It’s good to see something by Nat Hentoff, who wrote for Village Voice when it was worth reading and is still fighting the good fight against people in powerful positions who break the law. The subject matter of Hentoff’s recent article should surprise no one:
By executive order on Aug. 4, President Barack Obama refused entry to the United States of war criminals and human-rights violators (jurist.org, Aug. 4). He ignored, as he often does, the deeply documented factual evidence of war crimes committed by the Bush-Cheney administration along with grim proof that the Obama administration also violates our anti-torture laws and the U.N. Convention Against Torture we signed. Take, for example, right now under Obama, “The CIA Secret Sites in Somalia” (the nation.com, July 12).
In what will be an historic 108-page report, “Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” Human Rights Watch is further accelerating the rising insistence here on accountability from George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA director George Tenet for having not only authorized these war crimes, but also failing “to act to stop mistreatment, or punish those responsible after they became aware of serious abuses” (www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/us0711webwcover.pdf).
Not only has President Obama rejected an independent criminal investigation of these highest-profile officials, but also, adds Human Rights Watch, of Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft, David Addington (counsel to Cheney) and, among others, John Yoo, author of the unsparingly cruel, aptly dubbed “torture memos” from the Ashcroft Justice Department that gave “legal cover” to allow torture.
Hentoff’s piece reminds us of the difference between “disappointing” and “disastrous.” Some people look at Barack Obama’s record — his collapse on the debt ceiling issue, betrayal of organized labor, expansion of the war in Afghanistan, extension of the Bush tax cuts, refusal to push for jobs programs, failure to push for prosecution of Wall Street crooks and possible war criminals, and so on — and say his presidency has been disappointing.
Others look at Obama’s record thus far and say it is disastrous. I don’t think historians will have a hard time making the right call on this one.