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. Bob,
    Missed your comment on Albert Hoffman’s dying. He was 102. His work with psychedelics and self-experimentation were important and groundbreaking. However, they were eclipsed in the public mind by Leary’s showmanship, Kesey’s Pranksters and the Grateful Dead. Leary’s and Kesey’s excesses encouraged ill considered usage. Then too, the demonizing and fear created by the Nixon years, replete with its’ horror stories (some real) closed the book on its’ experimental possibilities.

    This is a loss, because under highly controlled conditions, it can be of benefit to some and add further to our knowledge of the cosmos and consciousness. My long past experiences are what keeps me in the Deist, rather than agnostic/atheist camps. Experiencing the fragility of what we call reality led me to see that there are many other possibilities of reality in this universe.

    However, using it and the other stronger psychedelics for recreation is a chancy proposition, since environment and mood strongly influence the experience. During my last trip in 1980 I experienced an almost psychotic break and was literally saved from death by a quick thinking friend and my training as a psychotherapist. I understand that some serious experiments are beginning again, if so, I hope the recreational excesses of people like me are not repeated.


  2. Mike,

    BTW, did you catch my comments on the blog entry about Albert Hoffman’s passing?

  3. Mike Spindell: “From reading the two links above I now understand your comment and the aptness of your making it. Although more reading and research is called for because the links scratch the surface and so my understanding of him and Plato is as yet superficial. Whether I do it or not is problematic since I’ve always been a “Gordian Knot cutting” kind of guy and philosophy makes my head ache.”


    I assure you I have no deep understanding of Thrasymachus outside of Plato’s inclusion of him in certain dialogues; most notably The Republic. Accordingly, when I reference Thrasymachus it’s merely shorthand method of alluding to the idea that “justice is the interest of the stronger.”

    And not for nothing, but compared to Plato I find reading Ayn Rand as easy, agreeable and enjoyable as sucking mud through a straw.

    N.B. Sucking mud through a straw ‘makes my head ache.’



  4. meistre,

    Leahy isn’t important as his methodology is flawed, but his vocal intent is important. He gets that something needs to be done and is willing to risk political capitol to say so. That in itself is a good sign even if he doesn’t know what to do. No, there is more than one way to skin this cat (don’t start with me PETA people, I have a 24# purring ragdoll in my lap right now and I’d be more likely to skin you than him). A recent USA Today poll showed the majority of Americans want a criminal investigation, although they differ on methods. Leahy is off base. All he can think about is political theater because that’s all he knows. An independent prosecutor on the other hand, say one that was originally appointed by the Bush administration who has a record of upholding the rule of law despite politics, one who has been a vocal critic of Bush illegalities . . . do you think it was an accident that Patrick Fitzgerald is staying on under Obama?

    I suggest watching what happens in the DOJ scandal. I’ve said all along that this is analogous to Watergate. It’s not the crime that’s going to get them, it’s the cover up. But people do want something done. And DOJ is the cover up.

  5. Advice anyone?

    I received Senator Leahy’s email request to sign his online petition. Luckily, the wisdom of Prof. Turley has kept me from supporting Leahy’s Truth Commission but it worries me that, if the Senator is unable to collect a significant number of signatures, is it going to look like Americans aren’t interested in pursuing investigations?

    Worse, is this a ploy to derail the accountability movement? Call me cynical…

  6. Query,
    How do I delete an immoderate comment “awaiting mediation” and that on re-reading don’t really want to submit. Any answers site moderators or commenters?

  7. I’m not going to try and defend anyone. Frankly, I don’t know what to think about the subject so I am always curious to hear what others think. This is only my second time reading here so I’m not familiar with the previous discussions. Thank you for your reply.

  8. Money and destabilization so they could spread Wahibism unrestricted in the ME. Iraq was in their way as a non-theocratic state. We, under a normal Presidency, would not have allowed them to be aggressors in the ME, but because Bush was in bed with the evil bastards, he attacked Iraq instead of those who really attacked us. All of the hijackers but one were Saudis operating out of Afghanistan. Not a ONE was Iraqi. Saddam didn’t tolerate terrorist organizations within his borders. They were a threat to him. He’d have killed them faster than we would. That alone should make it self-evident who attacked us. Add to that their 100% non-cooperation in bringing the terrorists to justice and cutting off their funds – most of which come from Saudi Arabia. Their perpetual screwing with oil prices for no reason but greed. You think $4 a gallon gas was an accident? And that it went away when their bought and paid for tool BushCheney was on the way out of the White House? Follow the money. It’s not hard. It’s called “bait and switch”. One doesn’t have to be psychic to connect the dots. It’s classical military strategy to turn your enemies against each other. And make no mistake, they do consider us the enemy. They played Bush like a violin, but Cheney was in on it – him and the Secret Energy Task Force.

    But this is as far as I’m going to rehash this.

    It’s been gone over in here time and again. I should caution you that if your desire is to DEFEND them, now would be a good time to just walk away. They have no defense. Every attempt here has failed. Feel free to try if you just want an evening of frustration though. You can’t defend a terrorist theocratic repressive retrograde fascist police state who provided the money and manpower for 9/11. Evil is as evil does.

  9. “if you are not a socialist before the age of 25 you have no heart, if you are a socialist after the age of 25 you have no mind” ~ Winston Churchill

  10. Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone

  11. “I am right about who really attacked us on 9/11, Saudi Arabia and about Bush being their boy.”

    Why do you think Saudi Arabia attacked us? What was their motive?

  12. “Mike S,
    About that Ayn Rand v. Thrasymachus riff …

    When I wrote that comment I had no idea who Thrasymachus was.
    I was forced by your post to see whether this guy was Greek to me.

    From reading the two links above I now understand your comment and the aptness of your making it. Although more reading and research is called for because the links scratch the surface and so my understanding of him and Plato is as yet superficial. Whether I do it or not is problematic since I’ve always been a “Gordian Knot cutting” kind of guy and philosophy makes my head ache.

    Also in the mid 70’s I attended an elegant party for the faculty and student’s of Columbia’s School of Philosophy. As I wandered the party stoned on mescaline (it was the 70’s after all)I eavesdropped on the knots of philosophical discussion and after a bit I started a quiet chuckling that continued for the rest of the party. I had noticed that the discussions at base were really ritualistic mating calls of people trying to get laid.

    Damn Bob, I admire the breadth of your knowledge and that of the others here. You have shown it over and again in your comments. That’s why my learning at this site far exceeds my educating. However, you have to realize that at times it’s hard for an old hippie geezer like me to keep up.


  13. So we have our report on the state of terrorism aroung the world. Thanks to cheneybush it’s a disaster. Theoretically, we could have a terrorist attack on the US by the end of next week. Almost everyone in intelligence says it’s a matter of when, not if.

    That’s a real good reason to jetison the idea of the “war” on terror and get right into treating terrorism as a crime. We can’t solve the increased risk of terrorism left us by the previous administration in a few weeks or months but we can turn on a dime in how we deal with terrorism.

    Our last attack took us down a very bad road. Congress and the nation as a whole ceeded way too much power to the executive because, “we were at war”. It was dangerous to criticize bush for a long, long time. People who did were called traitors. Paul Krugman wrote about the real fear that crippled critical evaluation of Bush’s actions. We gave over innocent Muslims to be picked up and interrogated, gave up our civil liberties, Congress authorized the “patri-idiotic act” and AUMF with little debate and less information. We accepted the unacceptable in so many ways. We must never let that happen again.

  14. Buddha,

    Two things.

    First, in the words of Phil Hartman as Charlton Heston: “Solyent Green is still people.”

    Second, if you didn’t get the Simpsons reference, you need to see the episode entitled “Deep Space Homer”

    SIYOM (Stay In Your Own Movie),


  15. Bob,

    Next time they remake “Planet of the Apes”, I’m sending them your name as a potential screenwriter. You and seamus, who seems to display an alarming amount of knowledge about Soylent Green. Could there be a renaissance of Chuck Heston remakes in the offering?

  16. Bob: “Just for clarity’s sake, Are we at war with a gerund form of a verb or a state of mind?”

    Buddha Is Laughing: “Bob, I think it comes down to war against a state of mind, specifically ego worship and sociopathy. But don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a war on those pesky gerunds. DAMN YOU STRUNK & WHITE! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!”

    Bob: “Wait a minute… Statue of Liberty… that was OUR Planet! You maniacs … you declared war on a tactic!”

    “Tactics is the art of using troops in battle; strategy is the art of using battles to win the war.” — von Clausewitz

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