Obama Administration may regret CIA Prosecution
Bowing to pressure from the left, Obama will become emmersed in a political war which will stir up divisive feelings more than ever. From today's Wall Street Journal:
It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department." –Attorney General Eric Holder, April 2009
"Justice Department Names Prosecutor to Reopen CIA Abuse Cases" –Wall Street Journal, yesterday
Mr. Holder had it right the first time. His about-face yesterday, compounded by his release of a 2004 internal CIA report on that agency's handling of terrorists, opens a political war that President Obama, the CIA and above all the country will live to regret.
This is a trap the Administration set for itself. Mr. Obama and his team have attempted to appease their political left by publicly denouncing the Bush Administration's national security policies, even as they claimed to want to forget the past. Their disparagement has only fed the liberal demand for Bush prosecutions and increased the pressure on Mr. Holder to appoint a prosecutor.
The Journal notes that although Holder has said that this is merely preliminary investigating, Special Prosecutions take on a life of their own. The effects could be long -lasting and detrimental to morale. This is not auspicious for fulfilling the idea of Change based on a new Unity, something which made Obama so broadly appealing on the campaign trail.
All of this will further demoralize a CIA that has already been stigmatized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats as an agency populated by rogues who lied to Congress. This is the same agency that Mr. Obama and all Americans are counting on wage a war against al Qaeda and deter future terrorist attacks. The message that Mr. Holder's criminal probe will send to thousands of men and women is that they had better not do anything remotely controversial on behalf of American safety, even with a lawyer's permission. This war against our own war fighters comes just as President Obama's counterterror escalation in Afghanistan is getting more difficult.
Further concern was voiced by McClatchey Newspapers:
By naming a special prosecutor to investigate whether CIA officers or contractors violated the Bush administration's interrogation policies, Attorney General Eric Holder has struck a middle course that isn't likely to satisfy anyone and could complicate President Barack Obama's broader political agenda.
Holder named John Durham, a longtime federal prosecutor in Connecticut, after the CIA Monday released a heavily censored 2004 inspector general's report on abuses by interrogators who exceeded the "enhanced interrogation techniques" the Bush administration Justice Department had approved.
Obama, vacationing on Martha's Vineyard when the decision was announced Monday, sought to keep his distance and mollify all sides. He said through a spokesman that he's focused on the future but committed to letting his attorney general do what he considers necessary.
In an already rancorous political atmosphere, however, anger among Republicans who oppose any prosecutions and liberals who think the administration should pursue the Bush administration officials who authorized the interrogation techniques could make it even harder for Obama to count on broad coalitions to enact his agenda, from health care to climate change and immigration.
However, the matter might still be viewed in a non-partisan way, and from an essentialist perspective. Obama could well be viewed as nobel for probing and meta-analyzing what the meaning of "torture" is; why it is not acceptable for a mega-democracy and super power to engage in it under any circumstances; a discourse opening regarding the limits of war, the power of sacrifice, of being kind to those who do not deserve kindness because it is a matter of principle, of humaneness, of strength. I am not so sure the matter HAS to be divisive: What is clear, is that those who are party on both sides will make it so.
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Austin, Texas, United States