Widening the gate to America's 'dark period' (Paris / Globe & Mail)
ERNA PARIS From Saturday's Globe and Mail May 1, 2009 at 11:16 PM EDT
What is at stake for Mr. Obama is his ability to place a clear marker between his administration and that of his predecessor: in other words, his willingness to make a complete transition ...
Without clear accountability for state-instigated crimes committed in the name of the American people, Mr. Obama will be seen as lacking the moral fibre for which he is admired internationally. He will be seen as facilitating the impunity of the powerful, as having backed down on the substantive change he promised. The "Yes we can" shouted so loudly by so many Americans included the restoration of their country's reputation as a place where law rules and human rights are respected.
A decade ago, it would have been unimaginable that torture - outlawed morally since the Spanish Inquisition and formally since the UN Convention Against Torture - might become a topic of serious debate at the start of the 21st century. It is widely known that human beings whose nails are being extracted, who are shut into dark airless boxes or who believe they are being drowned will say anything to make the excruciating pain stop. I have personally interviewed French survivors of Nazi torture who made this abundantly clear 40 years after the fact ...
The United States needs to launch its own criminal investigations, but if it does not, Judge Baltasar Garzon of Spain, who is known for his efforts to extradite Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, has announced that he will open an investigation into the systemic violations of international law in the Guantanamo camp. He is able to do this under the long-standing rubric of "universal jurisdiction," in which crimes against humanity and war crimes can be tried outside national borders. Indeed, a U.S. court exercised universal jurisdiction earlier this year in a torture case involving the son of Charles Taylor, the former Liberian dictator. At the very least, subpoenas and indictments would curtail the travel of U.S. officials. In the current environment, great power is no longer a sufficient protection ...
1. I don't think Erna is privy to Obama's decision making processes.
Her opinions about what he should do, how he should do it, and when are just opinions.
I am confident that Obama will do the right thing in a timeframe that's appropriate to him and his agenda. In short, he'll take action when he knows he'll be successful, and not worry about artificial timelines imposed by Canadian authors.
2. I don't see any claims in the article about Obama's decision making processes: I see an argument
about what his actions or inaction will communicate, both inside and outside the US. Nor can I see her imposing any timeline
The President, of course, is a talented man, whom I think has rather more moral backbone than his predecessor, and I admire him greatly. But my trust in him, or in anyone else, is finite: however effective a politician he may be, he will be subject to well-known institutional forces, and with time he may increasingly suffer from "Washington bubble blindness" -- unless citizens mobilize to make their voices heard in the Oval Office
The crises, that we inherit from Republican misrule, are of a magnitude beyond the ability of any single person. It is not merely unrealistic to expect Obama's administration to have the creative wisdom to address all these crises: it is unfair to expect that of them. Open and distributed government succeeds, where tyrannies do not, because under open government more intelligence can be brought to bear on the problem. The crisis resulting from Bush administration torture is international in scope, and we should be willing to hear voices from the rest of the world as we attempt to resolve it
4. His actions will communicate nothing if he's not successful. That's my point.
He knows full well he'll be taking shit from the GOP. Timing is everything. He has to be sure that he has his ducks in a row, and the political forces are with him, before he gets too aggressive. In fact, he's best off offering the appearance of "nature taking its course" via the judicial system, rather than appearing to be a string puller. We don't like "decrees" from Inperial Presidents in the Nixonian mold.
Erna, who is crabbing about Obama's "moral fibre" (who the hell is she to lecture him?) and "pressure" (she's feeling the pressure, because he won't do what she wants, when she wants it, perhaps?) plainly doesn't appreciate the internal struggle within the USA between competing political parties--even though one is out of power. She also wants the President to act like an emperor and issue a decree to the judiciary, which sort of negates the whole "separation of powers" thing. She also doesn't understand American concepts of sovereignty, with her international threats of Spanish courts.
I think Erna ought to worry about Harper and her own house a bit more, and worry less about how fast Obama takes care of our business. There are reasons why he's President of the United States....and she's not.
5. Concur in part, dissent in part. I agree with your remarks about the importance of
political considerations and timing. I disagree about American sovereignty: if US officials and their agents have engaged in conduct contrary to established international law, then other nations have not only the right but the duty to prosecute, if the US refuses to prosecute
6. Sovereignty just "is"--it's "custom and tradition." It's something not to be ceded.
I'm not commenting on the 'rightness' of it, moral or otherwise. Ultimately, the "sovereignty" of the US lies in its people, and "We, The People" aren't wired for that kind of stuff where we let others come in and tell us how to do our thing. The US is not, "We Are The World" current mindset notwithstanding, in any mood to yield any of the authority that we wrested from a king a few hundred years ago to a crowd of foreign judges. It's just not happening. There'd be hell to pay and it would cost Obama his Presidency, the Democrats the Congress, and give the GOP a hook to climb back into the game.
Obama is most assuredly not a stupid man--he's incredibly astute, and he's sharp enough to take advice. The advice I'm quite sure he's getting is "Some Spanish judge doesn't tell US citizens what to do, even US citizens who are assholes. Give those clowns the stiff arm."
If the "International Community" couldn't get Pinochet (and they tried like hell), who died in his very own bed despite a great deal of hoopla, they're unlikely to be frogmarching Bush or Cheney any time soon, unless Porgie and Unka Dick decide to take up residence in Madrid and do a little busking on the Plaza Mayor, leaving them vulnerable to arrest.
That would be a funny thing to see, but it's a pipe dream.
Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.1 Copyright 1997-2002 DCScripts.com
Software has been extensively modified by the DU administrators
Important Notices: By participating on this discussion
board, visitors agree to abide by the rules outlined on our Rules
page. Messages posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums are the
opinions of the individuals who post them, and do not necessarily represent
the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.