Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Are You Thinking, Barack?

For the first time, I am worried about Obama.

First, the Associated Press reported that Obama has made it clear that he intends to close Guantanamo, and as soon as possible. He told Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes, "I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture, and I’m going to make sure that we don’t torture."

That makes me want to pump my fist in the air. What makes me uneasy, though, is that some of the detainees may be subject to a "special court" that is a cross between a military court martial and a civilian court. "It would have to be some sort of hybrid that involves military commissions that actually administer justice rather than just serve as kangaroo courts," said Laurence Tribe ("a Harvard law professor and Obama legal adviser", according to the AP).

Hopefully, Tribe's right and people will be willing to give an Obama administration the chance to not botch this up.

What makes me more nervous, though, is Obama's recent selections for advising and heading Washington's intelligence folk: John Brennan and Jami Miscik.

Democracy Now! recently interviewed Melvin Goodman, who is a former CIA and State Department analyst. Goodman said, "John Brennan was deputy executive secretary to George Tenet during the worst violations during the CIA period in the run-up to the Iraq war." Brennan helped call the shots on black sites and secret prisions as well as torture practicies. He's publically defended the warrantless eavesdropping and, most unsettling for me, extraordinary rendition.

In a December 5, 2005 appearance on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Brennan said the following:

"I think [extraordinary rendition is] an absolutely vital tool. I have been intimately familiar now over the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. Government has been involved in. And I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives....the CIA has acknowledged that it has detained about 100 terrorists since 9/11, and about a third of them have been subjected to what the CIA refers to as enhanced interrogation tactics, and only a small proportion of those have in fact been subjected to the most serious types of enhanced procedures."

Granted, Brennan's been a bit more lax; in a 2006 PBS interview, he said, "Sometimes there are actions that we are forced to take, but there need to be boundaries beyond which we are going to recognize that we're not going to go because we still are Americans, and we are supposed to be representing something to people in this country and overseas. So the dark side has its limits."

Still, it seems to me like extraordinary rendition can only be completely justifiable in a utilitarian sense; I want to believe that there's other ways of stopping lethal violence and threat besides using "the dark side."

On the other hand, Jami Miscik was the Deputy Director of Intelligence during the run-up to the war and in the immediate postwar period. According to Goodman, "She passed judgment on the October 2002 estimate. She passed on the white paper, which was the phony paper that violated the CIA charter...and sent to the Congress only days before the vote on the authorization to use force in Iraq in October 2002. She was part of the slam-dunk team that George Tenet was so proud of that prepared...the speech that Colin Powell gave, that outrageous speech with twenty-eight allegations, all of them false, prepared in February of 2003, which was the case to the international community. She was part of the team that allowed George Bush to go before this country in January of 2003 in a State of the Union address and use a fabricated intelligence report to say that Iraq was getting enriched uranium from a West African country. Jami Miscik was a part of all of this."

Sylvia told me she thinks Obama selected Brennan and Miscik on purpose, to prove that even though he doesn't have a lot of forgien policy experience he can still be tough on issues. Then she paused and said, "I wanna hope that he knows what he's doing."

I hope so, too. Because I still can't shake the coincidence that I watched The Bourne Ultimatum for the first time last night.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I don't know enough about this... But, hey, at least McCain isn't going to be president...