Despite his best efforts to turn the conversation of the country forward and not backward to the Bush administration, President Obama is having to face the issue of harsh interrogations. He has made if pretty clear that he doesn’t want to spend much time on this, preferring to look to advancing his agenda for the United States.
When the infamous CIA memos on the interrogations were released, there was a firestorm of opinions on both sides of the issue. Some say they shouldn’t have been released and some say they should have been. Not only that, but a lot of people are of the opinion that the Bush administration officials need to be prosecuted, right up to and including former Vice President Dick Cheney. Given the dislike a lot of people still harbor towards George W. Bush, it wouldn’t shock me to see him included as well.
Something else to consider is a memo from National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, President Obama’s top intelligence official. Circulated to his employees last week, it’s clear that he may not have approved of the tactics used to glean information from terrorist suspects, but the information was valuable.
Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing. As the President has made clear, and as both CIA Director Panetta and I have stated, we will not use those techniques in the future.
I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past, but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.
I am not trying to defend the Bush administration, but I do believe we need to understand that they were facing a time of trouble such as our nation had never faced before. Some of the decisions that were made may have been wrong, but they were made in an attempt to prevent other attacks like the ones on New York and Washington, D.C.
I believe the aforementioned dislike for Bush may very well be clouding the issue for a lot of people. Let’s face it, the man wasn’t very well liked by a lof of our citizens. Some of that dislike may have been warranted, but much of it is not. There are a lot of people who would like nothing better than to see an investigation into the actions of the Bush administration, possibly leading to prosecution of some officials. I have to disagree and there is no better way to explain why than to include a quote from Wickle, over at A True Believer’s Blog. He made this comment on the article I referenced above.
For the most part, it’s always a good idea NOT to go prosecuting the previous administration. This is a Republic and we need to be able to make transitions of power without that kind of thing. There were people who wanted GW Bush to re-launch investigations into the Clinton administration, and he wisely refused. Gerald Ford even pardoned Richard Nixon, so that we could put Watergate behind us. There are a lot of people who want to investigate the Bush admin, but I think Obama would be wiser to avoid giving into it. We shall see.
I couldn’t agree more with what Wickle has said. If some people have their way and the prosecution of Bush administration officials does take place, it will set a bad precedent for the future.