April 21, 2009

Has Obama Seen the Light?

So what's this about Barack Obama suddenly being "open" to the idea of prosecuting Bush Administration officials for waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 283 times in one month?  Of course, that's just the headline story designed to fit within a limited public attention span.  Probably much, much worse was the American practice of rendition, where terrorist suspects were delivered to countries, such as Egypt, for the express purpose of subcontracting out murder and mayhem that Americans find repugnant, yet still cheer on when other countries do it.

Before leaving Khalid, the Gurgling Confessor, behind, I pause to bring up a question I have adverted to before.  If one takes the time to read the 9-11 Commission Report, and particularly the novelistic, highly readable Executive Summary concerning the plot, one may be struck, as I was, by how much of the Commission's investigation depended on the testimony of this one man. References to things that "KSM" said run throughout the narrative, including tales of meetings between Osama bin Laden and the actual hijackers.  As I've written before, Dore Gold wrote a book about Saudi Arabia's involvement in terrorism in which he specifically opined that "there was no evidence" that any of the actual 9-11 hijackers ever traveled to Afghanistan or ever met with Osama.  Quite a bold statement for a reputable, esteemed author and statesman to make if he was not sure of his ground.  You have to wonder how a guy who is waterboarded 283 times in one month had the chance to gargle up information about anything; but one thing's certain, it's ludicrous to imagine that such evidence is reliable.  With that many sessions where people are putting a hood over your head and pouring water into your lungs (12 minutes at a time), you're going to say anything they want to hear, and it's obvious if you have a war going on in Afghanistan premised solely and exclusively on the "harboring" of Osama bin Laden by the Afghanistan government, then the most valuable thing that KSM could possibly gurgle about would be all the connections between OBL and the hijackers.  

If the 9-11 Report had not been so demure and sanitized, we might have learned, for example, that Atta's meeting with Osama was described in Session #177 of KSM's waterboarding torture. This would have given a different "feel" to the whole narrative, would it have not?  What are the odds, however, of our lazy-ass press ever going back to the Commission Report and lining up KSM's "testimony" with these new revelations?

But back to the idea of prosecuting Bush "officials."  First, I hope Prez O sticks with the idea of laying off the actual field operatives who poured water or stuffed people into boxes.  That's how Bush, Cheney, Rummy & the Gang got away with Abu Ghraib: by pretending it was a bunch of out of control "bad apples" instead of official policy dreamed up by the barbarians hanging around the Oval Office.  Second, I think Bush's bad luck comes from the dawning realization in the Obama camp that this Depression we're in is not going away anytime soon.  Leaking out of the banking underworld is the news that the big mortgage companies are maintaining a "shadow inventory" of foreclosed homes which are vacant but which they are holding off the market in an effort to arrest the steep decline of housing prices.  This shadow inventory measures in the hundreds of thousands of empty homes.  Since the housing slump is the root of this malaise, since without equity in their homes Americans lack the wherewithal to get the consumer economy going again, we're in a vicious cycle of deflation and unemployment that is going to consume most if not all of Obama's first term.  

So, quite counterintuitively to O's naive pronouncements about the "distraction" of Our Own Private Nuremburg, Barry needs a circus and he needs it bad.  And absolutely the very best circus he can bring to town is the highest of high profile prosecutions: a "Commission" to try Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzalez for war crimes and systematic violations of the Convention Against Torture.  (I actually don't care about the lawyers who wrote those pathetic memos; those were opinions for hire which reached preordained conclusions.)  

Wall-to-wall coverage, every night of every week for a year or more.  Boffo ratings!  An entertained public!  Come on, O: man up.  We need this show.  More to the point, you need this show.  Listen to that little angel whispering in your ear, who happens to be named Rahm: go get 'em!

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