A commentary by J. F. Kelly, Jr.
A defining moment in the Obama presidency came early when he left open the door again to investigating and prosecuting Bush administration officials who were responsible for or aware of policies allowing harsh interrogation methods. He had previously expressed personal opposition to such a tactic, saying that it was time to move on. His subsequent decision to leave such matters up to Attorney General Eric Holder bore the earmarks of a partial capitulation to liberal activists within his party whose hatred of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney knows no bounds and who want to pursue a vendetta against them, their policies and anyone else responsible for administering them.
This surrender to the ultra-liberal wing’s lust for revenge may well have been the point at which he lost most of whatever bi-partisan support for his policies remained. He certainly lost mine. Up to that point, I was urging that we all rally around the new president.
This turnaround was not Mr. Obama’s first as president, nor will it likely be his last. Actually governing, as he has found, is much harder than campaigning. He has changed his mind on military tribunals, wiretapping and the time table for withdrawal from Iraq. If this keeps up, he will soon displace John Kerry as the king of flip-flop.
No one has been more shrill and strident in condemning the policies of Mr. Bush than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, queen of the ultra-liberals. Lately she has led the chorus against the interrogation policies of the Bush administration. It is beautifully ironic, then, that she now finds herself in the frying pan over her allegations that she and other members of Congress were “misled” by the CIA about interrogation methods in use, specifically waterboarding, at a briefing in September 2002.
CIA Director Leon Panetta promptly and vigorously disagreed saying that CIA officers were candid and truthful in briefing members of Congress. Mr. Panetta said that “it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress” and that it “is against our laws and our values” to do so. Pelosi’s claim that she was never told that waterboarding was being used was also contradicted by other Democratic members of Congress and by members of her own staff. Ms. Pelosi’s response was a pathetic attempt to placate the CIA by saying: “My criticism of the manner in which the Bush administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe.” Say what?
Anti-war ultra-liberals have made a very big deal out of accusing Mr. Bush of lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This was a baseless charge, of course, given that Congress had access to the same intelligence that the executive branch had at the time. But that didn’t matter to the Bush bashers, of course. How fitting, therefore, that chief liberal cheerleader and Bush basher, Ms. Pelosi is now caught up in a “misstatement” of her own, refuted by members of her party and staff. If she and other members of Congress knew of and condoned these policies, shouldn’t they be investigated and perhaps prosecuted?
Have you noticed that since the president flip-flopped on the issue of investigating Bush interrogation policymakers, there has been a noticeable toning down of rhetoric on this subject? Could it be that members of Congress now fear that they could be vulnerable, too? It brings to mind the well-known advice for people who live in glass houses. Not only were members of Congress briefed on interrogation tactics as early as 2002, it seems that some of them, including Ms. Pelosi, wondered on the record if we were doing enough to extract information from terrorists that could save lives. Whether such investigations go forward or not, and in my opinion they should not, Ms. Pelosi should be held accountable for what is politely being called her “misstatements.’
The cruelest form of torture in my view is forcing the American public to put up with the disingenuousness of anti-war ultra-liberals seeking to discredit Bush and Cheney by any means they can discern or invent. Harsh interrogation methods, including sleep deprivation, threats, discomfort and humiliation do not constitute torture simply because human rights activists say they do. Moreover, assertions that such methods are not successful are very debatable. If a person is frightened enough, he may well feel compelled to disclose all he knows out of fear of being caught in a lie.
My advice to amateur torture critics is to stop redefining torture and to leave interrogation methods to experts. American lives may depend on it. Meanwhile, try to get over your hatred of Bush and Cheney. It’s clouding your memory and judgment.
Copyright 2009 by J. F. Kelly, Jr.
Dr. Kelly is a retired Navy Captain and bank senior vice-president. A veteran of over thirty years of naval service, he commanded three ships and the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center in San Diego. He joined Great American Bank in 1983, serving first as Training and Development Director and later as Director of Human Resources. He retired from the bank in 1994 and has since devoted his efforts to community services. He served as foreman of the San Diego County Grand Jury in 1997-1998, president of the Lions Club of San Diego, the San Diego Council of the Navy League of the United States, the Lions Foundation, the Boys and Girls Foundation, Vice-president of the City of San Diego Salary setting commission and as chairman of the Business Council of the San Diego County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Task Force. He currently serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Foundation and the Coronado Roundtable. He currently teaches ship handling, seamanship and navigation at the Naval Base, San Diego. A freelance writer, his weekly column on current events appears in the California Republic, the Coronado EagleJournal, eCoronado.com and other publications. Dr. Kelly has degrees in education, management and leadership including a doctor of education degree from the University of San Diego. He and his wife, the former Charlane Hughes, reside in Coronado.