Barack Obama often uses straw man analogies to back up his claims. It is the strategy of a weak debater. And that is fine, when you are in the legislature, one of a hundred senators.
As President, however, Obama is finding out that sometimes you need to make a hard decision.
This week’s back and forth on CIA prosecutions is a perfect example. For me, I see no way that you can be on the fence on this issue. Either you support the Bush Administration in their use of harsh interrogation techniques (whether or not you think it was right to use techniques such as waterboarding); or you think it is torture, in which case you should bring prosecutions. The public is divided as well. A Gallup poll shows that although 38% of people want some kind of prosecutions, 58% don’t; although 24% of that 58% would like more transparency on the entire interrogation program.
The President, on the other hand, is trying to have it both ways. And Dick Cheney, Darth Vader incarnate, called him on it.
With Cheney’s request to make more of the memos unclassified, especially those regarding the results of the interrogations, Obama is now stuck. Either he has to defend the secrecy of the memos (which he already said was not as important as ‘transparency’ in this issue), or he has to release the memos, and defend changing a policy that may have saved thousads of lives in 2005.
Oh, don’t believe the interrogations led to saving lives? Well, the facts are these:
- The Central Intelligence Agency stands by the assertion made in a May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that the use of “enhanced techniques” of interrogation on al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) — including the use of waterboarding — caused KSM to reveal information that allowed the U.S. government to thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles.
- Before he was waterboarded, when KSM was asked about planned attacks on the United States, he ominously told his CIA interrogators, “Soon, you will know.” He gave up no information prior to using these interrogation techniques.
- The thwarted attack — which KSM called the “Second Wave”– planned “ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.”
- That information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discover of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemaah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave.’”
- In the memo itself, the Justice Department’s Bradbury told the CIA’s Rossi: “Your office has informed us that the CIA believes that ‘the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al Qa’ida has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.”
Now, these were all stated in the memos that Obama has already released. And he has yet to release those that actually go back and evaluate the success or failure of the interrogations.
C.K. McLeod at Hot Air has an excellent piece on what is rational, and what is not on the torture debate. We may not all agree with the definition of torture, but we all agree that we should be very resistant to using anything that comes close to the definition. You can disagree on whether waterboarding is torture, but you can disagree that it is a very, very harsh interrogation technique, and if it isn’t torture, it certainly comes close to bordering on the definition.
Obama has now started open season on lawyers and legal experts who gave their opinions on the interrogation legality debate. Frankly, if you are going to prosecute anyone, it makes sense to go after those that actually committed the crime, not just suggested that the supposed action was legal? There is no logic to the current Obama decision, other than it is politically expedient.
Those on the left who were despondent yesterday are now exuberant at the possibility of trials. I say bring it on. Obama has already excuesd those that actually performed the harsh interrogations. Proving anything against lawyers will be virtually impossible. Really, worst case scenario, what crime did they commit? Additionally, the left has truly lost its mind on this issue, with no relationship to reality.
Andrew Sullivan today defines anything that results in the prisoner to say anything to make the interrogation stop. Ridiculous. My mother would be fascinated that she tortured my sister and I when we were children. Not to mention my wife, who I often will say anything to stop the interrogation…maybe we should send her to Gitmo to interrogate these guys… (I know, sorry honey…)…see what I mean?
Mr. Obama keeps talking about making the tough decisions. Frankly, none of the decisions he has made so far are tough. The media claimed he had a great moment when he called for Navy SEALS to shoot the pirates in Somalia; to me, that was one of the easiest decisions ever. A tough decision is one where both your opponents and your allies may be against you…and Obama so far has not shown that type of courage.
Obama can delay this decision, but he cannot avoid it. Ultimately, external events will go far in dictating how this plays out. The White House can call the War on Terror whatever it likes (‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’; really? Is that the best they can do?). But the war goes on. And there are real risks to not continuing off shore prisons, not continuing interrogations, and not actively continuing the war against Al Qaeda. God willing, the costs of ignoring these threats will not leave American lives in their wake.