Top Obama Aides Embrace Bush’s War on Terror Rhetoric and Enemy Combatant Policy

225px-elena_kagan_1This has been a uniquely bad week for civil libertarians. The Obama Administration appears to be rushing to dispel any notions that Obama will fight for civil liberties or war crimes investigations. After Eric Holder allegedly assured a senator that there would be no war crimes investigation and seemed to defend Bush policies, Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan, Obama’s Solicitor General nominee, reportedly told a Republican senator that the Administration agreed with Bush that we are “at war” and therefore can hold enemy combatants indefinitely. In the meantime, Obama himself seemed to tie himself in knots when asked about investigating war crimes and leading democrats are again pushing for a symbolic “truth commission.” I discussed these issues in this segment of Countdown this week.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both raised the issue with Kagan. Both supported Bush’s policies. Graham asked Kagan: “Do you believe we are at war?”

“I do, Senator,” Kagan replied.

One would have hoped that a solicitor general nominee would ask if he meant a constitutional war or a policy war. We have declared wars on everything from illiteracy to inflation. However, the framers treated war as a more serious matter that required a declaration (though Congress has effectively gutted that requirement through the use of resolutions). If we are at war, when does it end? Terrorism will continue for centuries. Will we remain at war with war time powers being exercised? Since the Solicitor General is required to apply the law with precision, Kagan’s reply is extremely alarming.

Graham then asked “If our intelligence agencies should capture someone in the Philippines that is suspected of financing Al Qaeda worldwide, would you consider that person part of the battlefield?” “Do you agree with that?”

Kagan replied, “I do” and the marriage with the Bush policies was complete. So much for change. Both Holder and Kagan have now taken such a vow with Senators in order to secure their confirmations. The message appears to be a uniquely English approach to government. We will continue policies and laws that can do great harm to civil liberties, but we will use them in a beneficent way. Your “change” is not that we will get rid of the policies. Your change is that you get us. This “trust us we’re the government” approach to civil liberties was precisely what Madison and other framers rejected. To have a well-respected academic voice such views is a terrible disappointment for civil libertarians, who are being offered a meaningful commission as a type of air kiss toward war crimes.

For the full story, click here.

117 thoughts on “Top Obama Aides Embrace Bush’s War on Terror Rhetoric and Enemy Combatant Policy

  1. Mike,

    Per Kesey’s pranksters, I thank them for helping ‘open the eyes’ of the Grateful Dead. Per Timothy Leary, I side with Hunter S. Thompson in deeming him a complete fraud. For ’empirical’ reasons that need not be stated here, I never bought into the argument for needing a ‘controlled environment.’ I can say that ‘better living through chemistry’ can offer one a whole new perspective on Kant’s Critique; enabling one to extrapolate a ‘Matrix-like’ view of the world circa 1987 based on a book written two centuries prior. It can also make one realize that you can only be young once, but you can be Jungian forever. And finally, it can also lead one to the epiphany that Mel Brooks’ 2,000 Year Old Man was right when he said:

    “Eat nectarines; half a peach, half a plum, it’s a hell of a fruit.”





    I’m pretty sure I posted this link to the Albert Hoffman story:

  2. Afterthought:


    In reviewing my last post I felt constrained to add that I hope you don’t find my glibness as deminimizing in any way of your horrific experience circa 1980 or your remark that the subject be taken seriously; e.g. as seriously as the Canadians took it while experimenting with treatments for alcoholics.

    I simply thought the notion to be implicit thus necessitating levity.

    ‘Thus necessitating levity?’ Jesus H. Christ, I’d delete that but it sounds like a German comic…

    ‘You will have fun in sie following order…’

    Anyway, I hope you know what I mean; if not about the German comic that is.



  3. Bob,
    I not only took no offense but agreed with your clarifications of my murky statement regarding controlled environment. Although one way to go by controlled environment I didn’t necessarily mean in some lab with psychologists and psychiatrists in attendance.

    My bad trip came because I experienced it with a bunch of people who I didn’t fully trust and that affected perceptions. My first bad trip (only two bad ones of many taken) happened in the 60’s and I was with people who later moved to Hawaii and became a cult.I would have been more correct in saying an environment that one considers benign, with some loved ones perhaps.

    Part of the reason I gave up psychotherapy was because I found many practitioners, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists had not done the needed work on themselves and thus used their patients for their own catharsis. Hence the problem with controlled studies.

    Thompson had Leary correct, as he did so much else. I liked Kesey, even still have copies of his magazine “Spit in the Ocean.” He actually led a pretty exemplary life. The problem came with “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test” and Tom Wolfe’s
    hipper than thou cum breathless writing style. It turned it in the public’s eye into the same minstrel show laden with hyperbole that Leary was pushing. Kesey wasn’t really that kind of guy and was more sincere in outlook than Leary who envisioned himself the Pied Piper of Psychedelia. Wolfe actually got some of that right when he wrote of the NY meeting between the Pranksters and Leary.

    Almost all those I knew went through those psychedelic years with no burnout or flashbacks. They later had good lives and raised good children. The Nixon backlash, facilitated by the inability/lack of desire to communicate to the non-Psychedelic public what was going on, allowed the beginning phases of the War on Drugs, that was hatched under Nixon and codified under Reagan. It became a great Republican selling point.

    In truth one can only look at this via levity since that is what the experience lent itself to. The only problem I have with your comment is that you forgot that you’re dealing with a 60+ retired guy who doesn’t text, blackberry or IM. What in hell does SIYOM mean and for that matter as I’ve seen in other comments, BIL? Googling doesn’t help me find their meaning. I know I am the old fart at this site, but all of you please take pity.


  4. Mike Spindell: “My bad trip came because I experienced it with a bunch of people who I didn’t fully trust and that affected perceptions.”

    And there it is; the touch stone of all bad trips:

    “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” — Fyodor Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)

    As long as you’re not lying to yourself, you don’t need a landing crew or psychedelic ATC to help you down. You just walk away and ‘become part of another movie;’ either yours alone or somebody else’s.

    “What in hell does SIYOM mean and for that matter as I’ve seen in other comments, BIL? Googling doesn’t help me find their meaning.”

    I don’t know what BIL is; it may be the acronym SIYOM skewed by a text reader.

    SIYOM is “Stay In Your Own Movie” which is merely a phrase like “Beam me up Scotty” that I borrowed &/or created from Tom Wolfe’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”

    You can pretty much pick up all the inflections of meaning for the phrase from there; be the hero of your own life; don’t let others control your perceptions since perception is reality… etc.



  5. This is what I mean when I say the “war on terror” must go: Here’s a new report:

    “The UK and the US have “actively undermined” international law in the way they fight terrorism, a report by judges and lawyers has said.

    The independent International Commission of Jurists carried out a three-year global study.

    It concluded that many measures introduced to fight terrorism were illegal and counter-productive.

    It called for justice systems to be strengthened and warned that temporary measures should not become permanent.

    The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is a non-governmental organisation which promotes the observance of the rule of law and the legal protection of human rights.

    After a painstaking study carried out over three years in several countries, the panel of eminent lawyers and judges concluded that the framework of international law that existed before the 9/11 attacks on the US was robust and effective.

    Lack of safeguards

    But now, it said, it was being actively undermined by many states and liberal democracies like the US and the UK.

    The report remarks upon the extent to which undemocratic regimes with poor human rights records have referred to counter-terror practices of countries like the US to justify their own abusive policies.”

  6. Bob,

    I have to take slight issue. Not all personalities are suited for the experience. Interactions may vary as the packages sometimes say. I have a couple of friends who should NEVER try a psychedelic – their tenuous grip may come loose and for one college friend, it did. He’s barely fit for human companionship now. He did do a ridiculous amount though, but I digress. My experience mirrors yours, but there was that one time when circumstances beyond my control made the suckiness factor shoot to the high 90th percentile. It wasn’t crippling or dangerous to me, but it did give me a window to understand “bad” in that context. I think your first time should DEFINITELY be supervised.

    I’ll share the story, I kid you not, of Jack and Diane. Friends of mine in college. They knew I had done it, wanted to try it, but wanted me to act as safety. They provided for my entertainment, but I did not partake as safety was my job. It’s a good thing too. They eventually wanted to go outside. It was night, breezy and nice, not a big shock from the controlled environment of their house. Very pleasant actually. But from the park they could see an all night grocery store. Full of people and bright lights and crazy colors and textures. They wanted to go in. I advised against it. They were insistent. I relented on the one condition, “I say leave, we leave, no argument, no questions.” They agreed.

    We’ll just say it was a short, jarring visit that shaped their opinion of the experience. But they left when I said time to go and thus we avoided the need to discuss with the police why Diane decided climbing up on a table display of fruit was a good idea (don’t get any more ideas PETA) or Jack’s desire to rearrange the cereal aisle by color and box size.

    Just food for thought.

    Personally, I found it most instructive and useful over all. It helped me realize the truth that there is no spoon long before The Matrix was a gleam in the Wachowski’s eyes. But it also cooked my boy B’s brain. I’m not saying it’s all bad (far from it), just that it’s risky – like any drug, and safety is never a bad idea. This is one substance that should it be legal should require some sort of medical screening/supervision.

  7. Bob,
    “Stay in your own movie” are words to the wise. They rate with
    “Don’t Panic.”

    Takes one, to know one and somehow I knew you’d been there.


  8. Buddha,

    We’re not in disagreement; you’re absolutely right. My apologies for making a somewhat limited rule of thumb sound more general than intended.

    Parsing out the language used in this area of discussion, and the intended audiences, can get incredibly clumsy however you may find a few of the added dimensions interesting. (N.B. I’m not sure I’ve ever tried to put this in writing before)

    For example, when I wrote what I did, my intended audience was those who are conscious of the subject matter being discussed on a similar level to myself. But consider what I refer to as the ‘plastic person;’ i.e. someone who lies to himself. Consider further two different varieties of plastic people; the one that lies to himself consciously and the one who doesn’t know they’ve been lying to themselves and/or been lied to.

    Per the first plastic person, i.e. the one who Consciously lies to him/herself everyday — strip that person of the ability for self deception via chemistry, and presto — bad trip.

    But then consider the second plastic person; those who don’t know they’ve been lying to themselves, and/or have been lied to, and then strip them of the ability for self deception. Sure you have a bad trip, but you also have a completely different moral dilemma.

    The first plastic person may or may not have had it comin’. They could grow morally or not based on their reaction to the experience. But what of the second plastic person? Can we even refer to the second person as being truly ‘plastic?’ I really didn’t intend to segue to this but, what do we say of the second plastic person if they simply were woken from their
    Matrix-induced slumber? Should everyone be compelled to wake up? Shall we deem them victims, or reluctant heroes perhaps?

    So, what I’m sayin’ Buddha, is that you’re right.

    Buddha: “Not all personalities are suited for the experience. Interactions may vary as the packages sometimes say. I have a couple of friends who should NEVER [take the red pill] – their tenuous grip may come loose and for one college friend, it did.”


    (and that should not read BIL since I don’t know what BIL means)



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