It has been another difficult week for Barack Obama, with his little problem with Israel. What with his problems getting his healthcare reforms through congress and in finding a way to close Guantanamo Bay it might be understandable if Liberals on both sides of the pond were getting slightly frustrated, so it is fitting that in the last few days we have been given a reminder of why, whatever Obama’s faults, we should at least be truly grateful that the Republicans, or specifically the particular faction represented by Bush and his cronies, are out of power.
First we have Bush’s chief political strategist Karl Rove doing the rounds, touting his book and defending the use of waterboarding on terrorist subjects.
“I’m proud that we used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists and gave us valuable information that allowed us to foil plots such as flying aeroplanes into Heathrow and into London, bringing down aircraft over the Pacific, flying an aeroplane into the tallest building in Los Angeles and other plots,” he said.
“Yes, I’m proud that we kept the world safer than it was, by the use of these techniques. They’re appropriate, they’re in conformity with our international requirements and with US law.”
All very noble sounding of course, but even if one accepts that waterboarding does not constitute torture (and that requires a rather wide stretch of the imagination) we should be aware that this was only one kind of abuse which was suffered by detainees and remember the practice of extraordinary rendition, the black prison network and the outsourcing of torture to regimes less concerned with their international obligations and legal niceties.
Then we have Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick, representative of the right wing pressure group “Keep America Safe” and herself a cheerleader for torture, attacking lawyers who defended those accused of terrorism.
Liz Cheney and her organisation, Keep America Safe, have dubbed lawyers who acted on behalf of accused terrorists, and who now work for the department of justice, the “al-Qaida seven”. The group has rebranded the justice department the “department of jihad”.
This ignores the fact that some of those lawyers were specifically asked to act on behalf of the accused by the Bush administration, and that as a result of their actions some suspects have been found to be innocent of any terrorist activity. It also rides roughshod over the basic principles of the American justice system which state that even the worst offender is entitled to a defence. And it is not only those on the left who object to such claims – that noted bleeding heart Kenneth Starr is quoted as saying
“This was very unwise and really an out-of-bounds characterisation and challenge to good, honourable lawyers,” he said. “It’s very important for lawyers to be willing to take on unpopular causes to make sure that power is checked, that there are, in fact, arguments being advanced on behalf of those who have been subjected to governmental power.”
Ms Cheney appears to be living proof of the adage that the apple never falls far from the tree