Torturing His Supporters

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Hat tip to Armando this morning, for: AP: Obama Team Debating Violating UN Convention On Torture

The other day, the AP reported:

President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners, according to two U.S. officials familiar with drafts of the plans. Still under debate is whether to allow exceptions in extraordinary cases.

. . . Obama’s changes may not be absolute. His advisers are considering adding a classified loophole to the rules that could allow the CIA to use some interrogation methods not specifically authorized by the Pentagon, the officials said. They said the intent is not to use that as an opening for possible use of waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, such a “loophole” would constitute a violation of the UN Convention on Torture, codified as a crime under US law:

We all know by now, or we should know by now, that Obama has no problem endlessly torturing people who put him where he is with talk of torture loopholes.

The question is are the loopholes he’s talking about big enough to allow even more bush era torture fanatics like Brennan in, to enable Obama to co-opt far right GOP senators and reps?

This is all about gaining “bipartisan” support, and power. Nothing else.

There is virtually no sunlight between the two when it comes to amassing and retaining power, and when it comes right down to it any suggestion that presidential power be limited appears to justify “exceptions in extraordinary cases”, in Obama’s world.

Barack Obama appears to have the same problem (or fantasy, depending on your POV) that George Bush had,  a problem described by Phillip Carter and Dahlia Lithwick at Slate back in October 2007 in

All Wet: Why can’t we renounce waterboarding once and for all?…  

      What is it about waterboarding that makes the White House so reluctant to renounce it? It’s an old torture technique from the Spanish Inquisition that consists of immobilizing your target on an inclined board, head down, with cloth covering their face. Pouring water over the face simulates drowning. The practice leaves no physical marks. It’s illegal under the Geneva Conventions and has long been treated as a war crime by the United States. We even use this technique to train our own troops to withstand illegal torture by our enemies. As retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, a former top Navy lawyer and now dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., testified at Mukasey’s hearing last week, “Other than perhaps the rack and thumbscrews, waterboarding is the most iconic example of torture in history. It has been repudiated for centuries. It’s a little bit disconcerting to hear now that we’re not quite sure where waterboarding fits in the scheme of things.”

       For starters, Bush won’t renounce waterboarding because it violates the two choice cocktails of anyone drunk on executive authority: Absolut secrecy and Absolut power.

       First, secrecy. It has long been the view of the Bush administration that nothing can be deemed illegal so long as it remains a secret. Never mind that it’s a secret only to people living in igloos without wireless service. That’s why, even while there’s a major movie out about rendition, we call it a secret. Since they have yet to make a movie called Waterboard, Mukasey could take the absurd position that he isn’t sure precisely what it involves. Cute trick. Call it a secret, and there can be no legal debate. As the White House insisted Friday, “Judge Mukasey is not in a position to discuss interrogation techniques which are necessarily classified.” If the soon-to-be-AG cannot hazard an opinion on the legality of waterboarding, even when he can read step-by-step accounts of it on the Internet, who are the rest of us to condemn it?

       The problem with this argument is that the administration’s use of waterboarding on detainees has been known publicly since at least May 2004. Everybody knows what it involves, and even if you live in an igloo without wireless, you can tell it’s illegal. The argument that you can’t call it torture until you’ve been “read into” the torture program is just a lawyer’s trick that justifies keeping bad conduct secret to end-run the laws.

       Next, there is the absolute authority argument. The real reason the Bush administration clings to its power to order waterboarding has little to do with any strategic argument and everything to do with the old standby assertion that to renounce his authority to waterboard would be to give away the president’s power.

The real reason Obama is reluctant to appoint a Special Prosecutor himself has little to do with any strategic argument and everything to do with the old standby assertion that to renounce his authority to waterboard would be to give away the president’s power.

We shall see if his rhetoric about an “independent”, “rule of Law” based DOJ under Holder has any meaning beyond co-opting opposition from his base.

Want change you can believe in? We’re going to have to make it, folks. From the bottom up. It’s not going to come from the top down. The “top”, no matter who sits in the big chair in the Oval Office, is not going to relinquish any power voluntarily.

The other day the NYT published results of their latest poll, in Poll Finds Faith in Obama, Mixed With Patience, and states that people are :

“prepared to give him years to deal with the crush of problems” and “79 percent were optimistic about the next four years”.

But if the boldness displayed by Democrats, and by voters, since the 2006 Midterms is any indication, it looks like he can stick his thumb in the country’s eye and relax with his feet up for the next four years and still count on re-election.

Now if 79 percent said “this what you will do and have completed by then, or you will be fired in 2012”, he might get busy with some bold action. Maybe.

The problem is not with Obama or with the Democrats. The problem is that the people who need to hold them accountable and force bold action from them lack the boldness to do it. Once people vote they give away the only leverage they had.

“Wait and see”, and “hope”, is deadly in this game. People either tell Obama what he must do, and threaten him with banishment to the same political wilderness that Ford found himself in, or roll over and give up. It’s pretty black and white.

But if people roll up their sleeves and get involved, and get bold, then and only then they can force change.

The Petition for a Special prosecutor is one example. Will people give Obama a pass if a special prosecutor is not appointed? If he gives war criminals a pass, and effectively “pardons” Bush and Cheney, will you give Obama a pass?

Ford should have been stood against the wall and shot for that pardon.  Nixon cooling his heels in the clink for a few years would have prevented this mess, no doubt.

Sign the petition. Send a link to everyone you can.

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    • Edger on January 18, 2009 at 6:41 pm
    • Edger on January 18, 2009 at 6:57 pm


  1. on the end game here. I’ll do whatever I can to support the appointment of a special prosecutor.

    But I don’t see it as an either/or thing. If Holder doesn’t appoint one, I won’t pull out of doing whatever I can to have an impact with the Obama administration on other issues. So I won’t be writing Obama off and I won’t be giving him a pass.

    And on the article from the AP – I’d need to see WAY more on that to think Obama is considering approving waterboarding in the future. First of all, its the AP – nuff said. Secondly, there are all kinds of qualifying words in there. Things like “considering” and “some interrogation methods.”

    I don’t like ANY of it. Its just that for me, I wouldn’t draw the same conclusions without more information.

  2. I don’t know if it’s happened because of Pepe Escobar’s video stating that prosecutors can be found in every state, etc., but it seems like it.

    Bugliosi’s Book Being Mailed Now to All Prosecutors

    Submitted by davidswanson on Sun, 2009-01-18 01:44. Criminal Prosecution

    Got a message from Vince Bugliosi that his book is being mailed, thanks to Bob Alexander and lots of contributors, to all district prosecutors. Now is the time to get organized locally and contact your prosecutors about it:

    • Valtin on January 18, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Who is doing the leaking? For what purpose? Does it really represent Obama’s thinking, or is it meant to set up an atmosphere for the push on the administration the CIA et al. intend to perform in the first days of the administration. For various reasons, I think the latter.

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