Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Little Sunday Night Politics

A big reason a lot of my friends have cited for their support of Obama was that he would supposedly be far superior to Bush in our War on Terror policies etc. I think it is really interesting to see how Obama has in fact turned out to be: change more in word or term than deed. That makes me happy, but I am curious if anyone besides the ACLU is disappointed? Here is what Andy McCarthy had to say:

Obama wants to have the advantage of — and take credit for the security provided by — the Bush post-9/11 policies. However, he has a rabid left-wing base that rejects the notion that there is a war and wants terrorism returned to the courts (and by the way, if/when that happens, that base will immediately go back to arguing that the court proceedings are inherently unfair, which is what it did for the eight years before 9/11). Throughout the campaign, Obama stirred this base — which consequently voted in droves for him — by trashing the policies he now wants to leave in place. So now he is in a quandary: "How do I keep these policies while preventing a revolt from these crazy people — er, I mean, my voters?"

What Obama, Holder & Co. have done on "enemy combatants" is a somewhat more elaborate version of what they've done on Gitmo, rendition, state-secrets, interrogations, etc. Call it, as the editors of NRO have called it, "Change George Bush Could Believe In."

Essentially, we're no longer going to call our captives "enemy combatants" ... but we're still going to detain people without trial, and Obama claims the unilateral authority to decide who gets detained.

We're no longer going to rely on the President's Article II authority to detain these enem — er, whatever we're calling them (how about "undocumented freedom fighters"?) ... but we're not saying there is no such authority either — and meantime, we're relying on Congress's post-9/11 authorization to use military force and on international law principles that, under these circumstances, are so overwhelmingly valid that Article II is just icing on the cake (notwithstanding that it was our basis throughout the campaign for saying that George Bush was destroying the Constitution and the United States).

And we're going to tell everyone that, because we're much more careful vetters than that bad old administration, we're only going to hold onto undocumented freedom fighters who provided substantial assistance to al Qaeda ... even though we realize that this is exactly what that bad old administration meant, and did, when it held people who it said had provided plain old assistance to al Qaeda. (And, by the way, Obama reserves to himself the power to decide what constitutes substantial).

In sum, Bush's policies are validated, and Obama is banking that his base will be content with a few rhetorical crumbs. Of course they won't be — the ACLU, which is crazy but not stupid, is already blasting this move. That being the case, what I continue to be very concerned about is the likelihood that Obama — to meet or at least be close to his ill-considered one-year deadline for closing Gitmo — will start releasing droves of the remaining 240+ undocumented freedom fighters to countries where they will promptly rejoin the jihad. And, yes, I know we're not supposed to say jihad like it's a bad thing either, but I just don't think what these guys will be rejoining is an internal struggle for personal betterment.


Jessica and Matt said...

Thanks for the article -- it was very insightful and right-on -- thanks for posting it. I get smarter and better informed every time I read your blog!

Alexandra said...

Is it all the pictures of my kids in goggles? -Brigham

Alexandra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alexandra said...

I think it is interesting--fascinating, really--that Obama's policy re the War on Terror has evolved to be almost identical to Bush's, with just a few rhetorical bones thrown to the left (like he doesnt call the detainees enemy combatants (they just dont have a name) and he isnt holding them pursuant to Pres authority--but he isnt saying he doesnt have that, either. Or that he has extended the time commitment of our troops in Iraq from immediate withdrawal to withdwl in 16 months. He is keeping renditions, which means that the CIA can send captured whatever-we-will-call-thems to foreign countries where foreign soldiers will "question" them. Now they will be experiencing real torture that could kill or permanently injure them, (as opposed to playing Christina Aguillera on high volume or, at absolute worst, pouring water on their faces to simulate drowning (a practice the US military performs on our own soldiers as part of training)--things that are highly uncomfortable but not life-threatening. But that is a whole other discussion.) And he is closing Gitmo as soon as he can figure out where to send them, since he does not want them released yet. Hm.

The more intelligence reports Obama gets access to, the more his policy mirrors Bush's. I really am pleased, but I am wondering how all the people who felt so passionately about our "illegal war" are feeling now? Or is no one questioning anything anymore?