Obama Fails Citizen Power Test
- Bob FertikWant to meet our members? Click 'Join' above!
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An hour ago I wrote that the "Special Prosecutor Question is the First Test of Obama's Commitment to Citizen Power."
Throughout the 2008 campaign, candidate Barack Obama insisted he was running not to empower himself, but instead to empower ordinary citizens like you and me.
Now he has to prove it.
Sadly, he failed his first test. Once again, he refused to answer my question, even though it was far and away the top vote-getter on Change.gov. Why did he refuse? Because it was a "previously addressed question."
As a progressive, I love all forms of recycling - except non-answers. This is Vice President-elect Biden's recycled non-answer from 12/21/08:
"[T]he questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is-is something the Justice Department decides. Barack Obama and I are-President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We're focusing on the future... I'm not ruling [prosecution] in and not ruling it out. I just think we should look forward. I think we should be looking forward, not backwards."
This answer insults everyone's intelligence in too many ways to count.
First, there is no question "whether or not a criminal act has been committed." Waterboarding is torture, and torture is always a criminal act - not something that can be dismissed as "bad judgment." It is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, which makes it a Federal crime by incorporation. It is also a federal crime under the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441) enacted by Newt Gingrich's "Republican Revolutionary" Congress in 1996.
There are no legal exceptions for torture. The "just following orders" defense was explicitly rejected at Nuremberg. So was the "lawyers said it was legal" defense. "Our national security was at risk?" Ix-nay. "We got crucial information?" Fuggedaboutit.
Dick Cheney has said repeatedly that he knowingly authorized waterboarding and firmly believes he did the right thing. That is a full and free confession and is therefore admissible evidence in a criminal trial.
Do the legal math: a crime was committed (prisoners were waterboarded). At least one person who authorized the crime has confessed (Cheney). Biden was the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee so he's no legal dummy - what else does he need to know before he agrees to the need for a Special Prosecutor?
Second, the Justice Department is not going to decide whether to appoint a Special Prosecutor for a previous President's crimes without consulting the current President. Not in this political universe. Probably not in any parallel universe either.
Third, of course Biden and Obama are "thinking about the past." Every single statement they make includes references to the past, whether the topic is the economy, foreign policy, or any other issue. Just read Obama's statement today about topics including - yes - torture. There's hardly a sentence without some form of the past tense.
There's a word for thinking about the future without thinking about the past - it's called "dreaming." Neither Biden nor Obama are dreamers.
Of course there's no point in getting stuck in the past. And that's exactly why I want Obama to appoint a Special Prosecutor - so neither the President nor the Attorney General has to waste a single second on the prosecution. Once a Special Prosecutor is appointed, the President and AG will never have to answer a question about the matter under investigation. But until that happens, the President and AG will constantly have to waste time answering the question, because it will never go away. Why?
First, because it is the legal obligation of the United States under the Geneva Conventions to prosecute war crimes committed by its citizens. As Gen. Antonio Taguba said,
"There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
Second, because it is the moral obligation of every American citizen to demand prosecution of those who authorized it, no matter what their excuse. As Jonathan Turley said,
"The most successful democracy in history is just about to see war crimes, do nothing about it -- and that's an indictment not just of George Bush and his administration. It's an indictment of all of us if we walk away from a clear war crime and say it's time for another commission."
Vice President-elect Biden is a great guy, but his non-answer is not acceptable. And it's equally unacceptable for President-elect Obama to hide behind Biden's non-answer.
President-elect Obama, you asked us for questions, and this is the most important question we want you to answer. Do you truly believe in citizen power as you insisted during the campaign - or were you just lying to us to get our votes?