Obama Warns Don't Be "Sanctimonious" In Criticizing CIA Torture—Paraphrases Dumbledore!

Barack Obama explains that it is important not to piss off the CIA by actually prosecuting its employees for doing little things like committing war crimes. You don't want to be "sanctimonious", said Obama, in explaining that American patriots may have tortured here and there, and that's OK, the President argued, so long as the USA learns from its mistakes and promises to do better next time. It is often difficult to tell if Obama thinks he's President of the United States, or head mistress at a fascist nursery school.
In one of Barack Obama’s most amazing press conferences, yesterday the President, who at one point unsuccessfully begged the reporters to stop pelting him with topical questions and instead ask him about his birthday, said that complaining about the CIA torturing people was “sanctimonious”, and that given the level of fear people had after 9/11, it was understandable the USA had employed extreme measures to keep people safe:
"Before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots."
There are many basic, and dubious, assumptions in that statement, but the most disturbing one is that the CIA tortured people because they felt "enormous pressure" from the American people to address their fear after 9/11. That job, in the face of considerable hysteria, was so tough, Obama claims, the CIA started torturing people. And in spite of this, a lot of "those folks" are "real patriots" he asserts.

And, as I pointed out yesterday, the notion that the CIA torture regime was just an understandable overreaction to people's heightened level of fear after 9/11, is dead wrong. The truth is that George W. Bush exploited fear to justify torturing people—not to protect Americans, but to provide a "smoking gun" connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The result of that, torture-obtained false confessions, helped Bush continue to terrorize Americans into supporting his insane invasion of Iraq.

That fact, which to this day should outrage all Americans, is passed over by Obama as if it was a bit of teenage acting out, which happened so long ago it is no longer relevant. Obama's discussion about the USA intentionally employing torture as an instrument of government policy was made almost without any emotional flavor to his remarks. Obama did not sound outraged, nor disturbed, nor saddened, and certainly he did not sound surprised, because of course, the fact that the CIA kidnapped and tortured people for much of George W. Bush's presidency is not news to most people. 

In fact, one of the first things Barack Obama did as President, which convinced many of us early on Obama's campaign rhetoric about being different than Bush was a pack of lies, was to have his newly-appointed Attorney General, Eric Holder use the Bush-era "state secrets" argument in an Appeals Court case to stop five victims of the CIA's rendition and torture regime from suing the government.

As the New York Times explained its editorial on February 11, 2009 (entitled, "Continuity of the Wrong Kind"):
"The Obama administration failed miserably—the first test of its commitment to ditching the extravagant legal claims used by the Bush administration to try to impose blanket secrecy on anti-terrorism policies and avoid accountability for serial abuses of the law.The case before them involves serious allegations of torture by five victims of President Bush's extraordinary rendition program. The five were seized and transported to American facilities abroad or to countries known for torturing prisoners. Incredibly, the federal lawyer advanced the same expansive state-secrets argument that was pressed by Mr. Bush's lawyers to get a trial court to dismiss the case without any evidence being presented. It was as if last month's inauguration had never occurred. Voters have good reason to feel betrayed if they took Mr. Obama seriously on the campaign trail when he criticized the Bush administration's tactic of stretching the state-secrets privilege to get lawsuits tossed out of court."
In other words, Obama immediately sought to cover up all the worst aspects of the Bush military and intelligence record. In accord with Obama's notion of compromise, to forgive and (essentially) forget CIA rendition and torture programs was the right thing to do—and to think otherwise, Obama would repeatedly insists, is a failure of "maturity".

And that makes this statement, uttered in yesterday's presser by Obama, one of the most cynical things he has ever said:
“The character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard.”
Or, as Dumbledore said it in Goblet of Fire:
"Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon, we must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy.”
The thing is, what would have been the hard thing, but the right thing, in 2009, and in 2014 too, for Barack Obama to have done, would have been to look Americans in the eye—which Obama simply cannot do—and admit that the war crimes committed by the US government in fighting the horrible wars on "terror", had to be properly investigated, and the perpetrators of those war crimes had to be held accountable.

But, unless you're some dumb hick, talked into posing for fun shots at Abu Ghraib torture den, you won't be bothered with any pesky prosecutions while being held accountable.

Obama closed the door on going after the CIA crimes years ago, because, he said, it would be bad for CIA morale.

And, as I pointed out yesterday, the notion that the CIA torture regime was just an understandable overreaction to people's heightened level of fear after 9/11, is dead wrong. The truth is that George W. Bush exploited fear to justify torturing people—not to protect Americans, but to provide a "smoking gun" connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The result of that, torture-obtained false confessions, helped Bush continue to terrorize Americans into supporting his insane invasion of Iraq.

The question is whether a nation that fails to hold people accountable, when they directly attack what Obama insisted are "our values”, i.e. the values that hold state-authorized torture to be the heinous act of a terror state, can still rightly claim to hold those values.

Based on what Obama said yesterday, on the CIA torture question, on Obama's enthusiastic support of John O. Brennan’s leadership of CIA attacks on the United States Senate, and based as well on Obama’s view that it is Hamas, and not Israel, which is responsible for hundreds of dead Palestinians in Gaza, the answer to that question is an irrefutable “no”.

Barack Obama has always praised compromise as the instrument of mature governance. However, not every issue compromised is actually an expression of a person's or a nation’s maturity. Many times in Barack Obama's governance, it has been a direct measure of his political cowardice, and his willingness, indeed his anxiousness, to do the easy thing instead of the right thing.

When George W. Bush decided to compromise on the nation’s traditional values, rejecting the civilized understanding (and long-standing international agreement) that torturing people was wrong, because Bush was anxious to use any means to find a justification to invade Iraq—that was bad enough.

But, when Barack Obama, who had come into office promising to change the morally corrupt operation of government perpetrated by George W. Bush, instead did everything in his power to protect the intelligence community, and particularly its torturers, from being held accountable, he revealed that the nation’s most essential values of justice and human rights were also features of a civilized society that Obama would readily compromise.

Obama’s brand of “mature” governing is an insult to Americans—who need an uncompromising leader to stand up to the heinous forces of unrestrained wealth and power—and it is a direct threat to the integrity and the liberty of the American people.

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