All Of Bush’s Mistakes Are Obama’s Fault

The NY Times:

The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

Every time I see these stories, it makes my blood boil. This nonsense started last week with the Pentagon’s “timely” release of a report about 61 detainees, and continues on today on all your favorite fringe right blogs. The borg knows how to move in unison.

Here is what I don’t understand. Why is this repeatedly framed as a problem for Obama, when what this really is is evidence that the Bush administration accomplished NOTHING with Guantanamo. This is not a problem for Obama. This is proof that the last administration was a group of incompetent hacks. Bush decided that he had the right to detain people forever, do whatever he wanted to them, and they had no rights whatsoever, he ruined our international reputation and most likely violated dozens of laws, yet he let these allegedly dangerous people go. Why? What was the purpose of Gitmo, anyway? Why do all this stuff and STILL let the dangerous guys go free?

Because they had no idea what they were doing. They were so intent on DWTFTW, to hell with domestic and international law, that they paid no attention to the fact that torture and abuse doesn’t lead to good evidence and means that you can not prosecute. They made such a hash of the evidence that even today they can not prosecute half these guys because the evidence is in such disarray:

Vandeveld was assigned to the military prosecutor’s office at Guantanamo Bay in May 2007, shortly before Jawad was charged. Vandeveld, who as a civilian serves as a senior deputy attorney general in Pennsylvania, said he was shocked by the “state of disarray” as he began to gather material for Jawad’s case file.

He said the evidence was scattered throughout databases, in desk drawers, in vaguely labeled containers or “simply piled on the tops of desks” of departed prosecutors.

“I further discovered that most physical evidence that had been collected had either disappeared” or had been stored in unknown locations, he said.

The moral of this story is not the danger for Obama going forward with his Gitmo decommissioning, the moral is that when venal, shallow, small men are given unfettered power and authority, they do incompetent, stupid, and evil things.

And only in America would they never have to pay a price for that.

More here from Spencer Ackerman.

58 replies
  1. 1
    over_educated says:

    I’m suprised that Right-wing sites have not somehow linked this to the Clenis.

  2. 2
    Shygetz says:

    Which is why this whole "Let’s look forward, not backward" mentality regarding prosecutions is so damned infuriating. If one looks forward, one will see that the US will almost certainly elect a morally repugnant person to the White House at some point in the future. Once we do, wouldn’t it be nice if that person were restrained by a sense of self-preservation, given the fact that he knows that we prosecute, convict, and punish those who willfully and repeatedly break our laws as President?

  3. 3
    Michael says:

    I’d like to see the actual evidence against each of hese detainees, with names of the accusers, the charges, the conditions under which they were arrested.

    Frankly, if you you pick up a roadside bomb maker in Kandahar, it is a far leap to call him a terrorist "out to destroy America" unless he’s got a real plan to detonate that sucker in the US.

    Attempting to eliminate occupation military forces by stealth in your own country is not terrorism.

  4. 4
    Joshua Norton says:

    That’s what happens when you deal with a bunch of yahoos who think America is just the dirt their house sits on and nothing more. If you don’t believe in the American way of doing things, via the Constitution, (unless it’s convenient for you to do so) then you are NOT an American – you’re a traitor to the cause.

  5. 5
    priscianus jr says:

    You’re right, Jon — and I hope Obama’s press people read this blog, or at least that they are on your wavelength. I kind of think they are. This is only their third full day in office.

  6. 6
    MattF says:

    Legal, rational procedures carried out according to explicit principles by competent individuals is just so… boring.

  7. 7
    Bootlegger says:

    If this guy is leading a terrorist group in Yemen, isn’t that a problem for the Yemeni government? Since when are we responsible for detaining Yemeni criminals? I don’t care what fucking gang colors he claims, if he’s in Yemen he’s NOT OUR FUCKING PROBLEM.

    Plus, this is clearly another Bush failure. He allows the 9-11 attacks on his watch then releases "61 terrorists to the battlefield" (which is absolute bullshit anyway). So Cole is right, it’s not Obama’s fault, its the Bush system’s fault and the good guys are now going to fix it.

  8. 8
    PeakVT says:

    Why is this repeatedly framed as a problem for Obama, when what this really is is evidence that the Bush administration accomplished NOTHING with Guantanamo. This is not a problem for Obama.

    Ha ha ha ha! Good one, John.

    What is unfunny is that "even the liberal" NYT is repeating the right-wing frame.

  9. 9
    cleek says:

    i love the NPR coverage of this issue. they always say something like "the dilemma is that there have been no charges brought against these people and they are not expected to go to trial, but the intelligence community insists that they are too dangerous to release".

    there’s no apparent evidence, and no trial, but a secretive body claims it has secret evidence that says the people are guilty of something…

    they never finish the thought and ask "isn’t this completely counter to our system of justice?"

    there’s no dilemma, it’s just plain fucking wrong. it’s like something out of old French history.

  10. 10
    Zifnab says:

    Here is what I don’t understand. Why is this repeatedly framed as a problem for Obama, when what this really is is evidence that the Bush administration accomplished NOTHING with Guantanamo.

    Let us assume Tunich takes a giant steaming crap on your sofa, then picks himself up and trots off to the next room. That steaming pile of crap is no longer his problem. Cats shit on things. We all accept that. And yelling at the cat won’t help you. He doesn’t understand English.

    However, it is your problem. When friends visit, they will comment on how you’ve got a giant pile of cat crap on your sofa, unless you clean it up. If you don’t Febreeze the place, people will ask why your house smells of cat feces. All this will reflect poorly on you way more than it does on Tunich.

    You won’t receive much sympathy either, even if Tunich does this repeatedly. At the end of the day, it just proves that you can’t control your cat and it raises the question of whether you are responsible enough to even own a cat. Of course, no one holds Tunich accountable. He is a cat. That would be silly.

    George Bush Jr is a cat. Our expectations of him are minimal. If he craps on things, we are expected to clean it up. And if we don’t, we are to blame. If GWB makes too big of a mess, it is our responsible for bringing him into the White House to begin with. Blaming GWB for his mess would be silly. By contrast, Obama is a responsible adult. It is his job to clean up these shitty messes. Furthermore, if you (or Obama) were to take a steaming crap on the sofa, people would be absolutely horrified. If your house wasn’t maintained in immaculate perfection, your neighbors would heap scorn on you and friends would not visit you. Even Tunich might leave after a while because cats have a certain standard of living they generally expect from their owners. And people love cats. So its natural for folks to fawn over an adorable kitten or a dopey looking tabby. Not so much with other responsible adults.

    So now that I’ve beaten this metaphor into the pavement, I hope I’ve illustrated the dynamics of Washington Politics.

  11. 11
    Don't Ask says:

    Obama is going to be judged on how he handles his first 100 days in the White House. So far he has responded in his cool collected, no bull sh!t manner. Do I want him to investigate and prosecute Bush? I am not sure. I am torn. Clinton’s first 100 days were tied up with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and why he chose that to be his first major issue is somewhat confusing. If Obama goes in and makes his first issue investigating and prosecuting Bush he is going to alienate a large portion of the right and his reaching across the aisle on any future issues might not be well received. What I think will happen though is that Obama to the extent possible, will allow for the truth to come out. He has already stated that FOIA is one of the most critical tools in transparency. Is he going to honor legitimate FOIA requests for information regarding the Bush regime activities?

  12. 12

    @cleek: What’s funny is they have such a low opinion of government but act like "L’etat c’est moi".

    Maybe they just have terrible self-esteem issues.

  13. 13
    SpotWeld says:

    Bush was the Bill Lundberg of presidents. (ref: movie Office Space).

    It seems that he never really did anything, just walked around and passively suggested that folks "get right on that terrorist thing for me, okay.."

    Yeah.. Katrina.. *sips coffee" that’s going be a problem, thing you can look into that for me. It’s kinda important.

    Did you get that memo about health care.. yeah, I’ll just forward that to you again.

  14. 14
    JL says:

    @PeakVT: You must not have read the entire article.

    Although the Pentagon has said that dozens of released Guantánamo detainees have “returned to the fight,” its claim is difficult to document, and has been met with skepticism. In any case, few of the former detainees, if any, are thought to have become leaders of a major terrorist organization like Al Qaeda in Yemen, a mostly homegrown group that experts say has been reinforced by foreign fighters.

  15. 15
    demimondian says:

    @Don’t Ask: Actually, Clinton didn’t choose to make DADT his first issue; the American Right chose to do so. In 1993, Rush Limbaugh showed that he could control the agenda. In 2009, he’s already had his nose rubbed in the fact that he can’t — it turns out (surprise, surprise) that 59 Senators and 300+ Representatives outvotes the frothing Santorum collective.

    The effect of that is to reinforce the collective belief that Obama is calm, cool, and in control. ("Chill the Fuck Out. I’ve got this.") The real evidence of that, though, lies in a different set of votes: Obama’s cabinet is *already* in position, and is already doing things. That’s what the Clinton White House could never do.

  16. 16
    Robin G. says:

    I’m still not clear on how you prosecute people who were against you in a war. Unless it wasn’t really a war. Kind of like the war on drugs. Lovely PR name, but not exactly the same as executing WWII, or even Vietnam.

    I again see why Obama’s trying to find a way to make *something* of what Bush left him down there, but in the end we’re really going to have to let all these guys go. Even the "bad guys." And if they attack again… well, I hate to say it, but that’s kind of the price we pay for being such fucking morons about the whole thing. (Or rather, that’s the price that uninvolved civilians are going to pay for the people in charge being such fucking morons about the whole thing. The way it’s been since the dawn of time.)

  17. 17
    Media Browski says:


    Which is why this whole "Let’s look forward, not backward" mentality regarding prosecutions is so damned infuriating.

    Infuriating, but good politics. Obama simultaneously has stated that if any wrongdoing is found, it will be acted upon, as well as setting loose Holder, and giving Congress and the press FOIA access. All that remains is public outcry, and he’s got the hand to play to try BushCo criminals.

  18. 18
    Mnemosyne says:

    My favorite part of the whole story is that the Pentagon counts complaining about your treatment in Guantanamo as "returning to the battlefield." Give an interview to a reporter about what happened to you there? TERRORIST! Participate in a documentary about Guantanamo being bad? TERRORIST!

  19. 19
    TheFountainHead says:

    Uhmmmm, Duh?

    What, have you been under a rock or something?

  20. 20
    El Cruzado says:

    I thought all members of Al-Qaeda were deputy leaders. At least that was the impression I got after a few dozen of them were killed in Iraq some years back.

    Judging by that standard, maybe he was the one in charge of brewing coffee for the Al-Qaeda Yemen offices.

  21. 21

    That’s what the Clinton White House could never do.

    I did not know that. Thanks demi.

    Whereas the Kennedy administration took an average of two-and-a-half months to get its appointees sworn in, the Nixon administration took three-and-a-half, Carter four-and-a-half, Reagan five-and-a-half, the first Bush administration just over eight, and Clinton eight-and-a-half.

    Bloody hell. How did any of them achieve anything?

  22. 22
    Cain says:

    I think that FOIA changes might be Obama’s way of sending out a signal to potential investigative journalists to look into the Bush Admin’s activities. Instead of going after him, himself he’ll let the press do it and when they generate enough noise that something is wrong he could have his attorney general which he has claimed is a third party separate from him who will make his own judgements to start going after the Bush administration. He might even put up token resistance saying this is a national security issue or something like that.

    He’s already planted the seeds. All we need now is a bunch of investigative journalists to start hearing the dog whistle and start asking for information.

    Slick. Cuz when he made those pronouncements he sounded like that it his administration that was the one who the attorney general and the public is going to hold their collective feet to the fire, but it could easily be used to go after the previous administration if someone has balls enough to do it.


  23. 23
    Robin G. says:

    @ Don’t Ask: Have you read Vince Bugliosi’s The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder? I think that’s really the way to get these guys. Theoretically, the people of the previous administration committed felonies in pretty much every district of the country. With enough legal savvy, a local prosecutor can choose to bring criminal indictments against all of them, and all Obama has to do is remain uninvolved, just mildly saying, "I have faith that our judicial system will be fair." The indictments don’t actually have to be for murder (though Bugliosi lays out a pretty excellent way to pull it off) simply because they’ve committed so *many* crimes that there’s a long list from which to choose. Would anything come of it? Hard to say — probably everyone under indictment would just refuse to acknowledge it. But it’s not like they’d respond to Congressional summons either.

    The subject of investigations gets thornier than I think a lot of people are willing to acknowledge. If the system works the way it ought, then obviously Bush would be prosecuted by the Justice Department and go to prison for a very long time. But, frankly, that leads to the worrisome situation in which our new leader imprisons the old one. No matter what the circumstances, that’s a pretty serious precedent to be setting. I think a local prosecutor on a Quixotic mission is probably the way around the problem, I really do.

  24. 24

    Ackerman’s piece is noteworthy in that he points out the obvious. Most of the criticism of "closing Gitmo" and other such nonsense comes from those who have not taken the time to read the Executive Order.

    It should also be pointed out that less than two dozen of these guys are really hardcore anything. This is much ado about a tempest in a teapot. (I just couldn’t help myself.)

    While the wankers bitched about Obama taking some shots at Bush in the inaugural, I applaud Obama for not over playing his hand prior to taking office. The entire executive branch has been so dysfunctional for the past eight years it’s refreshing to have normal and calm again. It’s also very reassuring to have a president who doesn’t sound like he’s giving a book report in an eight grade civics class. (After 16 years of continuing drama in the executive branch I take sedate and ordinary.)

  25. 25

    Notice one thing about the NYTimes article. They never spent much if any time delving into WHY the Bush Administration released him. This terrorist wasn’t being assisted by the ACLU or some other civil libertarian group evidently and nobody had even heard of him probably until today. So what made them decide to release HIM as opposed to other detainees that have much less evidence or pretenses of evidence against them? In the article they say that

    Mr. Shihri, 35, trained in urban warfare tactics at a camp north of Kabul, Afghanistan, according to documents released by the Pentagon as part of his Guantánamo dossier. Two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he traveled to Afghanistan via Bahrain and Pakistan, and he later told American investigators that his intention was to do relief work, the documents say. He was wounded in an airstrike and spent a month and a half recovering in a hospital in Pakistan.
    The documents state that Mr. Shihri met with a group of “extremists” in Iran and helped them get into Afghanistan. They also say he was accused of trying to arrange the assassination of a writer, in accordance with a fatwa, or religious order, issued by an extremist cleric.

    That is far beyond the background of some people we STILL have detained in GITMO. Did we torture him? Is that why we had to let him go? I don’t know and I can’t say that with any certainty but you would think that the WHY would be at least some focus of the article rather than basically asserting "he said he didn’t do it".

    The truth is as Cole said this story is yet another indictment of the Bush policies. He and his people are the ones who let him go but by the end of the weekend I will be the story will have morphed so far from reality that you would think Obama personally unhooked his shackles.

    On another note RawStory is reporting that the UN is calling for the US to prosecute Bush Co for torture. This could get interesting folks.

  26. 26
    ksmiami says:

    Every day of this new administration, I will remind everyone I know and meet that Bush made a real hash of prosecuting terrorists and besmirched our name and reputation and NO IT IS NOT BARACK OBAMA’s FUCKING FAULT.

  27. 27
    Joshua Norton says:

    I guess Bin Laden still being free has skipped from being Clinton’s fault to being Obama’s fault now, too.

  28. 28
    TheFountainHead says:

    That’s what the Clinton White House could never do.

    @Tattoosydney: Thanks for that link, very interesting read.

  29. 29
    Zifnab says:


    Bloody hell. How did any of them achieve anything?

    The trick is to do a lot of lying.

  30. 30
    jrg says:

    Letting journalists and lawyers go after Bush seems like a good call to me. Obama should not have to play that game – plenty of other people will be happy to do it for him.

    Somebody needs to keep Bush’s crimes on the front page, though, because otherwise the media and the panty-sniffing right wingers will throw everything they can at Obama, in every news cycle.

    Plus, I don’t think it will hurt the country if we’re continually reminded of what the alternative to a Democratic president looks like. You know the petty bullshit is coming…

  31. 31
    Napoleon says:

    Off topic, but has anyone heard whether those 2 US attorneys who said they would not leave their post (not to mention the NASA administrator) been shown the door yet?

  32. 32
    Tsulagi says:

    @Zifnab: Exactly.

    GW himself said he was the master of low expectations, and that he exceeded them. Damn did he ever.

    So if he held a press conference without dropping his pants mooning Helen Thomas while lighting a fart, he was a serious adult. Speaking in tongues like gibberish? He’s plain-spoken.

    Obama doesn’t get to play the stupid card. So yeah, Bush’s byproducts of success droppings are the shit Obama becomes responsible for cleaning up. While he didn’t create them, they’re now his problems.

    So far I think he’s doing well with Gitmo. Ordering an immediate 120-day continuance to clean up the process during that time…smart. That would actually be at a quick pace as well as closing the detention facility within a year.

  33. 33
    kay says:

    I was really pleased last night on CNN, when Anderson Cooper set this up breathlessly, and all three pundits shot him down.
    The consensus was that Obama was fulfilling a campaign promise, that the mighty United States of America could certainly responsibly and lawfully process 245 detainees in a year, and that it might restore trust on other issues. Keeping campaign promises tends to do that.
    I just happened to catch a moment of sanity on cable.
    I know the opposition are going to use this. I know the fear-mongering around this issue might work. But, Obama has to resolve this, no matter the political cost. Everyone knows it has to be resolved, and Bush ducked. They can’t sit there forever. I’m pleased he raised it now, while he’s enjoying widespread approval. Had he waited, he might have chickened out. Like Bush did.

  34. 34
    itsbenj says:

    Seriously, I don’t know exactly what is up with the author of this article – he or she comes off as a straight-up neocon plant from the Pentagon, but the article is drawing many specious conclusions before it even proves anything. And saying what a problem this is for Obama, even if the article is 100% true, is ridiculous! Just absolute nonsense. This shit is what the problem is with Guantanemo in the first place! And didn’t the Bush admin release the person in question?

    So, if we released him to Saudi Arabia (as the article states) who then did pretty much nothing and funneled him back to Yemen where he immediately rejoined Al Qaeda (as the article states) – isn’t our problem with Saudi Arabia here (once again)? Why would they just let this guy go back to Yemen?

    So, all of these right wing blowhards are ready to pounce all over Obama, and they’re using as fuel for their fire the fact that some guy Bush released from custody is a terrorist again? How stupid are these guys exactly? Don’t they understand if we had actually tried this guy, about, say, 4 years ago, he could be just sitting in a max. security facility, never to be able to organize terror again. But instead, a few ‘interrogators’ got to get their rocks off by beating the crap out of this guy, fondling his balls and taking some dirty pics of him, then let him go.

    And we’re all supposed to sit around and think that the latter is a better, "safer" approach? In what parallel universe does any of this make sense?

  35. 35
    kay says:


    The timing is odd, and the sources aren’t named. Let’s hope the NYTimes isn’t printing perfectly timed arguments (again) that the Right can point to today, when making their case, a la Cheney.

    I’m spooked on well-timed "leaks" after Iraq. This one came a day after the Obama announcement.

  36. 36
    D. Mason says:

    If you don’t believe in the American way of doing things, via the Constitution, (unless it’s convenient for you to do so) then you are NOT an American – you’re a traitor to the cause.

    Give me a break. The American way of doing things has not been based on the Constitution in a goddamn century. No one believes in that shit. Bush is just the natural progression of Americas decline into a state of all-powerful central government. Pretty much the opposite of Constitutional ideals. No need to act like he started that trend even if he pushed it further than ever before.

  37. 37
    Montysano says:


    Don’t they understand if we had actually tried this guy, about, say, 4 years ago, he could be just sitting in a max. security facility, never to be able to organize terror again.

    The Bushies painted themselves into a corner. They couldn’t prosecute, because in 90% of the cases it would have been revealed that the case was pure bullshit. We all would have found out that we were grabbing hapless cab drivers off the street and whisking them off to Gitmo for some electro-testicle therapy. So the solution was: hold them, all of them, indefinitely, then kick the can down the road until 1/20/2009 and get the fuck out of town.

    I hope the Bushies take some well-deserved time off for R&R. I heartily recommend traveling abroad.

  38. 38
    Zifnab says:

    The American way of doing things has not been based on the Constitution in a goddamn century. No one believes in that shit.

    John Adams was ramming the "Alien and Sedition Acts" through Congress inside his first weeks in office. Lincoln suspended Habeaus Corpus until the SCOTUS made him back down. The Constitution itself made owned slaves into 3/5ths of a person for voting purposes. The "American way of doing things" is a constant struggle against tyranny from within.

    About the only thing that has kept the Constitution alive has been the millions of people from all walks of life – home breed or immigrant, rich or poor, white or colored – that desperately cling to the notion that a society like the one idealized in our Constitution can exist.

    The Bush Administration was a regression into Pre-New Deal thinking, and it brought with it a heavy price – pre-New Deal economic collapse and pre-New Deal worldwide political capital. And while I’ll agree that American ideals have been decaying since Nixon, I wouldn’t say we’ve been "on the decline" so much as we have failed to maintain the massive progress we saw in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.

    But we’ll recover. Have some faith. Rome wasn’t burned down in a day.

  39. 39
    D. Mason says:

    Rome wasn’t burned down in a day.

    America has been smoldering for a long ass time.

  40. 40
    binzinerator says:


    George Bush Jr is a cat. Our expectations of him are minimal. If he craps on things, we are expected to clean it up.

    And that is what I find so goddamned maddening about the Villageering that’s going on now with this, this effort to portray Bush as not responsible for what he has done.

    I saw this cartoon which demonstrates perfectly this bullshit (as well as the other bullshit meme they want to establish as conventional wisdom, that of ‘Bush kept us safe’.)

    This fucking tool of a cartoonist casts Bush as the pilot of that plane that ditched in the Hudson. So now Bush is a cool-headed hero whose quick thinking and great skill saved us all.

    And an underlying premise of this depiction — the thing the right and the Village want us to accept — is that, like the real pilot, Bush had nothing to do with our plane crashing. We know the real pilot was not responsible for those birds flying into those engines and blowing both of them up. Birds sometimes fly into jet engines. No one could have predicted both engines would get hit. And sonofagun, it’s the same thing with Bush — he too had disaster thrust upon him, and he too had no warning, could do nothing to prevent it, and had no part to play in creating it. Just like the WTC attacks, like the invasion of Iraq and the prosecution of the war, like the aftermath of Katrina, like the oversight of the economy, like everything he has piloted — it has all crashed and he had nothing to do with it. It was all bad luck. We should be so fucking grateful he was the pilot, think of how bad it could have been without him at the controls. So don’t dare bitch about the ride or the plane ending up in the river, he saved our asses. We ingrates owe him if not our lives at least our thanks.

    God I really despise these people. And every time Tenguphule writes about what to do with these people, I find it harder and harder to disagree with him.

  41. 41
    Rick Taylor says:

    This is entirely predictable. Republican’s will hammer the administration for releasing terrorists and endangering America. The media will go along, framing it as a clash of values, since that sounds more objective and even handed, rather than looking at how we got here.

  42. 42
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Here’s another thing that is ridiculous about the meme of “ZOMG! You can’t release the truly bad guys in Gitmo, they will just turn around and attack us again”:

    Wny do we have a humongous DHS and DOD establishment for, if they can’t protect us from attacks coming from people we know don’t like us? Why are we spending so much damn much money if it doesn’t do anything to protect us?

    Even if truly hardcore bad guys are released and go straight from our custody into the arms of AQ or some other group, that doesn’t make them any different from anybody else out there who already wants to do us harm. It isn’t as if the entire population of potential attackers has been isolated in Gitmo for the last few years and so suddenly the number of attackers is going to skyrocket just because we are releasing the ones we have in custody.

    So what makes the Gitmo detainees so special? Why should we fear them more than the folks not in Gitmo, who BTW have an operational head start vs. anybody just coming out of custody, not to mention the issues of trust that will dog anybody we release, some of whom may be double agents and sleepers. Did they acquire superpowers while in our custody? Gain access to our innermost secrets?

    The whole notion that releasing detainees, even truly dangerous and hostile ones, is going to increase the danger we are in, is tantamount to saying that nobody else in the world is a threat to us and our entire counterterrorism infrastructure is useless and a waste of money.

  43. 43
    D. Mason says:

    like everything he has piloted—it has all crashed and he had nothing to do with it.

    One more thing Bush and McCain have in common.

  44. 44

    The Bushie-pants-wetters need to ask themselves this question:

    If you were arrested without justification, never charged with a crime, held in prison for years, subjected to brutal interrogations and then, finally, let go without an apology, let alone compensation, would you not feel inclined to take up arms against the people who treated you so?

  45. 45
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    To followup on my previous comment I think part of what happened after 9-11 was that we created a mythological picture of terrorists as Supermen. We were so in shock at what happened on 9-11 that we didn’t process how much luck it took for OBL and AQ to do what they did, and how badly we’d fucked up to give them the openings which they took advantage of. Instead of admitting that we really screwed up, and that sometimes luck plays a large role in historically important events, we invested them with superpowers and this led to the idea that our most militant enemies can pull off almost anything, rather than seeing them as the mere mortals they really are.

    Something very similar happened in 1942 when the Japanese were rapidly advancing all over the Pacific and taking places like Singapore which were previously considered to be impregnable. There was a brief period when we and the Brits were so demoralized that the myth of the invincible Japanese Superman took hold: impervious to tropical diseases, able to live off of a handful of rice for weeks at a time, natural jungle fighters, etc., etc. These myths crumbled as Guadalcanal and other defeats gradually showed the weaknesses and limitations of the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy, but it took time.

    We need to get over this idea that anybody we think is a “terrorist” is some sort of diabolic one man machine of destruction and havoc.

  46. 46
    agorabum says:

    You build your case before you bring your charges. Walk softly the first year, but just keep digging out the facts. When questioned, he can just tell the press that they are investigating the facts, and the facts will dictate future actions.

    I’m not sure what the statute of limitations are on torture, but if they are long enough, the Justice Dept. could just totally vet all the files and info for the first two years, and then drop the hammer on year 3 (so that there will be torture trials and whatnot in the news all through the runup to the ’12 elections). And maybe prosectuions.
    Assuming his economic plans are doing ok, and the Iraq withdrawl has gone well, it would be a good triple whammy on the republicans.

  47. 47
    binzinerator says:


    The Bushies painted themselves into a corner.

    I’ve always thought more an example of a failed bet on a typical Bushie doubling down to grab power. Bush and the neocons intentionally set us up with an ugly and horrific choice: Either throw out the rule of law when we say we can OR we’ll have to let ALL of these scary terrorists go. And they bet the farm (our farm, actually) that we’d let them do what they wanted with the law.

    They were blackmailing us, and only when Hamdan v. Rumsfeld was handed down did it seem like it might not work.

    (The fear-mongering played perfectly into this coercion. I suspect bin Laden was never caught not because of lack of opportunity but because of his great value to the bushies, especially in strengthening their hand in this bid).

    So yeah, they painted themselves into a corner, but it wasn’t done accidentally. It was the downside of a failed bet.

    Consider this: Bin Laden and all the terrorists put together could not have cut away the legal underpinnings of this country. They simply do not have the power. But Bush had the power, and that is exactly what Bush tried to do.

  48. 48
    Cathy W says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: I’ve heard it suggested that the "terrorist mystique" also enhances the ability of AQ and other groups to recruit – that if we’d given them trials in civilian court, we would have, in effect, declared them to be common criminals, and who really wants to be part of that? But by giving "terrorists" special status, we’ve made them cool.

    In the meantime, one thing I haven’t even heard mentioned as a possibility: does the transition in power give us a brief opportunity to re-evaluate whether some of the prisoners are, in fact, prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions and start treating them as such if that’s what they’re found to be? Or is there no longer any way to do that gracefully?

  49. 49
    Don says:

    It’s too subtle a point for our media and populace (and certainly too subtle for our wingnuts) but I wish it was ever addressed that some of these people may leave Guantanamo and do bad things because we threw them in Guantanamo. I might have been okay with the War on Some Drugs before I saw it fuck people over first hand and I might have had some sympathy for trying to stop the manufacture of meth before they started requiring my passport just to sell me some fucking sudafed.

    The question isn’t why we release some people – after years of mistreatment and no trials – and they go on to conspire against us. The question is why they all don’t.

  50. 50

    […] Cole wrote this so I wouldn’t have to. […]

  51. 51
    Oberon says:

    I don’t know what "DWTFTW" means…so I Googled it…first hit was this very blog post…my head is spinning…

  52. 52
    gex says:

    @Oberon: I think it’s "Do whatever the fuck they want."

  53. 53
    mannemalon says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: Exactly.

    I laugh out loud at this sentiment about "you want to let the worst of the worst in our jails?" As if Bubba, Tiny, Carlos and Adolf will cower in fear in the mere presence of 140 pound Mohammed the second he enters their compounds.

    You gotta be kidding me. More than likely, these dudes will end up getting shanked in short order. Even the innocent ones. Let Adolf and his crew find out that this is one of them "terrirsts" and see how long these guys last.

  54. 54

    What is unfunny is that "even the liberal" NYT is repeating the right-wing frame.

    So, what do you think the chances are that the Right will drop its feud against the NYT for just one day? (OK, stupid question).

    On a more serious note, if the evidence is in total disarray, this probably has a great deal to do with why the Administration has released the guilty as well as holding onto the innocent. It also does not impress me much with the effectiveness of torture. If torture reveals the truth, how did this one slip through their fingers?

  55. 55
    JWW says:


    You say "This is not a problem for Obama. This is proof that the last administration was a group of incompetent hacks. Bush decided that he had the right to detain people forever, do whatever he wanted to them, and they had no rights whatsoever".

    The current prisoners have rights, just not under the US justice sysytem. Their right’s are determined by the military entity holding them and by the Law of Land Warfare.

    Yes, President Obama is responsible for them and that is ablsolute. He is now the President and has absolute control over the current situation. He will make his decision on what do with them.

    They do not belong on US soil, send them home or trial by military law.

    As for your weak post, If you were to replace a broken and fired CEO you would be expected to fix things, not cry that it was not your fault. President Bush was replaced by law, President Obama now makes the decisions for the people.

  56. 56
    pbg says:

    George W. Bush is not a ‘broken and fired CEO.’ (nor is he a cat.) Since he could not run again, the closest analogy is a retiring CEO, who is leaving with full pension and the thanks of a grateful Republican Party.
    He was no more fired than Bill Clinton was.
    And if you were hired to replace a retiring CEO that had screwed up the company and still had adherents in the corporate hierarchy, it’s in your interest to expose the misdeeds of that CEO and just how broken it all is in order to lend authority to your decision to shut down the entire division rather than just bring in a new manager.

  57. 57
    steve says:

    John, John, get a grip old fellow.

    What was the purpose of Guantanamo? John, you are a smart and learned man, you just don’t want to accept what that place really was.

    It was a political prop. A "Potemkin Prison" filled with scary brown Muslim people and meant to be excellent television, and to, in so many words, impress the masses. It had the appearance of action and an administration doing something for our security.

    John, in a former manifestation, you would have applauded and loudly clapped and whistled for this cardboard theatrical political campaign prop. Can you now see that the inherant evil and sheer cruel meanness of Guantanamo was not it’s inception, but what became of the original idea, at the hands of Rumsfeld, the neo-cons, and with the approval of BushCo?

    Now that the records of the detained are in disarray. John, this is is clusterf*ck, a political clusterf*ck, left over from the Bushies. And, I can’t get over how such loud speaking Libertarian conservatives now worry about closing this terrorist breeder camp?

    John, the mess has only just started, I feel for Obama having to expose this Potemkin Prison for the evil monstrsity it was, and the bungling dopes who turned a standard military type detention facility into a modern day national disgrace.

  58. 58

    […] George Bush opened Gitmo and hundreds of millions later, this is all Obama’s fault. John Cole sums of this warped thought process better than anybody else: Here is what I don’t understand: Why is this repeatedly framed as a problem […]

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  1. […] George Bush opened Gitmo and hundreds of millions later, this is all Obama’s fault. John Cole sums of this warped thought process better than anybody else: Here is what I don’t understand: Why is this repeatedly framed as a problem […]

  2. […] Cole wrote this so I wouldn’t have to. […]

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