Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Memorize the name: Dawn Johnsen ... (& weep with relief) (1.5.09)

Dawn is coming:  Light at the end of the tunnel.  The signs are getting clearer.  It's beginning to look a lot like.... well, not Fitzmas, but ... even better.

A few blogs back, "blown away by a letter to the editor," I wrote:
Who among us with a conscience could hear about what happened to US prisoners (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and black sites) without concluding it was torture?  And who could read the "torture memos" themselves without feeling our country had betrayed its own ideals in addition to the Geneva Conventions?
And I noted with relief that:
A growing body of legal opinion holds that Obama will have a duty to investigate war crimes allegations and, if they are found to have merit, to prosecute the perpetrators.
Without repeating that blog, here it is, in language so simple a child could understand it:
  1. War has rules.   We call them the Geneva Conventions.
     2.  If a country breaks the war-rules, that's called a War Crime.

     3.  It's a Rule that rule-breakers must be prosecuted.

     4.  The Constitution tells us that.  As do the Geneva Conventions.

     5.  The new president has to obey the law.  (Reread #3)
So guess who Obama has appointed who agrees with this?
Obama's nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, speaking to the American Constitution Society in June, described Bush administration actions in terms that sound a whole lot more like "genuine crimes" than like "really bad policies":
Our government authorized the use of torture, approved of secret electronic surveillance against American citizens, secretly detained American citizens without due process of law, denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants and authorized the use of procedures that violate both international law and the United States Constitution.... We owe the American people a reckoning.
But now...... it gets even better:  Obama's just-named designee for the Office of Legal Counsel seems to be an even stronger voice in this chorus of legal opininon.

Dawn Johnsen.  Remember that name.  Glenn Greenwald has the scoop.  And  I nearly wanted to weep with relief - for the moral clarity and the verbal clarity, the clarion words of a woman after my own heart - an appointment Glenn describes as " Obama's best yet, perhaps by far."

Please read Glenn's whole piece.  But after 8 "too-long" years in the moral wilderness, it's a joy to read Dawn Johnsen, eloquently saying things like:
we must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power.  Otherwise, our own deep cynicism, about the possibility for a President and presidential lawyers to respect legal constraints, itself will threaten the rule of law--and not just for the remaining nine months of this administration, but for years and administrations to come.

[via Glenn Greenwald quoting from Dawn Johnsen / Slate / 4.3.08]
Sounds like #3 above to me!  So let's hear a bit more from her:
whenever any government or people act lawlessly, on whatever scale, questions of atonement and remedy and prevention must be confronted. And fundamental to any meaningful answer is transparency about the wrong committed. . . .
We must resist Bush administration efforts to hide evidence of its wrongdoing through demands for retroactive immunity, assertions of state privilege, and implausible claims that openness will empower terrorists. . . .

We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation's past transgressions and reject Bush's corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation's honor be restored without full disclosure.

[via Glenn Greenwald quoting from Dawn Johnsen / Slate / 3.18.08]
And this is the woman Obama wants as his Official Legal Counsel.

 (pause ... for deep, grateful breath...)
It's clear to me that: 
  1. We have a moral obligation to investigate and prosecute these crimes against the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. 
  2. Obama is appointing people who have already spoken out specifically on this moral / legal duty.   
  3. It is vital that these appointments be confirmed.
We can't drop the ball here.  We can't let Obama drop the ball.  Or Eric Holder at DoJ. Or Dawn Johnsen at OLC.  Our voices are needed.  Our urgency must be united with theirs.



Once again, the software gremlins decided to enter three brown lines at the bottom of the blog. Likely they mean: three strikes for the war criminals!
Or a trigram, (half a hexagram of the I Ching), and a yang trigram to boot. This particular trigram signifies Quian, or heaven. Either way you interpret it, a good omen.
Why, thank you for that, amigo! I'm just a babe in the woods when it comes to the I Ching. But someone whom I respect a great deal has introduced me to that in the kindest of ways.
This just puts the icing on the cake!
The Creative Force. I like that!
Correction for Miguelito.
I believe that's pronounced "Quinn."
Ooooooh! That's even better! :) The symbolism is piling up here!
And the noise it makes is "Ching Ching", the happy little sound of 100 Quinntessential cash registers going off in unison.
I had not heard or read that from Holder before, unless I forgot. This is great essay to keep close.
Good, good and good TheraP.

Well then, thanks, thanks, and thanks! Especially to Obama. But definitely to DD!
Fabulous! you made my day. Even though the sun just went down.
...But Courts treat treaties and the Constitution like twin siblings, except one is bigger and regularly wins the fights. If they can find any reason why the Constitution forbids the conviction of these folks, I suspect they will. International law isn't ever taken seriously in American Courts (for the obvious reasons, and also because Judges are afraid to write opinions based on laws they don't know much about, I think).
The Constitution mandates that we obey signed treaties. Geneva Conventions count!
I know you're skeptical. But go back and read that blog I link to from a couple weeks ago. Lots of comments. Lots of other links for why we HAVE to do this.
Also, go and read Glenn Greenwald. When you do, you will be convinced as I am. Obama has taught Constitutional Law. He is appointing people who are on record for setting things straight.
The Obama administration will be able to chew gum, walk, and juggle! That's my prediction.
Glad I made your day! Peace.
Treaties are taken seriously. The first real act of George Washington was the treaty with the Barbary Pirates. And the terms of the treaty were negotiated by the executive branch with the Advice & Consent of the Senate. George was saying: This is how the Constitution works.
This treaty is cited in tomes that are two hundred years old and those written a month ago.
And TheraP, I read Greenwald every day too.
His blog today so dovetailed with mine of 2 weeks ago (or so). And I had promised myself not to let this issue go. Indeed, I had promised several people on that first blog that I'd stay on this. And I can see Obama is on it! The man brings me joy!
DD said, "The first real act of George Washington was the treaty with the Barbary Pirates."
Actually, George Washington's earlier act of foreign policy was to choose to ignore the terms of our treaty with the French in 1793. He issued a Proclamation of Neutrality, much to the distress of the French who were hoping we would come to their aid in war against England after they had done the same for us.
Washington perceived that the nation had no military power to enter into conflict with England, and we had insufficient resources to support the French economically as they had done for us. Alexander Hamilton defended his action, saying it was within the scope of executive power (Pacificus I, 1793).
Madison argued the opposite position, that Washington was acting in excess of his constitutional powers, and that only Congress could decide whether to obey or disregard the terms of a ratified treaty (Helvidius I, 1793).
Washington committed the first overt act of realpolitik. Hamilton defended him, Madison tried to reinforce the principle of treaties being the law, second only to the Constitution, which ONLY Congress had the power to ratify or nullify.
Well I'll be damned. I mean really. I guess I am with Madison on that one.
But pirates are another thing. And it is not Congress. It is the Senate. As far as ratification.
Now if you wish to nuke em, then it is Congress.
Besides Apres me Le Deluge. Exactly which French Government was available at the time.
And who cares about the French anyway.
Of course now, I kind of like the French, at least in the ME
GOOD POINT. I think.
"And it is not Congress. It is the Senate. As far as ratification."
OOPS, you are correct - my Poli Sci professor is aiming shoes at me as we speak...
Are the shoes Christened, so to speak, Father?
I really hope you're right. And I really hope that the DC District Court, or whatever court they're going to file this stuff in, has at least a few judges that were appointed pre-Bush! I'm thinking practically here. If we don't get a JUDGE willing to listen to these good wonderful people, it won't mean a thing. I'm not overly hopeful regarding the ensuing appeals process, either. although the supremes haven't done such a terrible job with the gitmo cases. They actually kinda surprised me there. or were my expectations really that low?
Well, there's no such thing as bad press, at least.
You make some good points, GC. IANAL, so I'm just hoping that sanity will prevail. That and careful attention to the law.
I have hope!
And we must do this to redeem ourselves - in our own eyes and in the eyes of the world.
Do keep us up to date on that end of things if you have anything to report.
Indeed I shall. This all boils down to a conflict-of-laws issue. I am very curious as to whether the change in administration will have any effect onto the courts' interpretation of the constitution when it comes to executive power (especially during "war"). I know the supremes cut back on executive power -- when it came to constitutional due process rights -- but I don't know how executive power will fare against treaty obligations. I.e., they're willing to cut back on executive power when challenged by another section of the constitution, but haven't said anything about when executive power is challenged by a treaty. Theoretically, treaties and the constitution are supposed to be on equal footing. On my more cynical days, I would predict that the courts will find any way they can to punt the issue and come up with a reason not to decide *that* question by finding some loophole in treaty law that allows them to ignore it. something like "international common law allows treaty signatory countries to ignore treaties when they curtail national sovereignty." And then there's the regular loophole used in any conflicts-of-law analysis: "it's against our state's public policy to enforce this foreign (read: treaty) law."
My expertise is not in international criminal and war law so I will definitely look into it. but this is how domestic/treaty law problems usually play out in court. I don't see any reason why the courts would treat the criminal stuff any different than it treats treaties dealing with more mundane issues(although personally, I think war crimes out to be treated differently than, for example, problems arising when the constitution and treaties give different answers in personal jurisdiction issues).
Well, I wonder if it will all turn on the degree to which the Court is willing to give deference to international court decisions. I'm totally out of my league here, but I do know that, for example, Justice O'Connor was very big on paying attention to fellow Supremes in other countries, on other courts. But I think I recall reading that the narrow constructionists want to avoid any deference to other jurisdictions outside the US. But that, to me, is the linchpin here, it would seem. Unless they feel they have to put us back on a more Constitutional footing for the future. So maybe it all turns on the degree to which the Justices honor the greater good and set aside partisan rancor.
I hope the greater wins out! And I look forward to your covering that for us.
Thanks. :)
One small pedantic correction. She spells her name with an 'e', Dawn Johnsen. I do sincerely agree that this is the best sign yet.
Thanks! I will correct that right away! I so appreciate your help.
Nothing like telling someone to memorize something, when you haven't done it correctly yourself! Egg on my face... hopefully gone now.
Good to see you, WO!!! :-)
Nice, clear post, Thera. Thanks for all the info on an important issue. The Republicans have already found an excuse to oppose Holder, I wonder if they'll do the same with Johnsen.
Good to see you here, Tom. You're likely right, but we'll have to see. I'm just thrilled to see the trend here.
Peace and blessings upon you.
How can we expect others to follow the rule of law when we do not, and think we can pick and chose between convenient laws and those that we find inconvient? This is very good news...thanks again, TheraP!
P.S. The "we" in the above refers primarily to GWB and Cheney.
Either way, I would have accepted "we" as meaning the US as a nation. And those who betrayed our principles must be exposed and prosecuted.
But very well said, Wordie!
Given the Gaza tragedy, I'm thinking even more these days of the ways in which the actions my own government do not reflect my wishes. I am ashamed. I suppose I really am morally responsible for the errors of the Bush administration, both domestic and foreign. There's no avoiding that, but I don't like it. I guess that's where the "we" post script came from.
I'm totally with you here. We've all been dragged into it. We're all tarnished - even though unwillingly. And we all seek cleansing from that. May it come to pass.
In the end, war has no rules. Total warfare has always been practiced quite well by the United States, starting with Washington's "surprise" attack of the Brits on Christmas Eve (in contrast to the "sneak" attack of Japan on the US on a Sunday) to General Sherman's famous (and accurate) about war:
War is cruelty, you cannot refine it.
to Patton's speech to the troops just before D-day (the real one, not the George C. Scott sanitized version).
I'm sure the civilians we bombed in Dresden, Hiroshima, and Cambodia are thankful that the US obeys the rules of the Geneva Convention.
I suggest people go back to the inconvenient truth as espoused in A FEW GOOD MEN. That scene is powerful precisely because part of what Jessup is saying is spot on accurate.
The reason to follow the Geneva Convention (at least outwardly) is because (a) it can build image and allies and (b) it can be used as a starting point to protect any of our prisoners of war.
But make no mistake: this country, under administrations of both parties, has engaged in heinous acts so that we may enjoy cheap energy flowing from the Middle East and markets for our goods. I do not approve of the stance that the Bush administration took because it weakens our country and our ability to protect ourselves at many levels.
But to rationalize that war has rules and that there is "justifiable" or "humane" killing in the name of ideology (think about if we really had an strategic interest in Vietnam) or energy (think our Middle East policy) cleans up war so as to make it "acceptable" to those of us who would rather not deal with the subject in it's entirety.
Make no mistake: there are never rules with war. The winning side is always just as guilty of war crimes as the losing side. The only "rules" comes as a result from an inversion of Karl von Clausewitz's original dictum that "war is an extension of politics." That inversion can be stated as
Politics is an extension of war.
Not withstanding my agreement with the core message of this post and think the Bush administration's actions must be examined in full transparency against the laws currently on the books, I think Clearthinker is in fact living up to his name with this comment.
America has always had a mythical belief in some country that never was to use as a baseline when judging each generation's heinous acts. It's almost as if we are unable to understand or accept our own culpability for 230 years worth of barbaric imperialism cloaked in illusions of manifest destiny.
Our ultimate evolution as a country, both left and right, will be achieving something resembling objectivity when judging our actions as a people and using the new understanding to craft realistic strategies to transform our basest instincts as a country into transcendence.
CT is correct in observing that war really has no rules. But we do have rules. Our Constitution says that any treaty we ratify will be regarded as the law of the land. If we sign a treaty saying that we will wage war according to a set of rules, that assertion is our law.
That we have seldom honored treaties with the devotion our Constitution demands is true, but today is a good day to start.
Sometimes it's really good to have the clergy weight in. Bless you, Father!
I totally agree that this is a perfect time to finally start living up to our Constitutional obligations. Nice change of pace after only paying lip service to the documents since before the ink was dry.
Patton said, "We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world." Those were the days.
I am in particular pointing to the "best food" reference. We privitized food. Our soldiers are being fed for profit, which necessarily means the food will be as little as possible to maximize profits.
Pardon me for asking this, but what makes you think we are at war? To be at war is to be in armed conflict with another nation. A rag-tag bunch of self-proclaimed terrorist in a maze of caves along an uninhabitable border do not make up a nation - much less an army. The simple fact is terrorism is a crime just like organized crime - the Mafia. I always thought it was the FBI's job to handle the syndicate and their activities - not the Army. Perhaps if we had used the right tool for the right job this would have been over with years ago and at a substantial less cost in life, material and money. So please stop using the word war because it isn't one - it's a crime and should be treated as such.
I always thought that Obama would pursue a mission of quiet accountability.
I never thought Obama would be shouting from his new bull pulpit about investigations, but he would instead appoint people who could be counted on to examine what was done against applicable laws and decide whether or not to pursue indictments.
In a country based on laws, that was the best we could hope for and I am gratified to see it finally happen. That's what happens when we elect a constitutional attorney as president.
a mission of quiet accountability
I like that. Excellent phrase!
This is a very thoughtful comment and I hope your estimate of PE Obama is correct.
When I heard about these appointments, it made me think of the desperation in the helicopter evacuation of the US embassy in Saigon. The appointments may produce a flood of panic-stricken requests for presidential pardons from desperate criminals now realizing that a day of reckoning is at hand.
Yes. YES... YES PLEASE. Integrity. Can we remember? Please, let us recall. Thank you,again.
Wonderful to have you stop by, WW. We just need to keep up the quiet drumbeat. At this point we have so many important issues. But it seems to me that Obama is simply going to put good people in and let them plug away at what needs to be done. If you ask me these people have a lot ready to roll!
I once imagined a kind of drum beat:
Preserve (beat) Protect (beat)
And defend - The Constitution.
(beat / beat)
Of the United - States!
Like a refrain you could repeat as you marched.
Dawn!! Dawn!! To paraphrase the old song -"Dawn, stay here you are good for us."
Thank you, tom!
That gives it another nice spin. I just love the fact that her first name is Dawn. Lots of good omens here - not that I'm superstitious. But at this point I'm enjoying every tiny breath of fresh air and hopefulness.
Peace. Hope. Sanity! And the coming Dawn.
TheraP, while I understand (and agree) that we will start seeing a new respect for law, where are you getting this "peace" notion?
The world is rapidly becoming a more dangerous place. As soon as it seemed possible, Putin definitely reminded everyone that Russia intends on using it's energy supply as a dagger to the throat of the industrial world. (There was a bit of a reprieve due to the drop in oil prices.)
Expect that the US will be militarily involved in the Middle East until (a) we are beaten and retreat or (b) there is no more cheap oil there.
Further, expect the US to use military might to secure oil supplies elsewhere until we are too exhausted to. This will be party independent -- because citizens of all types continue to drive cars, want to maintain their standard of living, and reproduce.
This may sound apocalyptic but look at the state of the economy now and only 12 short months ago.
If you want a more realistic view of what the next 12 months, this is a sober post from James Kunstler. Yes, I know, everyone wants to celebrate -- hope and all that.
But you can't eat hope.
You can't run your car on hope.
You can't sleep under hope.
What I am looking forward to is perhaps a renewed sense of purpose in the White House to tackle some of these very difficult and pressing problems -- WITHOUT the traditional throwing out the baby with the bathwater that is traditional when the White House swaps parties.

Peace be with you....
So everything we do to limit or remove the use of oil is in the national interest, though not that of Big Oil. I really celebrated how oil prices fell once Americans became serious about not driving so much. I think that had a greater impact on the economy then anyone is willing to admit publicly.
Also thank Sen. Levin for ramrodding legislation to close the Enron loophole.
I disagree with the US increasing its military involvement.
If anything, I see the MIC's influence greatly reduced by the end of Obama's first term. There is no way we can afford to feed the war beast and implement the programs he campaigned on from the same budget.
We may still stick our nose in around the world, but it won't necessarily be preceded by the tip of an M-16.
I completely agree with everything, Thera. I also have made a huge sigh of relief. For other things, not just Holder and Johnsen. I can't, however, bring myself to read Glenn Greenwald. I don't have much respect for the man, even if he makes a couple good points occasionally.
You, however, I respect greatly. I truly appreciate your continued contributions. I wish I could be as invested as you in such things at this point in my life. Perhaps once I'm back in school in a month. Keep up the good work! Thank you!
I'm with you on this, Nathan. The one time I tried to read Greenwald was more than enough for me. Old Glenn is obviously unable to be even minimally objective. I guess that is fine if one always agrees with the polemic being put forth. I rarely do.
I've read him a couple of times, and both times I found nothing but irrationality. Not to mention his crusade against any and everyone not on the exact same ideological spectrum as him back during FISA, going so far as to attack Al Giordano. Sorry to those that do read him, but Glenn Greenwald is pathetic.
I don't read everything Glenn writes. But I keep an eye on him. This was well worth pointing to - and far better to give him the credit for the links if that's where I got them.
Nathan, we're at different stages of life. You need to pursue your future. But at a certain point you may be able to shift gears. Each stage of life has its own "work" - it's own focus. The Hindus have a very interesting view of life - that there are stages and people focus on different things in those stages. So just follow what you need to be doing NOW. And later, perhaps when you've had a career and a family (of whatever type you prefer) you may find yourself with time or an inner sense of needing to give to society in ways that are without monetary reward, but that matter to you, that matter to the world and future generations. Eric Erikson also has things to say about stages in life.
Be at peace with where you are. I extend my greetings and my sincerest best wishes that you follow your inner guide here and your stage in life.
I understand why you quoted him and linked him. I was just expressing my general dislike for the guy. I enjoy reading you, and I completely respect and agree with your points here. I just can't bring myself to read Greenwald. It's not much different to me than, say, watching O'Reilly.
It's true. My focus is very different. I want to continue blogging at the rate I once did. I wish I had the time and commitment. I might very well in the near future. But you're right. We're at different places in our lives. I'm just glad that someone (in this case, you) is there to write posts like this. It's much, much appreciated.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Nathan. In a way the sad thing about a blog is you can't always get to see how people "turn out." Young people I mean. Though who knows what the future holds? Things are changing so fast as it is.
I understand what you mean about Glenn. He's kind of a pit-bull. And it's hard to follow all the ins and outs of his reasoning (I simply don't have the time or fervor for that). But every so often he just hits the nail on the head. And this was one of those times! He's pretty close to FDL, collaborates with them a lot. But there must be something about people who have their very own blog - and use it for an activist bent (which I'd say he does and FDL to a great degree does as well).
The thing about TPM is that while the site is political there's not a requirement to be an activist and when it works best there's a level of discussion where you can really learn and work together for common understanding. Not just about politics and events, but about people and coping with problems. Josh sets that tone and I commend him for that.
Just some musing in the afternoon.
I agree entirely. Like I said, Greenwald is occasionally right. But his extremist bend is just too much for me to take on a regular basis. A broken clock is right twice a day.
But! This isn't about him, so I'll stop my ranting.
You're absolutely right about TPM. It's what attracted me to the site to begin with. It's a very friendly atmosphere. It's also why I continue to come back, every day, even if I don't post every day (or really most days).
Thanks for this TheraP!
It feels as though we have been an occupied country for the last eight years. At the very least, Obama shows he is at least going to stop the bleeding with these appointments of AG & OLC candidates who actually propose to Defend the Constitution (What a concept, eh?) This, alone, is cause for celebration.
What is yet to be seen is the extent to which they establish a "learning moment" for all - kinda' like a Civics 101 class - that explains that the Bush crimes are not the way we conduct business in this Republic. My hope, of course, is that charges are pursued to the fullest extent of the law. But at a minimum, there must be an acknowledgement of what exactly occurred, why it is unacceptable, and why we must remain vigilant so these crimes are never repeated.
It is joyful, indeed, to at least see a few steps taken that are headed in the right direction after all these years of wandering in the wilderness.
I agree that we should use this as a learning moment, but if all we do is talk about the last eight years, that moment is wasted.
We have yet to live up to the Constitution consistently and equally and literally. America has long played in the gray areas provided by both the Constitution and precedent. There are quite a few sacred cows we need to slaughter on our way toward a more sustainable and secure future. I thought Howard Zinn did a great job of bursting the American Myth in a way that is factual, mostly objective and non-negotiable.
We need to take the time to really understand what 230 years of selective amnesia have wrought, both positive and negative.
Take time to understand, you say? I think it's all right there in front of us, and always has been.
The truly remarkable thing about the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution is the way in which they provide a near perfect roadmap for how a "more perfect Union" is to be conducted, even though these were crafted by men who were incapable of seeing their own contradictions (or dare I say hypocrisies?).
I ain't that strong of a Christian, but I've often felt these docs (especially the DoI) are nearly Providential because of the shortcomings and contradictions committed by the mere mortals who were the authors.
In many ways, we are alot more "civil" now than we have been in history. (slavery; women's rights; human rights; environmental protection; etc.) But are we perfect? Of course not, and I believe it would be impossible (and probably boring!) to ever attain perfection.
But it is our charge as citizens to always move toward perfection while understanding we'll never achieve the ultimate objective. If holding violators accountable by committing them to trials and sanctions when they fuck up a' la' Bush/Cheney & Co. will further the effort, than I say make it happen.
But the main point must be that, in those cases where we see this country fall short of its ideals, it is critically important that we collectively serve witness to those shortcomings. This is PRECISELY why I find the "My country right or wrong!" mantra to be the exact OPPOSITE of patriotism. Instead, we must "hold these truths to be self-evident" and make certain that anyone who would call themself a patriot or a citizen understands that these truths are inviolate.
No arguments from me on holding people accountable in ways we never have before, but unless we trace the root cause of what brought us to this point, anything we do will be prescriptive rather than curative.
I think we should take the time necessary to root out all governmental actions that are deemed "legal" by statute or precedent, but are "illegal" under the moral authority of our founding documents. We need to understand why our "leaders" felt it necessary to go around those document almost from day one.
That ultimate accounting won't be nearly complete if all we do is string up the most current culprits as sacrificial lambs to our righteous indignation at being yet one more generation of Americans who had the wool pulled over their eyes by those they entrusted with governance.
Truly fixing our systemic weaknesses will require a much longer view than prosecuting the guilty from the last eight years can provide alone.
But prosecuting them is the first step. Put them in jail before you start psycho-analyzing them. It will be a deterrent to any wannabe American despots and reassures our allies that the nightmare is over, true American values are making a comeback.
It's too little too late to placate our enemies. But at least it will slow down recruitment for al Qaeda.
It will be a deterrent to any wannabe American despots and reassures our allies that the nightmare is over, true American values are making a comeback.
Which "true American values" would those be? The values that had us stand idly by while Rwandans died by the hundreds of thousands? The values that led to over-throw of popularly elected governments around the world in the name of fighting communism? The values that led to the slaughter of a million Vietnamese? The values that led us to drop two nuclear bombs on a mostly defeated Japan? The values that enabled us to wipe out the entire native population of the lands we call home?
I am not calling for psycho analysis of anyone found to have violated our laws during the most recent free-for-all in Washington. If the DoJ finds PROOF enough to get indictments, then they should pursue every bad guy (both in and out of government) with all the tools they have available. But that does nothing to engender the intellectual honesty needed as we determine HOW these people could have gotten away with it in the first place.
What led us to this place? It wasn't just Baby Bush. These most recent crimes are just the tip of the iceberg when cataloging, assessing and fixing the systemic weaknesses that allow things like to happen at all in a country supposedly operating by laws that never seem to apply to those in charge.
The American predilection for letting our "leaders" get away with murder and Constitutional violations didn't start with the 2000 election.
I like you view of the "learning moment." And I think of anyone who has been president in a long time Obama has the ability to win people over, to use the "bully pulpit" but like FDR in terms of "chats." Only someone who can connect as Obama can has the moral power, I think, to reach people in ways that move them beyond their pain, their petty personal issues, to a larger sense, a wider, more universal sense.
I know in life mostly things fall apart. Entropy is so powerful. But sometimes there are moments when things can come together. And I think is one of them.
I so hope that.
Thanks for posting this, Thera P. I need a ray of hope wherever I can find it.

Moi aussi! Let every ray of hope shine... There should be a song.
Torture is the key issue that has torn at the nation's soul since the Bush Administration hijacked 9/11 to shred the Constitution and launch this nation on a vast - and failed - empire-building project. Instituting a farflung network of Dark-Age dungeons, throwing away even the most minimal legal protections and guarantees, who is the worst of our enemies - Islamic radicals? Or ourselves? Tear it down, Dawn.

That comment nearly merits its own blog, SFC. I would love it if you use that or add to it. This issue needs to be front and center because it holds our nation hostage in a sense.
Or ourselves?
We have met the enemy...and he is us?
Like the famous Pogo cartoon says: "We have met the enemy, sir, and it is ourselves."
Or something like that. Please don't quote my quote.
Okay, I'm just a hopeless cynic...but not because I want to be. Talk is cheap, and I will place a bet that Dawn finds good and sensible reasons why she should NOT put our nation into a long, protracted, embarrassing mess. I would love it and enjoy every minute, but it won't happen. That whole miserable bunch is going to get off scot-free.
At least you admit to being a cynic. That's the first step. :)
I'm pretty cynical too. In my adult life, government-wise, rarely has our government policed itself well. And never ones following a tenet of an administration.
If they go after torturers, and where it was designated (not necessarily the ones following the orders, though it was their choice to do so), then it will be a truly interesting time. Of course, it would be even more interesting if we gave Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Gonzalez to the Hague for a trial.... (in my imagination)
Doesn't surprise me that many have become cynical due to the way our govt and our so-called "leaders" have conducted themselves for many years. Here's the trap in that - many want us to become cynical, want us to get to the point where we simply tune out or lose hope. The cynical politicians can govern by "using" the blind faith of some (the fundies I mean) and the cynicism of others.
So I understand where you're coming from. I think we all need to hang onto two things - inner strength (both to do the right thing and stand up against the wrong thing) and vulnerability to the plight of those who cannot speak up for themselves.
These are terrible times. It's been agonizing for me to spend nearly my whole adult life without really "wanting" to vote for the presidential candidate. Let alone winning, like this time! But I've never given up hope. Indeed, in my work I think a therapist needs two qualities. One is hope. The other is a capacity to suffer. To care and be willing to suffer - recognizing the depth of another's pain - while still maintaining hope.
But the good news is that we don't need blind hope or everyone being hopeful. We just need some of us willing to hope - in spite of so many people telling us we're stupid for being hopeful.
Perhaps this is a cynic's view or perhaps a glimpse into the reality of the situation.
Unfortunately, Congress has passed a lot of laws that made some of this stuff "legal" as far as DoJ is concerned. Add in precedent as one of the court's primary factors in determining guilt or innocence and we are even further away from objective justice.
We may not like it, but there are consequences attached to not holding our leadership accountable and for letting the Constitutional Compact die on the vine.
"We have met the enemy, and they us." - Pogo. All us olde phartts remember that.
The Walt Kelly quote actually reads, "We have met the enemy and he is us." But thanks, folks, for kicking my comment over to the funny papers.

I still think it merits a blog.
"..... they is us." actually. Typing with kittens is such fun.
"..... they is us." actually. Typing with kittens is such fun.
I infrequently read comments here or elsewhere, because all too often I end up feeling that I wasted some time that could have been better used elsewhere. But this blog was so wonderful that I really wanted to know what others thought. So glad I took the time. It was like a really great conversation around the dinner table after a wonderful meal, while slowly enjoying some cheese and fruit, maybe some port or other delight,and a perfectly made espresso. And thank you TheraP. I am about to become a "follower" for the first time.
Your words have touched me deeply. And it speaks to the kind of place that TPM can be - at its best. :)
This article by Ms. Johnsen was circulated by one of my partners this morning. It's titled, "All the President’s Lawyers: How to Avoid Another "Torture Opinion" Debacle".
Merci beaucoup! I've downloaded it just now. Will read it later.
I knew that Pogo quote had funny grammar.
Actually, Obama will probably have trouble prosecuting the Bush's without revealing the culpability of Congress, which was briefed on all of this all the way along through 2004-2006.
Including a lot of prominent Democrats who were perfectly all right with it at the time.

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