Sunday, February 22, 2009

Change You Can Believe In -- An Itemized List

All I can say is this: Thank God that Evil BOOOOOSH is gone so we can have reform.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mark,
I fail to see how this reflects poorly on Obama. He is moving cautiously but deliberately. I personally think that planning to shut Guantanamo and declaring, unequivocally and without any ambiguity, that the United States will no longer torture, is real change. Both Obama and Panetta have declared this emphatically, and it appears that both of these goals are going to be followed up on by the new President. Moreover, while it might have been a more dramatic flourish to close Guantanamo within his Admin's first hundred days, it is understandable that there are several complexities and challenges to accomplishing this. That said, if he doesn't move to close Guantanamo within the first year of his new Administration, I'll be happy to agree with you that he is full of crap.

Furthermore, I'll be happy to engage you on the seeming unwillingness of Obama to completely abandon the Bush Admin's possible war crimes and other potentially illegal acts. Obama is the better man. Unlike many on the Left, he's not out to nurse grudges; his poise and persistent optimism lead him to be more inclined toward moving forward rather than looking back, (That, and the serious nature of the mess he was left with). And while my left-wing side would certainly enjoy a good round of neo-con auto de fe, I am able to recognize that there are myriad critical items on the agenda right now that just might be of greater import.

Still, there was and is something about the contempt shown by certain actors in the prior Administration. Men like David Addington, John Yoo, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. I can only hope that the AG follows up on there actions at some point, and that the blanket gets pulled back on the actions of these men. Let’s not forget that human beings died under American custody due to torture, quite a few of them, and this is therefore a tremendously grave matter meriting serious attention by the current Administration.

Regards,
Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Rich,

You doth protest too much. I didn't say it reflects poorly on Obama, now did I? Nor did I say he's full of crap, now did I?

The whole point of all these posts is the same: I'm pointing out that Obama is learning a few things now that he actually has to run things. It's very, very easy to take pot shots when you don't have the whole story. It is to Obama's credit that he is moving slowly and that he is backing off on a lot of the rather (in my view) stupid rhetoric and cheap moral vanity that he engaged in while he was on the hustings. I welcome every item on that list, because I agree with every decision that is being made.

Your leftist side can talk all it wants about the "contempt" or all the players in the administration that has left the stage. I would only hope that your leftist side would one day acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the contempt that you think you saw is actually something else.

As for your claim that Obama is the better man, that would be an assertion at this point, especially in his conduct as president. You don't know that. None of us know one way or another, yet.

Anonymous said...

Mark,
I hope you understand that I meant that Obama is a better man than myself and many on the Left who would favor that some form of retribution be visited on the former Admin members who, in my opinion, treated the Constitution so callously.

Regarding your charge of moral vanity, I am not sure how to respond. If opposing the torture of detainees (and, it appears, some completely innocent people) makes me guilty of moral vanity, I guess I can live with that. All I can tell you is that I passionately oppose that absolute moral evil.

And it is not because I think of myself as some kind of moral exemplar. I'm hardly that; I am a self-loathing and guilt-ridden cafeteria Catholic who was nonetheless brought up to believe, as a matter of fundamental morality, that the torture of another human being is an absolute moral evil; that nothing can make it good or right or justifiable; that it can't be placed in a utilitarian context because it's a violation of human dignity that is so grave as to be untenable; and additionally, that it just doesn't work.

This matters, not as a question of moral vanity, but as a question of empirical truth. Torture produces bad intelligence, and its existence taints all evidence and all testimony. It is incompatible with our Common Law justice system, incompatible with military justice, and an affront to our Enlightenment values and sensibilities. Look how badly we've bollixed the Padilla case, and at what price. I think you believe most of that too, so it puzzles me why you see opposition to torture, or the desire to have people who have commmitted or approved acts of torture, as mere vanity.

Regards,
Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Rich,

I don't believe that you have exhibited moral vanity.

All I am saying is this -- Obama's campaign, and many of his supporters, were guilty of moral vanity. The challenges that the Bush administration faced, and the challenges that the Obama administration is now facing, are awfully complex. And there's a hell of a lot of gray involved. And as Obama continues to walk away from some of the more reckless promises he made on the hustings, he sheds the moral vanity that he personally displayed. I don't agree with Barack Obama about a lot of things, but I've always believed he's capable of learning and adapting. And now that he has the fate of millions of his fellow citizens in his hands, it's a damned good thing that he is taking a second look at these policies.

You may be right that what you are calling torture is ultimately ineffective. If that were all that was involved, it would be an easy decision. But that's not the only question, of course. And there is a question regarding the definition of what torture is. It's been the subject of a pretty lively debate for a long time now. You're a hell of a lot more sure of the definition than I am. But that's certitude, not moral vanity.

If I haven't been clear, what I mean by moral vanity is this: there are a hell of a lot of people on the Left who have been quick to condemn the Bush administration, and they are doing so without necessarily understanding all the considerations that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. went through in making their decisions. And many people were and remain very self-congratulatory about making these denunciations. George W. Bush had to make decisions that were fraught with horrible consequences no matter what he did. Barack Obama now has the same horrible choices. It cheapens both men to call either of them "war criminals" simply because of disagreements over these morally difficult decisions. It also deforms the debate.

You haven't done that, Rich. But you and I both know a hell of a lot of people who have. And while it's uncharitable of me to rub their noses in it, it's worthwhile to do so, because it drives home the point that the previous administration was not simply a bunch of Snidely Whiplashes tying our liberties to the tracks.

John Bunch said...

Rich,
Rendition for instance was a Clinton-era policy, and it was much worse under Clinton that under Bush. And I heard that on NPR. Actually, the guy who invented the modern version of rendition was our buddy Clarke. He was sitting in a meeting with Clinton and they were discussing rendition, and Gore walked in, and overheard the conversation and said "This is a no-brainer. The guy is a terrorist. Go get his ass [and dump it in Egypt]".

As Bill Maher says, liberals now are expressing "fake outrage" than Bush would continue this policy.

- John Bunch

Anonymous said...

John,
I don't know where you got that info, but if you are comparing the extraordinary rendition practiced by the Bush WH with what the renditions practiced by the Clinton anf Bush I WH's, you have not done your homework. The rendition practiced by the first Bush and Clinton Administrations are a lot like extraditions, and involve detaining people who are believed to be a serious threat to the public without charge for a reasonable period of time, while still allowing them a measure of legal recourse, and promising to maintain standard human rights throughout the process.
Extraordinary renditions, as practiced by W, are quite another matter. They have involved seizing people believed to be dangerous, and sending them to countries that are noted for their disdain for human rights and capacity for torture. The standard rendition of an innocent man is, I am sure, not a pleasant thing. But it pales in comparison to being, oh...a COMPLETELY innocent Canadian citizen and Dentist with a wife and three kids and a medical practice, who when flying home from a dental conference in the US, suddenly finds himself in a cell somewhere in Syria getting his testicles jump started for a few months. It's a little hard to walk something like that back.

I have reasonable confidence that under Obama, we will make a good faith effort to ascertain that we aren't rendering people to jurisdictions that practice torture. This is a tougher standard than not rendering people to countries with known mass abuse. I hope we have the integrity to make more than a cursory effort to determine the probability of abuse.
Regards,
Rich