A Skeptic in the Science Section »« Mah Current Sitooashun

Obama Better Do Better

This week isn’t going down as one of the more inspiring of Obama’s young presidency.

First, he’s flirting with continuing Bush’s indefinite detention policy:

Haven’t we already seen this movie? Didn’t we already reject this policy with Obama’s election? I didn’t vote for him because I wanted him to embrace Bush’s policies, and if he does, I want a damned good legal explanation:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is weighing plans to detain some terror suspects on U.S. soil — indefinitely and without trial — as part of a plan to retool military commission trials that were conducted for prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

[snip]

[…] Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who met this week with White House Counsel Greg Craig to discuss the administration’s plans, said among the proposals being studied is seeking authority for indefinite detentions, with the imprimatur of some type of national-security court.

Sen. Graham said he wants to work with the administration to pass legislation to increase judicial oversight of military commissions, but noted the legal difficulties that would arise.

“This is a difficult question. How do you hold someone in prison without a trial indefinitely?” Sen. Graham said.

You don’t. You either try them or let them go. This indefinite detention bullshit is almost as outrageous as torture.

Speaking of trials, this doesn’t cut it:

Bmaz hit this latest chapter in the “Yes we can, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to” tour on Saturday (and Spencer hit it again this morning), but today, the White House made it official—Bush’s military commissions have now become Obama’s military commissions:

Military commissions have a long tradition in the United States. They are appropriate for trying enemies who violate the laws of war, provided that they are properly structured and administered. In the past, I have supported the use of military commissions as one avenue to try detainees, in addition to prosecution in Article III courts. In 2006, I voted in favor of the use of military commissions. But I objected strongly to the Military Commissions Act that was drafted by the Bush Administration and passed by Congress because it failed to establish a legitimate legal framework and undermined our capability to ensure swift and certain justice against those detainees that we were holding at the time. Indeed, the system of Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay had only succeeded in prosecuting three suspected terrorists in more than seven years.

Let me see if I’ve got this right: The previous extra-legal system wasn’t up to snuff because it wasn’t codified enough? The new! improved! Obama-era secret trials will be better because they are swifter and more certain? Seriously?

If this is the kind of shit America wanted, we would’ve elected McCain in a landslide. I don’t care how many sparkles you sprinkle on military commissions, they’re still pure bullshit. Our courts are more than capable of trying terrorists. We’ve got plenty of terrorists locked up who enjoyed the full protection of our laws. We didn’t need kangaroo courts to convict them.

As far as new directions go, don’t we have someone whose history doesn’t include this?

General McChrystal, leader of the Joint Special Operations Command, is the man just put in charge of the war in Afghanistan. Fred Kaplan has more:

[snip]

This appointment will not be without controversy. McChrystal’s command also provided the personnel for Task Force 6-26, an elite unit of 1,000 special-ops forces that engaged in harsh interrogation of detainees in Camp Nama as far back as 2003. The interrogations were so harsh that five Army officers were convicted on charges of abuse. (McChrystal himself was not implicated in the excesses, but the unit’s slogan, which set the tone for its practices, was “If you don’t make them bleed, they can’t prosecute for it.”)

Kaplan says the replacement of McKiernan with McChrystal means this is now unequivocally “Obama’s war” and that this decision could make or break the Obama presidency. The fact that he’s just appointed a man who supports torture is not a good sign.

Andrew Sullivan has a piece on this guy that gives one some serious doubts about his fitness for command. Is our military really so bereft of talented leadership that McChrystal’s the least worst choice? I somehow doubt it.

And, for the toxic cherry on top, check out this genius nomination:

President Barack Obama has nominated a lawyer for the nation’s largest toxic polluters to run the enforcement of the nation’s environmental laws. On Tuesday, Obama “announced his intent to nominate” Ignacia S. Moreno to be Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division in the Department of Justice. Moreno, general counsel for that department during the Clinton administration, is now the corporate environmental counsel for General Electric, “America’s #1 Superfund Polluter“…

[snip]

This February, General Electric lost an eight-year battle to “prove that parts of the Superfund law are unconstitutional.” One of the 600-person DOJ environmental division’s “primary responsibilities is to enforce federal civil and criminal environmental laws such as” the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Superfund.

Obama hasn’t been a perfect president, but this is the first time since the inauguration he’s been this unrelentingly stupid. It’s almost as if his brain has been replaced with a hash of Bush, Cheney, and William Kristol.

Mr. President, you have to do better than this.