24: Obama's Torture Episode

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Right now, liberals want me to release classified photos, conservatives deny that torture is illegal, and people that I work with may be involved in both. Home grown terrorists tried to blow up two synagogues and three U.S. soldiers were killed alongside 63 Iraqis.


My name is Barack Obama, and today is the longest day of my life. The following takes place between 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM on the day of my national security speech—events are in real time…


As the FBI hauls in a clique accused of plotting to blow up synagogues in the Bronx, this could turn out to be the day that the Nation of Islam, generally regarded as more militant and anti-Jewish, turns the public relations tables on Sunni orthodox black Muslims:

Final Calls and bean pies?—hell yes. Bomb plots and stinger missiles?—not so much.

Showtime had this whole caper called back in 2005 when they portrayed Darwyn Al-Sayeed (Michael Ealy)—a black Muslim FBI agent infiltrating an American terror cell—a sort of Spook Who Sat By The Door of the masjid.

If the allegations prove true, a few Joes from upstate New York will have singlehandedly put law abiding Muslim Americans on the spot, turned back the clock on black-Jewish rapprochement, and revived every Barack “Hussein” Obama conspiracy theory there is.


Can’t visualize James Madison counterprogramming a leaflet from Aaron “I Shot Ya!” Burr? Maybe not. But if Dick “I also shot ya” Cheney goes nationwide, so must Obama.


Addressing the media at the National Archives Thursday, Obama pre-rebutted Cheney by clarifying his positions on torture (“so-called enhanced interrogation techniques…undermine the rule of law”), closing Guantánamo (“our goal is to construct a legitimate framework for Guantánamo detainees—not to avoid one”), and underscoring that these issues accrued under his predecessors: “We are cleaning up something that is, quite simply, a mess.”


Down the road at the American Enterprise Institute, Cheney restated his case on torture: that “every method used was in full compliance with the Constitution, statutes, and treaty obligations.” Then he rebuffed “charges of ‘hubris.’”


He took Obama to task for announcing the closing of Guantánamo with “no plan,” although Guantánamo pretty much exists because Cheney’s own administration had “no plan” to legally deal with terror suspects that they’d rounded up.

And Cheney derided Obama for using “euphemisms,” to talk about the war on terror while referring to illegal torture as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”


Supreme Court, Part 17, Thursday, May 21, 10:51:06 AM

Uh, wrong show


The left sees an Obama betrayal—that foregoing prosecutions and release of torture photos reflects a desire to “hide the evidence”—even though the president, while eschewing prosecution, acknowledges that evidence exists of illegal acts that took place, and clearly affirmed an anti-torture policy going forward.


If this were really an episode of 24, and the president was Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland)—liberal bloggers would be the bureaucrats of “CTU.” In 2008, they blithely opted to read then-candidate Obama as a dovish parliamentarian with a silky jump shot. But “As careful getting out as we were careless getting in” wasn’t just a feel-good line about Iraq—turns out, it was a mission statement.


And the left’s parochialism is matched by the right’s condescension—interpreting Obama’s terror policy as a once-naïve president “growing in office” once confronted with the realities of governing, though there’s never been anything other than conservative campaign rhetoric to suggest he would have done anything other than what he’s doing.


Rather, Obama’s program—according to the account of Harvard Law’s Jack Goldsmith, who writes an exhaustive review for The New Republic—is “a prudent attempt to legitimate and thus strengthen the extraordinary powers that the president must exercise in the long war against Islamist terrorists.” In short, by any legal means necessary…


Paradoxically, Obama’s middle course in the war on terror is akin to George H. W. Bush’s once ridiculed and now respected circumspect prosecution of the Gulf War.


But the foiled New York terror plot brings the Cheney strategy into relief. Banking on an attack on American soil sometime, somewhere that will bring his narrative to life, all he has to do is plant a seed in the public mind, then harvest a bloody “I told you so” later on.

At least Cheney stands for something. The Congressional Democrats who caved to Cheney on Iraq just gave Obama the middle finger on Guantánamo’s decommissioning.


If this were a kung fu flick, Obama’s decision to hang in with George W.’s neglected war in Afghanistan, his robust Middle East diplomacy, and his “mend, don’t end” terror policy might be called something like “Curse of the Half-Clenched Beige Fist.”

Now let’s hope he doesn’t run out of time.


David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root.

David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter