The Annals of Injustice: Just Who IS the Enemy Anyway?

The conservative British press is now weighing on the infamous photos of prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib. The Daily Telegraph headlines tell us, Abu Ghraib Abuse Photos 'Show Rape,'  The article which has been featured in the Huffington Post etc., is already part of the groundswell here demanding that President Obama release the pictures. But let's look at HOW the Telegraph covers the news and against WHOM they are mustering outrage, and let's look at how they have slanted their story so that it is targetted at President Obama rather than the actual war criminals -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al.

Duncan Garham, the Telegraph's "security correspondent" and Paul Cruikshank, start with a subhead making the point of their story unmistakeable:Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which President Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged.

In fact this information was available in 2004 when the report by Major General Antonio Taguba.became public, including details of the sexual degredation of prisoners etc. The new story is based on an interview yesterday that the paper had with Gen. Taguba in which he revealed the existence of photographs along with this story. But that is hardly news.

Only by scrolling down to the seventh paragraph do we read that the General actually supports President Obama's decision:

“The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

In April, Mr Obama’s administration said the photographs would be released and it would be “pointless to appeal” against a court judgment in favour of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

But after lobbying from senior military figures, Mr Obama changed his mind saying they could put the safety of troops at risk.

Earlier this month, he said: “The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

The remaining seven paragraphs again focus on Pres. Obama's decision not to release the pictures.

It seems to me that once again progressives are in danger of falling victim to the Republican noise machine which is attempting to turn legitmate outrage against unspeakable torture, on  President Obama and Speaker of the House Pelosi, rather than on those who authorized the torture in Iraq and at Guantanamo. Just as Tony Blair was George Bush's hatchetman, so too is the Telegraph playing its assigned role.

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The first is from The Last Chance Democracy, Civil liberties: never count on the man. Steve writes:

Like most liberals, I’m disappointed by Barack Obama’s early track record on civil liberties issues — disappointed, yes, but not all that surprised. He isn’t, after all, the same person he was as a candidate a year ago. And he certainly isn’t the same person he was as a community organizer, a law professor, a state senator or even a US senator from a fairly bluish state.

No, he’s now the man. And since when do we look to the man to go to the wall on civil liberties issues? Isn’t that a job that more often falls to outsiders, to “ugly” people who offend polite company — you know, the damn pointy-headed liberal intellectuals, sipping their lattes, and those beer guzzling libertarians with the Live Free or Die bumper stickers on the back of their pickup trucks? 

Sure, Obama needs to be held accountable for his constitutional failings. Accountability goes with the territory, or at least it’s supposed to. He took the oath of office, after all — placed his hand on the bible — Abraham Lincoln’s bible no less — and swore to uphold the constitution. But he’s also the man. And it’s worth remembering that it was Abraham Lincoln himself, back when he was the man, who suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. And he stretched the constitution in other ways as well. He had a war to win and a union to save, and if that required cutting a few corners so be it.

Like most things in life, it comes down to perspective. And being the man changes your perspective. High minded civil liberty concerns seem less important: keeping America safe more so. Is that an excuse for ignoring the constitution? Of course not. But the reality is that it’s naïve to expect the man to be the person leading the charge in the defense of civil liberties. That’s just not how it works. 

Franklin Roosevelt, for example, the ultimate liberal hero, committed one of the worst civil liberties offenses in the nation’s history, the internment of Japanese Americans. How could he have done it? How could the great man have stooped so low? Beyond question, it was an unforgivable act — one of the most shameful moments in American history. But the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. FDR was the man. Protecting civil liberties wasn’t his highest priority at the time.

Rocket ahead 60 plus years. Barack Obama, who wants more than anything to concentrate on issues like finally bringing the United States into the 20th century (one century too late) by adopting universal health insurance, finds himself facing a God awful mess not of his own making. The gulag at Guantanamo Bay has to be shut down. But what to do with the prisoners still held there, many of whom are extremely dangerous people — folks who really do want to kill us in our sleep — or in our wakefulness, for that matter (they’re not that picky)?

And that’s only the beginning of his troubles. It turns out that due to the incompetence and misconduct of the preceding administration some of these presumptive bad guys can’t be convicted in a court of law. So what to do? Let them go free. That’s certainly the correct answer legally, at least if viewed from the perspective of criminal justice: if you don’t have evidence to prove guilt they’re presumed innocent, right? That sounds fine, or at least unavoidable, to a civil libertarian. It might even have sounded fine to a liberal law professor in Chicago a few years back. But to the man? Not so much.

The man looks past the principles to the consequences, for the nation and, yes, for himself as well. What would it mean if a terrorism suspect released by the Obama Administration led a successful attack against the United States? The damage that would do the nation, to our cohesion as a society, would be immeasurable. And for Obama and the Democratic Party it would likely become a political apocalypse. It might be enough to return the torturers to office. God knows that’s what they’re counting on.

When you’re the man you think about things like that. The man always will. 

I have no doubt Barack Obama will be a much more law abiding president than was George W. Bush, and one much more respectful of constitutional rights. Liberals who have given up on him are jumping way too quickly. But he’s not going to push the envelope in protecting civil liberties. He’s the man. That isn’t what the man does.

So sometimes we’ll have to fight him. That’s our job — every latte sipping and pickup truck driving one of us.


I liked the article on the slant of coverage.  For the most part, the mainstream media is reprehensible in the way it covers events.  The NYT lied us into war with Judith Miller and then tilted 2004 by withholding the massive wiretapping story until 13 months after the election.  I don't know how the publisher and editor(s) can look in the mirror. 

The torture story seems all about the Bush administration, rightfully so.  The absense of an aggressive stance by Democrats accounts for this.  They snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on a consistent basis.  Obama should release everything, not just on Iraq but 911, the financial theft, etc.  The only problem is that just about any one serving at the time endorsed coverups or worse by either voting for a fraud, Iraq funding, or failing to exert any oversight power.  So, on a broader level, there's blame, to a lesser degree, for those who would uncover things.

The Republicans are largely finished.  There will be no comeback from Rush as their putative leader, none among people with any degree of intelligence.  The Democrats are on the road to doom as well.  When the "dead cat bounce" recovery comes and goes and we have a no b.s. depression, people will note that nothing is left to help the people because it was all given away, in the final analysis, by Paulson, Geithner, and Summers.  I guess that's the "new bipartisanship."

Nice post and analysis. 


"Furthest from him is best, whom reason hath equaled, force hath made supreme above his equals." Milton