Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is failure our watchword?

By Don Klein

When is a war crime not a war crime? When government lawyers exonerate other government lawyers for violating established international law.

Everyone knows that torture is against everything this country stands for. Except, perhaps, the Justice Department lawyers in judgment of the Bush lawyers who inspired the travesty of creating new language to give US agents the green light during the years of authorized water boarding.

We have backed off from the Nuremberg trials which established the rule that "I was ordered to do so" is no excuse for committing war crimes. Dozens of Nazis were charged and at least 12 were sentenced to death for war crimes. The United States led the world in condemning acts of official brutality and installed the rule of decent treatment of all captives, military and civilian, and banning torture.

The Bush Administration, pumped by the warped ideals of Vice President Dick Cheney, reneged on this honorable commitment. Now the Obama Administration has let off the hook the men who justified Bush torture policy. Current Justice Department lawyers probing former Justice Department lawyers ended up slapping the culprits on the wrist for legalizing harsh treatment of captives held by this country.

It’s enough to make one think there is no hope that the US government can ever do anything right anymore. Not only are they not to be tried as war criminals, the lawyers who authored the pernicious rule that led to water boarding, Jay S. Bybee and John C. Yoo, are now "honorable" members of society. Bybee is a federal judge and Yoo a university professor.

According to the decision by the Justice Department the two used flawed legal reasoning but were not guilty of official misconduct. Are these the kind of men we want on the federal bench and teaching in an American law school? They should be serving a term in the penitentiary, or at least suffer disbarment.

This is just one more case of President Obama’s impotence. He is so afraid of offending Republicans he is distorting his entire approach to the right things to do. He bends over backwards to get Republican bipartisanship in the Senate and gets slapped in the face time and again. He has brought turning the other cheek to new level of disillusionment.

His party has already taken war crimes trials off the table for Bush and Cheney, now the government won’t even find anything seriously wrong with the lawyers that were used to give torture the air of legality. It makes it extremely difficult for one-time Obama supporters to maintain their enthusiasm for the man. He just does not seem to have what is needed to do all things he said he would do during the campaign.

Where do disenchanted Obama backers go? There is nothing for them in the two party system. The GOP is bold and drives the country into the arms of the profiteers and Neanderthals, and the Democrats make wonderful promises to reform this, that and everything else and despite having a clear majority in both houses of Congress are scared off from doing anything once resistance raises its ugly head.

Unlike fairytales, our white knights are colossal cowards. Cheney openly brags of his role in propelling torture into the American national image and he trots freely on our streets and on our television screens. Bush rests in comfortable Texas banishment trying on his flight suit whenever he gets bored with reading the comics and ignores the national turmoil he helped create.

Meanwhile, the people are close to rebellion. The Tea Party adherents, embracing their political ignorance – and Sarah Palin, want to secede from the Union. On the other side, the Liberals are disenchanted and won’t come out to vote in important elections which allowed the usually Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts last month to go Republican for the first time in a half century.

I won’t say this frustration is all Obama fault, but much of it is. He showed little gumption to fight for his programs during his first year in office. People view him as a pussycat being frightened into the corner at the mere mention of a filibuster. He is not the tiger they thought they elected in November 2008.

There is a serious possibility that now, after more than a year of going nowhere on health reform, bank regulations and environmental issues that the Democrats will surely take a beating when the midterm elections come in November. No one wants to be a Democrat running for office this year – with good reason. They are one gigantic national flop.

Now they add insult to their political impotence by allowing war criminals to get away with their malevolent behavior. The inability of the government to perform on any level has paralyzed the nation and America will soon be a wonderful dream that, we in this generation, failed to nurture and pass on in decent shape to our progeny.

Just think of it. During the last decade we had a tragic war, a disastrous economy which has bankrupted the country and a stymied government resulting in massive unemployment plus thousands of dead and horribly injured American servicemen and the loss of global prestige and no government policy maker will be held accountable for it.

If the Republicans take control of the Senate and maybe even the House of Representatives this fall that will mean the end of all progress – as if that would be any worse than it already is.

After Bush many swore never vote for a national Republican again. Now the problem is compounded. They must ask, after Obama, "what do I do?"


Anonymous said...

This commentary is so full of contradictions, I just don't know where to start!

irwinb said...

Don- A couple of thoughts about your blog, the anonymous response on your blog, and my thoughts;

1. I would ignore any response on your blog signed “anonymous”- if one does not have the courage to sign a communication, then I believe he (she) loses the right to be listened to. If you know who anonymous is, then it is a different story, at least as to you.
2. Having dismissed the first response, I do feel that you are all over the place on this blog. I understand and share many of your frustrations, but not your conclusions.
3. With respect to the Justice Department report that was released last week- Generally on the face of the reporting, I too was disappointed in the result. My instinct is that there were guilty of professional misconduct, and not just giving bad advice. (I hope that the Bar Associations of the respective States, decide to further investigate the actions of Yoo and Bybee)a. However to state “this is one more case of President Obama’s impotence” is so way off the mark. As Phil has stated, what BHO did was to take it out of the political sphere and put it in the professional arena of the OPR of the Justice Department. We both may not agree with the conclusion of the OPR, but that is quite different from blaming Obama, either for the decision or for selecting the process that the decision derived from (By the way, I note that the report of the OPR of the Justice Department is 289 pages. I have not read the report yet, although I do intend to read the relevant pages. I may be convinced by the arguments that the Justice Department arguments are correct. Have you read the report (or the relevant pages) before coming to the conclusion that it is wrong?
4. The fact that the OPR of the Justice Department did the investigation does bother me as much as it does you. We often allow self evaluation and audit in many areas of our lives, both governmental and non-governmental. I think I prefer this type of review than to open up a congressional inquiry that would be mired in politics
5. Do you really believe that Bush/Cheney should have been prosecuted as war criminals? That would set one hell of a precedent for future Presidents and the Executive Branch of government. Seems a little extreme.
6. I don’t believe that the nation is close to rebellion. I am concerned about the seeming “reign of terror” that the right wing seems to be embarked on. I lay a good deal of this unrest on the Media (both print and TV) who have lost any sense of what I understand to be the proper way to conduct their business’. It should be the role of the media to get us back into civil discourse, or let the extremes on both sides carry the day.
7. The current legislative paralysis is disgusting. I think that the Republicans are acting like Maoists in the way they are conducting themselves as the “loyal opposition”- But the Democrats should not get a pass. Both Pelosi and Reid could be doing a more effective job.
8. And BHO deserves a share of the blame in not being more forceful in pushing his agenda. I agree with you that he should have allowed the republicans to filibuster, rather than just continuing to get them on the board in a bi-partisan fashion.

Citizen Klein said...

Dear Anonymous, The world is full of contradictions, not the least of which is a comment about a no comment by an author who hides behind anonymity.