"war on terror" doesn't pass the smell test anymore

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Returning to a Pre-9/11 Approach to the "War on Terror"

  By Kevin Gosztola  OpEdNews  January 30, 2009  

By signing an executive order in his first days in office, Obama, for the most part, nullified U.S. authorization for capture, interrogation, and indefinite imprisonment of terror suspects all over the world.

According to Jane Mayer, author of the book "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into the War on American Ideals," in the first few days of his presidency, Obama "consigned to history the worst excesses of the Bush Administration's "war on terror"" by canceling "seven years of controversial Justice Department legal opinions authorizing methods of treating terror suspects," which Susan Crawford, a top Bush Administration official in charge of prosecutions at Guantanamo, recently said amounted to torture.

A chief architect of the legal opinions which granted interrogators the right to torture, John Yoo, could not resist the urge to respond to the actions of President Obama.

The Wall Street Journal published Yoo's editorial this week, an editorial where Yoo claims, "Mr. Obama is returning America to the failed law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that prevailed before Sept. 11, 2001."

Yoo also claims Obama is "drying up the most valuable sources of intelligence on al Qaeda, which, according to CIA Director Michael Hayden, has come largely out of the tough interrogation of high-level operatives during the early years of the war."

Yoo's editorial seems to suggest the old Bush mantra that "we live in a post-9/11 world." The supposition that there is a difference allows for policies like Yoo's to be constructed; the idea that 9/11 means Americans must think differently is used to justify torture...

Mayer points out that Obama consulted military officers and went to great lengths to make sure that any anti-abuse or anti-interrogation policy was appropriate to them.

Mayer reports that last month two future Obama Administration lawyers met with retired four-star Marine general and conservative Republican Charles (Chuck) Krulak.

"Krulak insisted that ending the Bush Administration's coercive interrogation and detention regime was "right for America and right for the world," reports Mayer. Krulak "promised that if the Obama Administration did what he described as "the right thing," which he acknowledged wouldn't be politically easy, he would personally "fly cover" for them."

So, say torture hadn't occurred. Does Obama's consultation of the military really fail to ease Yoo's fear?

Better---Would a four-star Marine general and conservative Republican, Krulak, be opposed to the change of policy the Obama Administration that is being undertaken if it was true that, as Yoo states in the WSJeditorial, "eliminating the Bush system will mean that we will get no more information from captured al Qaeda terrorists. Every prisoner will have the right to a lawyer (which they will surely demand), the right to remain silent, and the right to a speedy trial?

For those who lived in a state of fear or adopted this public persona meant to show people they were afraid so certain policies could be advanced, it may be reasonable for Yoo to worry about the reforms Obama is undertaking.

Yoo explains in his editorial that he fears that military commission trials will be stayed, "good-cop bad-cop routines" will no longer be allowed, the Army Field Manual will dictate what is and is not a permissible interrogation technique, detainees will be reclassified as POWs under the Geneva Conventions, and the civilian law-enforcement system will be asked to prevent future terrorist attacks.

Why is a professor who teaches law at UC Berkeley convinced the rule of law is not adequate for security and justice when most laws are enforced to keep people safe and maintain fairness in society? Is Yoo like a Republican in government who believes all government is bad and so he or she goes to work deregulating and dismantling all that government does for the people?

Yoo suggests Obama's reversal of policy will require "CIA interrogators [to] be polite" and will mean "coercive measures are unwisely banned with no exceptions, regardless of the danger confronting the country."

Before Yoo becomes worried that Obama's base will get what they want, he should admit that Obama's executive order did not just include something to appease anti-torture advocates but also included something for pro-torture lawyers like Yoo.

The executive order signed did order that the Army Field Manual dictate what was permissible and not permissible, but it also "created a task force to recommend policies on handling terror suspects who are detained in the future" and called for a group to find a place "where those detainees should be housed since Guantanamo is closing.

In other words, the Army Field Manual may be appended and "updated" to include some of the Bush policies Yoo supports because "the task force will study whether other interrogation guidelines -- beyond what's spelled out in the Army manual -- are necessary for intelligence professionals in dealing with terror suspects."

While an Obama Administration official anonymously claimed this is not a way for "enhanced interrogation techniques" to be re-introduced, one must presume that any study could reduce or increase the number of guidelines, and if guidelines were increased, exactly what would those guidelines be if not further instructions for carrying out "enhanced interrogation techniques" (or torture)?

Mayer describes that shortly before the signing ceremony Obama met with military officers in the Roosevelt Room. Vice-President Joe Biden and other top Administration officials were present.

"'Two of the officers had sons serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them, retired Major General Paul Eaton, stressed that, as he put it later that day, "torture is the tool of the lazy, the stupid, and the pseudo-tough. It's also perhaps the greatest recruiting tool that the terrorists have,'" describes Mayer. "The feeling in the room, as retired Rear Admiral John Hutson later put it, "was joy, perhaps, that the country was getting back on track."

Mayer admits that over in Langley, Virginia where CIA headquarters is located, there was "less jubilation." The prime concern was that the C.I.A. might have to follow the same interrogation rules as the military.

Obama (who Mayer reports is "somewhat sympathetic to the spies' argument that their mission and circumstances are different" than the military's) will have to consider what he will allow the CIA to do and not do. Obama has already chosen to strip the CIA of its right to operate secret prison sites in nations all over the globe.

Perhaps, the best summation of American uneasiness with the shift in policy comes from Yoo's citation of the following phrase, which appeared in Obama's inaugural speech.

Yoo explains that Obama's "high-flying rhetoric" that we can "reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" gives "al Qaeda -- a hardened enemy committed to our destruction -- the same rights as garden-variety criminals at the cost of losing critical intelligence about real, future threats."

If you believe Obama, who went out of his way to consult military experts before choosing to enact reform, would do this knowing it could put America into a situation where it would face "real" and "future threats", then what happened in Obama's first few days signaled America was readying itself to lose the so-called "war on terror." 

But, if you sighed in relief when Obama's pen touched the parchment (or printed order from Kinkos or Xerox), then you know the "war on terror" doesn't pass the smell test anymore and in fact, grants Americans the right to brutalize other human beings who may or may not be guilty of a crime---who may or may not pose a "threat" to this nation. 

Authors Bio: Kevin Gosztola goes to Columbia College in Chicago where he is studying film. He hopes to become a documentary filmmaker. He is a production assistant for CitizenKate.TV right now and went to the Inauguration. He is also currently working as a production assistant on a documentary called "Seriously Green" which traces the development of the Green Party throughout the 2008 election. He has a passion for journalism and writes articles or press releases for events in his spare time. He also enjoys writing movie reviews.

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This page contains a single entry published on January 30, 2009 12:53 PM.

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