Sam Smith

Evil is not just the result of actions, but also of equivocations that permit it to flourish. One of the roles of the major Washington media is to provide cover for the powerful through the repeated use of such equivocations. It worked for the Clinton scandals, for Bush’s war on Iraq, and now it’s out in force to protect Obama as he waffles on the issue of torture.

A case in point is a recent article by Michael Abramowitz, Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus in the Washington Post. For starters, the word ‘torture’ is only used once and that is by Obama himself. Instead we have detention and interrogation policies and counter terrorism practices.

We are told that “Obama begins a perilous balancing act to fulfill his pledge to make a clean break with the detention and interrogation policies of the Bush administration while still effectively ensuring the nation’s security.”

The word ‘balancing’ is a classic clue. It is part of the basic code of the Washington establishment that those in power get to balance all rights and laws with something else whenever it’s convenient. It wouldn’t work if you were to face criminal charges in an ordinary criminal court as in, “Yes, your honor, I did kill those three people, but we have to balance that against all the good I have done previously and how lousy I was feeling that day.”

In Washington, however, it works just fine. Despite the fact that neither the founders of the American republic nor the authors of the Geneva Convention intended for their enumerated rights or rules to be chipped away in such a fashion, in the capital it is considered proper to erode the right of free speech or the law against torture by simply claiming you have some higher purpose.

In this case, the balancing act is declared fit and proper even though the chief balancer himself has stated otherwise: “Under my administration, the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. . . . We will uphold our highest values and ideals. . . It is important for us to do that not only because that’s who we are, but also, ultimately it will make us safer and will help in changing hearts and minds in our struggle against extremists.”

But then he’s just the new president. There are more important things in town. . . like CIA operatives. Thus, the Post article goes on to state:

“At the same time Obama intends to curb counterterrorism practices he considers excessive or even illegal, he will also come under great pressure to leave the CIA the kind of flexibility its operatives have long considered necessary to heading off another Sept. 11-style attack, current and former national security officials said.”

There is, of course, no evidence that these ‘counter terrorism practices’ have done the country any more good than all the other sick policies of the past eight years. We do know that more Americans have died in Iraq than in the 9/11 attack, that our economy and reputation has collapsed, and that we have not engaged in a single significant positive action that might improve our situation with the Muslim world.

Obama is, however, not just the victim. For example, he has named key aides such as John Brennan and Eric Holder whose past statements indicate some support for torture and he has failed to say whether he will end the practice of renditions, another synonym of evil meaning the outsourcing of torture to other countries.

Further, Obama relies on still more cynical jargon to excuse his disinterest in pursuing the crimes of the Bush administration. He simply says we must look forward and not back.

Again, that sort of excuse only works for the Washington elite. Ordinary citizens are advised not to try it in court.

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