Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama, Prosecute the War Criminals

Obama’s decision not to prosecute the perpetrators of the torture that was carried out in secret military bases, torture that resulted in the death of at least 100 people is completely inexcusable. Article 2.2 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to which the U.S. became a State Party in 1998 under Ronald Reagan is quite clear:

"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

The Bush administration and its legal enablers violated the treaty. Treaties which have been ratified by the United States Senate have the same force and effect as laws passed in the United States. Those responsible MUST be put on trial and, if found guilty, sent to prison. Yes it was a group of pretty despicable people who were subjected to this treatment, but that shouldn’t matter. Laws against torture and abuse of prisoners were not put in place to stop crimes against people we like, but to stop interrogators from misusing their power to harm people we despise. It is very strange to me, this idea that we should just “move on”. Why? As a letter writer to the Times astutely noted this morning, if some average Joe imprisoned somebody in his basement, chained them from the ceiling, kept them awake for 11 days straight, and waterboarded them 183 times resulting in their death you wouldn't question for a moment the need for prosecution. In fact, in most states, murder of this sort is a first degree offense and would subject the perpetrator to the death penalty. Yet Obama, in the name of God knows what, has decided that this is somehow an inappropriate path to tread down. Perhaps he doesn’t want to start taking whacks at the increased presidential power that Bush seized during his reign of terror for fear that his own power would be truncated. Who knows?

Nevertheless, Presidents are not above the law and history will not treat us kindly if we choose to look the other way at this monumental crime for the sake of political expediency.

100 Days

Like most of you I was raised with the aphorism, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Of course I routinely ignored that advice during the Bush tenure, but I promised a few people I would give Obama the benefit of the doubt before subjecting him to the same sort of critical review due politicians of lesser intellect and stature. So, I took a little hiatus during the first 100 days of the Obama administration, hopeful that when I returned I would be able to report that the ship of state was sailing along smoothly under the steady hand of our taciturn commander-in-chief. Well…….not really. Obama has proven himself an able leader and a masterful politician, but in some areas he has fumbled badly and should be brought to task for his mistakes. For example, he has deeply disappointed the left and hasn’t made any new friends on the right-so much for change in Washington. He has supported the Bush administration’s assault on the Constitution and failed to prosecute the perpetrators of torture at the CIA. The stimulus plan gives too much money to Wall Street, etc., etc. At least he is taking a stab at healthcare and I can’t say enough positive things about his push towards green energy and support for a high-speed rail system. But he won’t get a free ride from this blogger. Not anymore.

For a part-time blogging hack like myself, Obama poses a dilemma. He is so active, on so many fronts, that it is impossible to analyze his performance in the amount of time I have to devote to this blog. So I’ll take little bites and chew thoroughly. Stay tuned.