help me out here

Why is Barack Obama so popular? Is it really just the pendulum swing from Bush? Is it his speaking prowess? He just seems to be immune to criticism. That’s of concern to me anytime, but especially when he’s protecting people who engaged in torture.

From today’s Age: “In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties [ie. tortured people] relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” Obama said. [I’m sure that’ll be a relief –  they’ve probably had real trouble sleeping at night thinking about all those people they tortured the possibility of being prosecuted for war crimes.]

“This is a time for reflection, not retribution.” [Seriously, those are the only two options he can see?  Does everything have to be alliterated with him?  That’s concerning.]

“But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity [there’s that alliteration again!], nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” [What a load of codswallop. Nothing will be gained, of course, except for genuine repentance and healing…how can you possibly move forward as a nation after such acts without dwelling on them, grieving them, repenting them, bringing to wholeness those who perpetrated them and their victims, and the country that sat idly by while they went on?]

Then Eric Holder, attorney-general: “It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the justice department.” [It’s called the Nuremburg principles, people. No one made them do it, they weren’t coerced.   It didn’t work as a justification for the Nazis, and it shouldn’t work here.  Incidentally note there are no comments from Obama on going after the Justice department and bringing them to justice…]

I think it’s important he be morally consistent. Just because he does something on torture for the future doesn’t mean he’s uncriticisable when he protects those who have engaged in it in the past.  I don’t understand why people aren’t outraged by such blatant hypocrisy.

4 thoughts on “help me out here

  1. John McCain was a pendulum swing from Bush. Obama has a six-pack, community development cred and charisma! He’s Matt Santos come to life.

    Having said that, I agree with you entirely. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was ‘waterboarded’ 183 times! (

    Long before these memos were released, Philippe Sands wrote a detailed and damning account of how torture came to Guantanamo and Abu Grahib and who was responsible for what. It’s called Torture Team. (

  2. Thanks for the links Olivia…seems Obama doesn’t believe his own hype.

    “He says the change in policy means CIA operatives have a harder job, but he is confident they will meet the challenge.”

    I thought he was taking a partly pragmatic line saying torture didn’t yield accurate information…doesn’t that make it an _easier_ job?

    “Mr Obama says he put an end to the interrogation technique because America needs to deploy both its power and the power of its values.”

    Apparently the power of its values alone isn’t enough…sometimes it needs to be augmented by force. But hey, might makes right I guess.

  3. You are spot on. The idea that “CIA operatives have a harder job” implies that torture ‘works’, which it doesn’t. Sands finds no evidence that torture elicited anything of any value out of their No. 1 captive, Sheikh Mohammed. There is no justification for torture, moral, political or pragmatic.

    Raimond Gaita reminds us of Socrates’ ethic: “It is better to suffer evil than to do it. . . Morality, as Socrates understood it, may require us to renounce the means to achieve what we most passionately believe and decently desire and the means to protect what we rightly cherish’ (Gaita’s 2004 Quarterly Essay for Black Inc, ‘Breach of Trust: Truth, morality and politics’). And he’s still assuming torture may be a useful means to achieve our objectives.

    Even if Obama can’t bring himself to prosecute, the Pinochet precedent allows for some hope of prosecution, somewhere. Bush, Rumsfeld and others ought to be cautious about their international travel. Fujimori showed breathtaking hubris and naivety in returning to South America to campaign for president in a country that was seeking his extradition. (

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