Torture and Murder at Gitmo: A Risky Political Opportunity If Obama Is Willing to Take It:
The Rude Pundit has said it before, and he'll keep saying it: the Obama administration's failure to investigate and prosecute the crimes of the Bush administration will lead to its downfall. You wanna establish moral authority to "change the tone" in Washington? Then adhere to some goddamned moral code. The laws of the land are a good place to start. As so many members of yer progressive punditry are saying, Barack Obama has to make Bush and the Republicans own the crises we are now in. And one way to do that is to reveal the extent that the United States under Bush tortured innocent people. It's ugly, and it's awful, but, hell, most violent crimes are.
We've reached a point in the revelations about our American torture policy where it's like hanging out with a friend and digging into the layers of porn on the internet. Straight sex? "Sure, fine." Howzabout some anal? "Groovy." Gangbanging a midget? "Bring it." A woman blowing a horse while getting her ass branded? "Ummm..." Wait, howzabout a dude with flipper arms and Down's syndrome blowing a quadruple amputee tranny? "Oh, no." In a kiddie pool of shit? "C'mon, that's enough." And then, when they tranny comes, they're both killed by a masked dude with a chainsaw? "Enough, you sick fuck." At some point, it just becomes too ugly to bear.
When it comes to torturing brown people from somewhere filled with rocks and/or sand, it seems like Americans have a capacity to not give a shit. Yeah, bring on the kneecapping and electrodes on nipples. But maybe there is a line. Scott Horton's new report about the potential murder and cover-up of three detainees - Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, who was 17 when he was sold to the United States - would seem to be the limits. Three men, none charged with any crime, two of whom were on a list to be released, may have tortured and murdered by the CIA at a secret site at Gitmo nicknamed "Camp No," where, one imagines, the detainees weren't served chicken and rice while being allowed to read the Koran.
As you read Horton's piece, you eventually get through the violence and the cover-up (as suicides, called "a good P.R. move" by an assistant secretary of state) to the stomach-churning section where, it seems, the Justice Department of the Obama administration is refusing to investigate the case in more than a cursory way. Why? More than likely because of fear of wrecking bipartisanship and ruining that oh-so-precious comity in Congress, under the notion of always "looking forward, not backward." Which sounds so Cheneyesque that it's even more nauseating than the Republican crowing over Scott Brown's victory lap.
So, of course, these crimes exist in a political realm. Prosecute the officers involved and Republicans will accuse the White House of harming security. But let's put this in another way, perhaps too idealistic, but nonetheless: Obama squandered away his first year in office on a snipe hunt for bipartisanship. Nearly everything he did had as a goal luring Republicans into some kind of coalition. He sold out pursuing Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rove and Gonzales and Yoo and on and on, all because he thought being a mensch would gain him some favor in working with the GOP. A year ago, the Rude Pundit wrote this about Obama's overtures to Republicans on the stimulus:
"Republicans have nothing right now, which means they have nothing to lose by trying to drag Obama into their pit of shit. They'll smile and say it was a good conversation, but they're waiting in the back halls of the Capitol to fuckin' shiv Obama and laugh while he bleeds. And try to force Americans back into their crooked arms."
To be crassly political where lives are at stake, Obama has nothing to lose at this point by using the Gitmo murder cover-up as a way to keep the memory of the Bush administrations failures alive. It will galvanize the Democratic base, who want Republican blood spilled, and it will change the story in the press. Dahlia Lithwick asks in Slate, "Why aren't we talking about new accusations of murder at Gitmo?" And the answer is that the administration has locked itself into this bullshit notion of working across the aisle. Instead, the White House should be thinking about how to sell the public on the good of putting Dick Cheney on trial. Fuck, use Republican reasoning for impeaching Bill Clinton for a less-than-violent crime: he broke the law. Sadly, though, by getting George W. Bush involved in the Haiti recovery effort, it almost seems like Obama pities the man when he should be despised and exiled.
The Rude Pundit's father was a tragically hopeless Mets fan in the 1960s and 1970s. He said that he always bet against the team because, if they won, he'd be thrilled. And if they lost, at least he won the bet. At the end of the day, even if it does nothing to change the seeming tidal shift in public opinion on Obama, at least a few murderers and their enablers may go to prison. At least we can say that laws matter.