Remember, back in the day, when Bush and the rest of the Republican Party were calling on all of us to defer to the “commanders on the ground” when it came to military and national security policy?
Remember how Republican leaders like John McCain seemed to harbor a cringe-inducing man-crush on General David Petraeus?
Oh, how the worm has turned.
Now that a Democrat is in office, the Republican leadership in Washington is insisting that the President ignore the advice of Admiral Mike Mullen and General Petraeus (both of whom served under Premier Bush) when it comes to the issues of closing Guantanamo and torture.
Here’s what General Petraeus had to say:
And here’s Admiral Mullen:
General David Petraeus said this past weekend that President Obama’s decision to close down Gitmo and end harsh interrogation techniques would benefit the United States in the broader war on terror.
In an appearance on Radio Free Europe Sunday, the man hailed by conservatives as the preeminent military figure of his generation left little room for doubt about where he stands on some of Obama’s most contentious policies…
“I have long been on record as having testified and also in helping write doctrine for interrogation techniques that are completely in line with the Geneva Convention … With respect to Guantanamo, I think that the closure in a responsible manner … But doing that in a responsible manner, I think, sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.”
Why do the Republicans hate America?
Mullen dismissed criticism by former Vice President Dick Cheney this week against the president’s argument that Guantanamo Bay has served as an effective recruiting tool for al Qaeda.
“The concern I’ve had about Guantanamo in these wars is it has been a symbol, and one which has been a recruiting symbol for those extremists and jihadists who would fight us. So and I think that centers — you know, that’s the heart of the concern for Guantanamo’s continued existence, in which I spoke to a few years ago, the need to close it,” Mullen said.
Update: Here’s Steve Benen:
Now, I’ve been critical at times of Petraeus (and Powell, for the matter), and I’m not suggesting their arguments have merit only when I agree with their conclusions.
The point is that Petraeus’ position makes the Republican attacks that much less credible. In most GOP circles, there’s practically a religious reverence for Petraeus, and yet he now seems to have no use for the right’s single most important arguments of the day.
As a matter of policy, Obama is obviously right and his detractors are clearly wrong. But as a matter of political optics, we’re now dealing with a situation in which the president’s position — the one the right thinks is dangerous, naive, and terrorist-friendly — has been endorsed by Bush’s Defense Secretary (Gates), Bush’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Mullen), Bush’s Secretary of State (Powell), and the general Bush tapped to head U.S. Central Command (Petraeus).
On the other side, we have Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and some craven members of Congress.
Publius makes a very important and provocative point about the Defcon 1 level of Republican pearl-clutching right now over the possible transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to U.S. Supermax prisons:
I’ve often wondered how much of their own lying bullshit they actually bought into. I mostly just assumed they were craven liars who knew they were pushing positions that weren’t in line with the facts. The truth may be scarier — do some of them (e.g. Michele Bachmann) actually believe some of it? The thought of that really creeps me out.
[T]here’s actually one thing even more disturbing than Republican dishonesty — the possibility that they are sincerely afraid of transferring the detainees. Some critics are clearly lying — no argument there. But it may well be that other Republicans are sincerely worried that the detainees’ evilness cannot be contained by any prison, or that they will brainwash their hapless prisonmates. [...]
[W]hat’s truly disturbing is that a sizeable chunk of the public still fears that the Gitmo detainees are so dangerous that they could break out and destroy towns in America with laser beams from their eyes. Some of the detainees are, of course, very bad and dangerous people. But the idea that America is so very fragile and helpless in the face of these overpowering evil forces that we can’t transfer the detainees to another prison (or give them real trials) is absurd.
So let’s hope the GOP really is lying on this one.
Steve Benen meditates on Publius’ thought:
[Lying] would be more comforting. Blatant dishonesty for partisan gain is much easier to understand than rampant stupidity among leading federal lawmakers.
It’s hard to say with any certainty, and there’s no doubt some variety within the group — some liars and some fools — but for what it’s worth, there’s ample evidence to support the “blatant dishonesty for partisan gain” theory. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Republicans see the debate over Gitmo as “the culmination of a carefully developed GOP strategy,” which they hope to use as “the beginning of a political comeback.”
“Four men from upstate New York were arrested Wednesday night in what the authorities said was a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y.This of course leaves us with a huge problem. As we’ve been told by the GOP and Harry Reid, our prisons in the United States are incapable of holding these omnipotent arch-criminals (who likely possess powerful super powers). The obvious solution to assuage the nebulous NIMBYism sweeping the country right now is to (without trial of course) lock the suspects away in the Phantom Zone and blast them into the dark reaches of space. Problem solved!Here’s Hilzoy with some other good suggestions:
The men were arrested around 9 p.m. after planting what they believed to be bombs in cars outside the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center, officials said. But the men did not know the bombs, provided by an informant with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were fake.
The arrests capped what officials described as a “painstaking investigation” that began in June 2008 involving an F.B.I. agent who had been told of the men’s desire to attack targets in America by a federal informant. As part of the plot, the men intended to fire guided stinger missiles at military aircraft at Stewart International Airport, officials said.”
I assume that if it’s too dangerous to move people at Guantanamo to the United States, it must be much too dangerous to allow these jihadists to run loose in our prisons. After all, they might provide financing for other jihadists from their supermax cells, or radicalize other prisoners, or use special Terrorist Mind Control Techniques to create a whole army of brainwashed convicts under their complete control.Jor-El!!!!!!!
I’d suggest killing them, cutting them into pieces, and shipping their parts to parts unknown immediately (trials? who can afford trials under these circumstances?), if I weren’t afraid that some hitherto unknown al Qaeda trick might allow their reanimated body parts to slither around in search of one another and, eventually, reconstitute themselves as the Islamofascist Undead. Earlier, I thought we should send prisoners into space, but that was before I realized that that would allow them to join forces with the Klingons.
In fact, I can’t think of a single thing to do that would not make matters worse.
[W]hile it’s true that ”not a single prisoner has escaped from Gitmo since it was created,” it’s also true that no Muslim Terrorists have escaped from American prisons and our SuperMax prison “has had no escapes or serious attempts to escape.” Actually, the only person to even make an escape attempt from a SuperMax is Green Arrow, who hasn’t succeeded despite the help of Joker and Lex Luthor.h/t Spencer Ackerman
As I mentioned here before, I find Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to be a cowardly, spineless tool.
Yesterday, Reid basically signed on to the latest GOP Manufactured Outrage Event (TM) and torpedoed Obama’s request for funding to shut down Guantanamo. Here’s what he said:
QUESTION: If the United States — if the United States thinks that these people should be held, why shouldn’t they be held in the United States? Why shouldn’t the U.S. take those risks, the attendant risk of holding them, since it’s the one that says they should be held?Fuck Reid and the horse he rode in on. It’s brain-dead shit like this that may someday drive me out of the arms of the Democratic Party. Is there anyone in the halls of power besides Obama with any intestinal fortitude?
REID: I think there’s a general feeling, as I’ve already said, that the American people, and certainly the Senate, overwhelmingly doesn’t want terrorists to be released in the United States. And I think we’re going to stick with that.
QUESTION: What about in imprisoned in the United States?
REID: If you’re…
REID: If people are — if terrorists are released in the United States, part of what we don’t want is them be put in prisons in the United States. We don’t want them around the United States.
With all the posts I’ve had to write on Reid, I am rapidly running out of adjectives synonymous with “cowardly”, “stupid” and “ineffective”.
Earlier: Why I Think Harry Reid is a Tool; Blue Dogs, Harry Reid and Congressional Wranglings; Why Harry Reid is a Tool, Part 3
Update: John Cole highlights this story about Reid’s re-election chances:
Nearly half of Nevadans have had enough of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as the powerful Democrat heads into his re-election campaign, a new Las Vegas Review-Journal poll finds.He and I see eye to eye:
About a third of the state’s voters would re-elect Reid if the 2010 election were held today, according to the poll, but 45 percent say they would definitely vote to replace him. Seventeen percent would consider another candidate.
Yeah. It would just break my heart if Harry Reid loses.Update 2: Harry Reid should take some lessons in moxie from Dick Durbin:
h/t Steve Benen
Some of my Republican colleagues argue that Guantanamo is the only appropriate place to hold the detainees and they said, and I quote, ‘We don’t have a facility that could handle this in the United States,’ end of quote. And American prison guards, they went on to say, quote, ‘have no idea what they’re getting into,’ close quote.Well, I would just say to my colleagues who made those statements, you ought to take a look at some of our security facilities in the United States, and you ought to have a little more respect for the men and women who are corrections officers and put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe and to make sure that those who are dangerous are detained and incarcerated. The reality is that we’re holding some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world right now in our federal prisons, including the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the shoe bomber, the Unibomber, and many others.
Update 3: Greenwald sums up the process that leads Harry Reid to be a spineless, quivering pansy:
(1) Right-wing super-tough-guy warriors project some frightened, adolescent, neurotic fantasy onto the world — either because they are really petrified by it or because they want others to be (“Putting Muslim Terrorists in our prisons will make us Unsafe! – Keep them away from me, please!!!“);
(2) Rather than scoff at the inane fear-mongering or point out simple facts to reveal its idiocy, Democratic “leaders” such as Harry Reid echo the right-wing fears in order to prove how Serious and Tough they are — in our political debates, the more frightened one is, the more Serious and Tough one is — and/or because they are genuinely frightened of being called mean names by Sean Hannity (“Harry Reid isn’t as scared of this as I am, which shows that he’s weak”);
(3) “Journalists” who are capable of nothing other than mindlessly reciting what they hear then write articles depicting the Right’s frightened neurosis as a Serious argument, and then overnight, a consensus emerges: Democrats are in big trouble politically unless they show that they, too, are as deeply frightened as the Right is.
In the early 1950s, when lawmakers were adding “under God” to the Pledge and changing all American money to include the phrase “In God We Trust,” Congress created an official annual Prayer Day for the nation. Congress, under pressure from the religious right, changed the law in 1988 to set the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May. Obama, like his predecessors, issued a proclamation (pdf) honoring the “holiday.”Oh, that’s not all:
Unlike George W. Bush, Obama didn’t open up the White House to the self-appointed National Day of Prayer Task Force, run by religious right activists, which has hosted exclusive events for the last eight years.
This has led a variety of conservatives to make a variety of demonstrably false claims.
Lie #1: Rush Limbaugh said Obama tried to “cancel” the National Day of Prayer.That’s obviously not true; Obama issued a proclamation acknowledging the day. No effort was made to “cancel” anything.
Lie #2: Fox News’ online project, Fox Nation, said the president “won’t celebrate” the National Day of Prayer.Again, the proclamation proves otherwise.
Lie #3: Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson said the president’s decision to participate in “private” prayer on “National Prayer Day” is evidence of Obama “giving in to the PC society that we live in.”No one pressured Obama to keep the National Day of Prayer Task Force out of the White House; it was just the obvious thing to do. As for the knock on “private” prayer, I might recommend Gretchen Carlson read Matthew 6:6.
Lie #4: Fox News’ Steve Doocy said Reagan and George H. W. Bush held events similar to that of George W. Bush.As hard as this is to believe, Doocy has it backwards. Reagan largely ignored the NDP for his first seven years in office.
Lie #5: Elisabeth Hasselbeck said on Fox News that the National Day of Prayer “has been a huge tradition” in the U.S.That’s just nonsense, since most presidents, like most Americans, have largely ignored the “holiday.” Besides, Obama is keeping the “tradition” going by doing what his predecessors have done — he issued a proclamation.
Literally every attack Republicans have thrown at the Obama administration has been a dud. Some have been more embarrassing than others, but when “socialism” started polling well, it probably should have been a signal to the GOP to reevaluate their smear tactics.
Now, however, Republicans leaders are very excited about the new line of attack. Today, they’re rallying support for the “Keep Terrorists Out Of America Act.” This follows up on arguments from January, and the message hasn’t improved since.
The GOP argument is that the president, by closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, may move as many as 250 detainees to detention facilities in the U.S. Congressional Republicans want to make that next to impossible, arguing that Obama would put American lives at risk by bringing suspected terrorists onto American soil.
This is a very stupid argument.
There are multiple angles to this, but let’s cut to the chase: we already lock up some extraordinarily dangerous people in maximum-security facilities. Al Qaeda suspects may be scary, but they don’t have super powers. Obama isn’t going to just drop off bad guys on Main Street and ask them to play nice.
This is what the GOP has been reduced to!?
Crying about Obama not giving the far-right Dobson family carte blanche access to the White House to push their particular brand of hate and venom via the megaphone of the Presidency?
Screaming about moving alleged terrorists from Guantanamo to a Super-Max facility somewhere on U.S. soil??
I just don’t get it… It’s like watching a play that your kids put on where they all dress up like adults and hobble across the stage in mom and dad’s shoes saying stuff they think sounds Adult and Mature. Come to think of it, kids like this would actually be making a hell of a lot more sense than these unhinged rightwing freakjobs in Congress and the MSM right now.
After a tense internal debate, the Obama administration this afternoon will make public a number of detailed memos describing the harsh interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency against al Qaeda suspects in secret overseas prisons.
The interrogation methods were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and today’s release will be the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the interrogation program that some senior Obama administration officials have said used illegal torture.
I can’t wait.
Update: Here’s Obama on why he decided to release the memos:
This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.His sentiments have merit but I disagree with his insistence on always looking forward without looking back. Contra Obama, I think that a LOT “will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past” if we train our eyes on the war criminals who authorized the torture techniques we so recklessly unleashed upon the world.
I can guarantee you, right now, if we go through Obama’s entire first term without a single person being prosecuted for crimes committed during the Bush administration, I will not be a happy camper.
Update 2: Ambinder links to the full text of the memos, in all their sordid glory.
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