Friday, May 22, 2009

Good riddance

Dick Cheney popped up from a disclosed location (McLean Virginia) yesterday to present the public with more James Bond fantasies about megalomaniac terrorists with access to nuclear weapons.

One shouldn't be surprised that his speech -- to an invited audience at the American Enterprise Institute -- contained no acknowledgment of the central problem with the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Or rather, the two problems. That he and George Bush opened it without any strategy for how to close it. And following from this, they opened it with no plan for what would happen if, as was predictable, the courts ruled that the wheeze of having prisoners under US control but not on US territory was not a dodge around US laws. Hence another set of legacy assets that Barack Obama has to clean up.

Which raises another point. Cheney said --

Even before the interrogation program began, and throughout its operation, it was closely reviewed to ensure that every method used was in full compliance with the Constitution, statutes, and treaty obligations.

It never occurs to Cheney, surrounded by lawyers all his life, that the lawyering was part of the problem. It used to be conservatives who said that "hard cases make bad law". Cheney's legal team used a few hundred hard cases to push legal principles to the limit i.e. the notion that the Commander-in-Chief has unrestrained powers to detain and interrogate during a "war" whose duration he determines. The people and the courts are not fond of claims of absolute power, which is what that was.

An alternative approach would have been to carve a narrow exception around existing practice for the extreme cases, as opposed to pushing general principles that could cover the situation. But with that approach would have come negotiation and compromise, not something that the Imperial President does.

But anyway, the electorate spoke. Cheney lost. Somehow, the media still give him airtime.

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