry in Interrogation Abuses:
President Obama [today] left open the door to creating a bipartisan commission that would investigate the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, and he did not rule out taking action against the lawyers who fashioned the legal guidelines for the interrogations.
Unable to make decisions, however, Obama – of course – votes present on the matter:
Mr. Obama, who has been saying that the nation should look ahead rather than focusing on the past, said he is “not suggesting” that a commission be established.
Mr. Obama said once again that he does not favor prosecuting C.I.A. operatives who used interrogation techniques that he has since banned. But as for lawyers or others who drew up the former policies allowing such techniques, he said it would be up to his attorney general to decide what to do, adding, “I don’t want to prejudge that.”
No, no – why would he want to act like a president?
Showing the incoherence that has defined his administration, Obama decides that those who merely did their jobs will not be prosecuted, except of course for those who will be prosecuted:
The decision to promise no prosecution of those who followed the legal advice of the Bush administration lawyers was easier, aides said, because it would be hard to charge someone for doing something the administration had determined was legal. The lawyers, however, are another story.
Huh? President Bush asked administration lawyers to attempt to define torture. They did what the president asked. There is not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that the lawyers approached this assignment in bad faith. Soooo, those who carried out the torture were just doing what someone else ordered, while those who carried out their task of defining the undefinable were involved in criminal activity!
Speaking of the impossibility of the task involved, I have an idea. How about all those who call for prosecuting these lawyers first provide a clear definition of torture? If it is so patently obvious that the Bush lawyers criminally drafted these memos, then it ought to be easy to come up with a legal definition of the techniques at issue. Any takers? (By the way, why doesn’t the Democrat president demand that the Democrat-controlled Congress to pass a bill that once-and-for-all defines and outlaws “torture” so that we can get beyond the stale debates of the past?)
The fact that defining torture is an incredibly difficult task just about definitively proves that there was no criminal activity. Yes, the lawyers may have reached the wrong conclusion, but offering a legal opinion that turns out to be incorrect is not illegal! Otherwise, John Paul Stevens would have been in the dock decades ago.
Perhaps more importantly, the threat of prosecution in these individual cases will no doubt undermine a president’s ability to obtain candid advice from his advisors. One would think that the current president would be concerned about that. But not Obama:
“Don’t be discouraged by what’s happened in the last few weeks,” he told employees. “Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the C.I.A.”
Don’t be discouraged, but be prepared to be prosecuted if you render candid advice that turns out to have been possibly mistaken.
Finally, this story provides a wealth of tidbits demonstrating Obama’s unwillingness to be a real leader:
In the end, aides said, Mr. Obama opted to disclose the memos because his lawyers worried that they had a weak case for withholding them and because much of the information had already been made public in The New York Review of Books, in a memoir by George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director, and even in a 2006 speech by President George W. Bush.
Please, make it stop!