Knarlyknight reminded me that I’d meant to post a link to this recent article by former Colin Powell aide Lawrence Wilkerson: Some Truths About Guantanamo Bay. It’s a good round-up of some of the more depressing aspects of the situation. Nothing particularly new, but it’s good to see the truth get some more attention.
I was also, perversely, kind of happy to see that Dick Cheney was making news this past weekend by bad-mouthing Obama’s (partial) retreat from the worst aspects of the Cheney-Bush anti-terrorism policies. I was happy about that because I’ve decided that what’s going on with Obama’s go-slow approach to exposing the extent of the illegality and awfulness of the Cheney-Bush torture policies is not that Obama is objectively pro-torture or anti-civil rights per se. It seems much more likely to me that Obama is as outraged by the Cheney-Bush crimes as anyone. But Obama is, above all, a pragmatist. He knows that the Republican political strategy is to make as much heat and light about any perceived attack on the previous administration as they can. Any exposure by Obama of war crimes committed by Cheney and Bush can be spun by the Republican machine as Bush Derangement Syndrome. “Oh, that Socialist, terrorist-loving Obama!” we’ll hear 24/7 from Rush and Fox News. So it’s in Obama’s political interest to downplay that stuff. It doesn’t do him any good, politically speaking, to expose what a bunch of bastards the previous administration was.
Bush has been playing it smart, acting low-key on this stuff. But no one ever accused Cheney of playing things smart and low-key. He’s been going after Obama with both barrels. Which I think is great: I hope it works. I hope Gibbs and Obama get peppered with questions at every news conference about whether the administration is, in fact, soft on terrorism, whether they are, in fact, letting hardened killers (who Cheney and Bush had quite rightly been keeping bottled up in Guantanamo) back on the streets, where they can kill Americans.
Because that’s the only way I can see that Obama could be put in the position where it’s in his political interest to come out with the truth about Guantanamo. If Cheney is going to come after him anyway, and try to paint Obama as soft on terrorism, then Obama would have an incentive to explain to the public just how awful the previous administration had been.
Maybe that’s naive of me. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.