|Obama Lightens Up on Torture (Aug. 1 Press Con)
Let those brutally cavalier words be chiseled deep into the door of his soon-to-be-built shrine to himself so that visitors can be warned to "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."
"Folks" should also be advised to bring their own barf bags, because they probably won't be on sale in the gift shop alongside Barack's (TM) golf bags.... and the sweatshop-produced Bo and Sunny plushies and Michelle's overpriced "Drink Up! (TM) plastic bottles of designer tap water.
Seriously. I didn't think that the Drone President could possibly do or say anything else to make me queasier than I normally feel whenever I look at him on TV. So I really do have to hand it to him. He totally outdid himself in the sociopathy department on Friday.
Even normally staunch Obama supporters like Charles Pierce are disgusted. (" ... If the president thinks he can use the (torture) word and then just walk away from its profound implication in a cloud of banalities, he's been out on the golf course without a hat too long. Yeesh.")
The only thing worse than Obama's folksy sangfroid was that he admitted the torture and promised protection for the torturers all by himself, with no prodding whatsoever from the feeble White House press corps. They were more interested in the theatrical lawsuit being brought by Republicans, and of course, the kidnapped Israeli soldier who is so much more important to their corporate sponsors than 1400 slaughtered Palestinian civilians.
When Obama shockingly confessed to torture and the enabling of torture, there was not one single follow-up question from the scribbling stenographers in the audience.
But they fell all over themselves wishing him a happy birthday before he strutted out of the room, cool as a GMO cucumber. The silence of the lambs was deafening. If one of them so much as bleats, their future access to the White House can so easily be denied. But it was nice to imagine the righteous hectoring ghost of Helen Thomas in the front row anyway.
Nauseating as they were, the president's remarks are still worth quoting, and parsing, if only for posterity.
On Brennan and the CIA, the RDI report has been transmitted, the declassified version that will be released at the pleasure of the Senate committee.Not so fast, Barry! Dianne Feinstein just got handed your bowdlerized report, and it's been redacted into such a condensed piece of Readers Digest pulp that she is delaying release to the public "until further notice." She is not pleasured! She is holding it back (or pretending to, for Kabuki purposes) in its current heavily censored form, at least until another make-up/make-out session can be arranged. possibly in a secret room off the Oval Office.
I have full confidence in John Brennan. I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff. And it’s clear from the IG report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled. Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.Actually, John Brennan has full confidence in the continuing loyalty of Obama, who Brennan personally brought over to the dark side for intensive tutoring in extra-judicial kill skills. These two miscreants are full and equal partners in the drone assassination program, which by some estimates has killed upward of 5,000 "folks." And anyway, Brennan is such a great spy that he was even able to investigate his own agency as well as spy on the Senate. A felony crime and an outrageous insult to the separation of government powers has thusly been reduced to "some very poor judgment." Mistakes were made, lessons learned, and political tongues are held very firmly in cheek.
With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even 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.Yeah, so "we" tortured some folks, but Obama has decreed that serial criminal assault (and in some cases, premeditated murder) will be reduced to temporary lapses in judgment and morality. Referring to CIA victims as "folks" instantly demeans them. I've written before about Obama's chronic over-use of this word. As Noam Chomsky warns, "When a politician uses the word 'folks,' we should brace ourselves for the deceit or worse that is coming."
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.Get ready for a brand-new criminal defense: Fear. Obama just gave tacit approval to George Zimmerman's fear defense in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
Those New York City cops who killed a man with a choke-hold last month? They were simply afraid. The plump asthmatic guy selling loosies on the street might have been imminently getting ready to attack a whole phalanx of scared militarized police with his unarmed flesh.
In this terror-filled world created by unfettered capitalism and the state-sponsored terror that perpetuates it, if you torture or kill somebody you can even call yourself a patriot. Obama totally gets you, because he is one killer patriot himself.
Harmless "folks" can get so pressured that sometimes they just snap. So if we dare criticize poor beleaguered heroes like Dick Cheney, we're just being sanctimonious. This hearkens back to Obama calling people who complained about his extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich "sanctimonious purists". It's the dread sanctimony slur again! But, at least he didn't call us "sanctimonious folks." I would have died after throwing up.
But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that's what that report reflects. And that's the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some (my bold) of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.Obama just pulled one of his verbal fast ones. He said he banned "some" of the extraordinary interrogation techniques. (Notice how quickly Obama again softens torture in the Age of Obama into "interrogation techniques"?) There is plenty of evidence that his administration still outsources torture to other countries. And the United Nations has also deemed his continued force-feeding of Guantanamo detainees to be torture. Plus, Obama has recently approved the torture of marine animals through underwater sound-blasting to detect gas and oil.
Since Obama has already guaranteed that no torturers will ever be prosecuted in a court of law, "hope" that it won't be repeated is pretty much all we've got. Waterboarding of American POWs by the Japanese during World War II was punishable by death. Waterboarding of nameless "folks" in the manufactured War on Terror is punishable by being called a patriot by the Commander in Chief.And my hope is, is that this report reminds us once again that 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. And when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be -- that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that, hopefully, we don't do it again in the future.
George Tenet, who oversaw torture during the Bush administration, was awarded the Medal of Freedom. Brennan can probably look forward to getting the same honor from his boss.
After one of the White House press corpses asked a question about how terrified we all should be with a bunch of African folks coming to D.C. for a summit on how Mister Market can best profit in the Dark Continent, Obama assured the nation that visitors will be thoroughly screened for Ebola before being allowed to get anywhere near healthy American folks.
And then he allowed One Final Question. (I was holding my breath in faint hope.)
Q Happy Birthday, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: There you go, April. (Laughter.) That’s what I was talking about -- somebody finally wished me happy birthday -- although it isn’t until Monday, you’re right.
Thank you so much.With handpicked corporate journos like that, Obama does indeed have so very much to be thankful for.
He's right about the Ebola virus, though. If that plague comes anywhere near the cesspit of corruption known as Washington, DC, it will probably keel right over and die of fright.