Thursday was the duel of ideals, the new sherrif and the old gunfighter, white hat v. black hat. But the one thing it wasn't, no matter how the press has portrayed it, was a battle of the left v. right. It was undeniably, a battle of the right v. wrong. It was the President against the former Vice and his myriad vices.
In his speech at the National Archives, before an original copy of the sacred document of our national formation, Mr. Obama took the hard look at the sins of our collective past under the administration of George W. Bush that most have been unable or unwilling to take. He called them out on their fears and fear mongery, on their shortcuts made out of panic, and the shortsightedness of those shortcuts, and how those shortcuts actually continue to hurt us now. And one of those shortcuts was the creation of an extra-legal sysem of detention and trial of suspected terrorists we now know as Guantanamo Bay.
Mr. Obama called for a return to the core values that make our nation great, our civil liberties the envy of the world, and to those aspects of our genesis that make our nation the greatest and most prosperous now and in history. He made the case that it was our collectively turning our back on those values, such as Constitutional rights for all, our fair trials, our Justice System, and the Rule of Law, all for the sake of expediency out of fear, that created many of the problems he is dealing with today.
Mr. Obama was right to say that our core values, our rights, are not luxuries, but the very strength of our nation. To those who gainsay, I respond: America, pal - love it or leave it; this is what it means when you say 'freedom isn't free.' It means not being afraid. It means standing up for the little guy, or more importantly, the guy whose guts you hate. When you protect their rights, only then can you feel a little secure in your own.
He was also brave, in these times where the efficacy of a war crime is being seriously discussed as a possible defense, to categorically reject waterboarding as a method of interrogation. Huzzah!
In short, Mr. Obama told Americans to get back to being Americans, like we were before W. turned us against each other and against the Constitution.
Mr. Cheney's speech, by contrast, sought to justify his extra and illegal actions at every turn, evincing what I gather to be his increasing dread that he might not as above the law as he once thought. He sunk to a new low when he stated that criticism of his "enhanced interrogation" was defaming the men who tortured prisoners at his order, which is an Orwellian distortion of the facts, seeing as these "heroes" were likely private contractors, or, to not put too fine a point on it, mercenaries. I didn't know mercenaries, much less people who can stomach simulating drowning another person, are entitled to be called heroes.
Moving further with Orwellian doublespeak, Mr. Cheney compared his almost certain criminal liability, and any investigation of same by the Obama Administration, as such:
"It's hard to imagine a worse precedent, filled with more possibilities for trouble and abuse, than to have an incoming administration criminalize the policy decisions of its predecessors."
So, Mr. Cheney, you should get a pass for the authorizing and the actual ordering of war crimes because it is a bad precedent? Because torture was merely a policy consideration? Have you no decency?
This is a classic non sequitur argument, literally, that the argued result does not follow from the premise. Last time I check "It was only a policy" was no defense at the Nuremburg Trials. Just saying.
Rather, waterboarding has been called torture, and been held to be torture, under American Law [!!] for more decades than Cheny has lived. Yet, as we Americans are poor students of history, many will simply take the ex-Vice at his word, no matter what abominations the forked tongue of his flicks out of his mouth. He who controls the past might control the future, but not today, and not on my watch.
Significantly, while he spoke of documents to support his fallacious defense that torture prevented terrorist attacks, he failed to set forth what these documents were, or, in fact, what they contained. Yet, while he still had the chance, he never leaked such documents, unlike his leaking of the name of a certain CIA agent under cover when that was politically expedient. Getting erratic in retirement?
Actually, Mr. Cheney is a skilled political fighter. He has nothing to lose, so he is purposefully going after Obama to weaken him, which is vanity taken to new heights. He is using two very effective, though logically fallacious, methods.
One is to state that Mr. Obama is weakening America and making us vulnerable to another attack. Therefore, when another attack does happen, which, in all likelihood it will at some point, he will be seen as prophetic. But this is really a case of a broken clock being correct twice a day. I can state that it will rain tomorrow every day does not me a weatherman when by coincidence it does precipitate.
Second, he is using the contents of certain documents, whose existence is at best dubious, to defend himself on the question of the authorization of illegal torture. Since these documents probably do not exist, when they are not produced he can then state that Mr. Obama is refusing to release them. However, the essential point he is avoiding is that expediency or efficacy are no defense to a war crime.
It is also noteworthy that Mr. Cheney has gone to the family well in recent days, having his daughter Liz go on the Faux News circuit to defend Daddy. That means he must be really scared of being prosecuted for war crimes. Seriously, who gives a rat's posterior what his daughter thinks? Who the Hell is she? At best a charcter witness during Cheney's sentencing phase. If only..........
AND YET, PRESIDENT OBAMA GOT IT WRONG, TOO
Mr. Obama, saddled with the extra-legal baggage of his predecessors, is apparently at a loss at what to do with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay that are really likely terrible people who only want to do their best to destroy our nation, or at the very least kill Americans en masse. I surmise that he believes that the cases against likes of Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who were likely tortured, as well as much "evidence" against them and others was obtained through illegal means, are indelibly tainted, and a criminal conviction might be impossible, no matter the setting - civilian or military proceedings alike.
Therefore, Mr. Obama has endorsed a terrible, and illegal, plan to keep these prisoners confined, without trial, forever and anon. Such a result is not acceptable. There is zero provision in any law or anywhere in the Constitution, for such a result, and I am calling out President Obama to figure out a legal way to deal with this.
It is unacceptable for him to go for the type of expedient solution the prior occupants of the White House used. Lime it or not, these poor excuses for human beings are still entitled to a trial.