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Is Obama embracing Bush-Cheney terrorism policies?

First, President Obama reversed course, deciding to fight court release of 44 controversial photos allegedly showing abuse of terror suspects held in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the Ticket and others reported, Obama said yesterday:

Publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.

Now, reports the Wall Street Journal, the administration is weighing plans to detain some terrorism suspects on U.S. soil — indefinitely and without trial — hardly in keeping with the president's harsh campaign rhetoric about treatment of terrorism suspects.

All of this is comforting to Republicans like South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who wrote to the White House last week urging the president not to release the photos. "He's realized the difference between being a candidate and being commander in chief," said Graham.

But liberals are furious, charging that Obama — the darling of the liberal blogosphere during the presidential campaign — has been co-opted by a steady stream of criticism from former Vice President Dick Cheney and is covering up the crimes of George W. Bush.

The ACLU, which filed the lawsuit to seek release of the photos in the first place, was livid. Said Executive Director Anthony D. Romero:

The Obama administration's adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president's stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government. ... It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. ... And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration's complicity in covering them up.

Then there's this. Jane Hamsher, founder of the Fire Dog Lake blog, told the Washington Post, “Since he’s been inaugurated, Barack Obama has demonstrated a remarkable desire to keep evidence of Bush crimes generally, and Bush’s torture regime specifically, concealed. ... There is a growing sense that he is becoming complicit in the crimes he is attempting desperately to shield from public scrutiny.”

Or, as Talking Points Memo put it, "very lame."

For all the heat Obama is talking on the left, some commentators see Obama's recent shift in policy not as a capitulation but as a brilliant political ploy by a president who has come to understand that protecting U.S. troops is his first responsibility — and a mission embraced by most Americans.

As my colleagues Peter Wallsten and Janet Hook put it, "In following the advice of military leaders, who had expressed fears of a backlash in the Middle East if the pictures were released, Obama now can tell critics on the right that he did his best to protect the nation's troops, even if the courts eventually force the disclosure."

Or, as the Washington Post's David Ignatius speculated, maybe this is Obama's "Sister Soulja moment," a reference to Bill Clinton's decision to go after rap culture during his presidential campaign, a move that cost him some support on the left but burnished his credentials as a centrist.

— Johanna Neuman

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Let's not forget our history and what we've done- and continue to do- to the Native American Tribes of the U.S. Democracy sounds fine on paper- but the reality is that the U.S. is founded on greed and destruction (at any cost) in order to obtain dominance.
Obama is now the leader of this "great country." He's simply doing his job.

Obama is trying to measure up to the ideal of a typical US president, embraces zionists, kills Muslims, condones torturers and killers. It is not very difficult to find what is in his hollow skull, just as with Bush. He throws some pennies to those he displaces by forcing a campaign in Pakistan, does not see the slaughter in Palestine and in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has no relations with Muslims other than to issue threats and drones to attack. It was some such American president who goaded Pakistan to recruit Jihad, and it is some such president who has been maligning the jihadists. No doubt hardware and muck prevail over the powerless, but they leave the Americans where they always have been: in the limelight of hatred and curse.

As a liberal, I support his decision to not release the photos. As far as I'm concerned the ACLU can cram it and just let the man do his job; what's pervading among the left is a childish "neener neener neener, we got you and we were right" attitude with regards to the torture and detainment of "suspected terrorists." It's immature and is only exacerbating the already growing divide between the two parties. If this kind of behavior keeps up, we'll have another Civil War on our hands.

At the same time, people on the right need to stop pretending like A) it is okay to detain and torture, and B) believing that it helps our troops or citizens be safer. All it does is inflame the people of a world that already hate us. I'm sure many would simply like to see them eradicated, but this is no better than Hitlerism

People in this country need to chill the eff out. Yeah, I think Bush and Cheney should be prosecuted for the crimes they committed, but not by American courts. Let them be tried in international courts like the War Criminals they are.

Obama always was embracing the Bush-Cheney torture. One just has to read the executive orders passed by Obama months ago and it is quite clear that there would be no change in policy.

There were plenty of loopholes to allow the indefinite detention of anyone and it allowed us to ship them anywhere as long as it wasn't directly owned by a U.S. agency. It is standatd operation procedure for the CIA to use front companies to do many things that would be illegal for the CIA to do directly.

It was good to see that the LA Times was the only major news source that said Obama's torture policy was similar to Bush's way back in February.

Obama is making a huge mistake covering up the crimes of the Bush administration, Pentagon, and the CIA. Sure, all those players are out to get him, but caving is not the answer. And downplaying torture as only involving "a small number of individuals" is utter BS. Everyone knows that the US is a nation that tortures and we need to admit that, or make a policy change whereby the US does not torture and the full weight of the law falls down upon those that pursue torture as a means to an end. Come on Obama, it is a black and white issue, no gray there.

I disagree that he is being lured to the dark side of Republican policy. He took office, surveyed the landscape and probably came to the realization that he needs to approach these issues differently. All of these WSJ and the ACLU need to shut up and back off. What good will showing the pictures do at this point? We don't need to see that folks were beaten up. We got that already through a steady stream of reports documenting abuses. Move on please!

Author
The Ring of Knowledge

It is possible he's realizing what Cheney said when interviewed by CBS recently: "The reason we went to the justice department wasn’t because we felt we were going to take some kind of free hand assault on these people that we were in the torture business. We weren’t.” (as reported at Newsy.com)

This is a highly dangerous claim, but maybe there was something to the interrogation techniques that were used and that's why it's still being covered up now by its opponents: because that would allow arguments to be made about it from both sides.

If you ave something that works..stick to it. Cheney is still calling the shots. But honestly, you didn't believe all of the BS that Obama was spewing during the campaign? Only in California can people be that dumb.

NANCY PELOSI MUST BE LIVING IN DREAMLAND OR SOMETHING!? THERE WERE PLENTY OF GOVERNMENT WHISTLE-BLOWER'S SHE COULD HAVE HEARD FROM AND WHAT DID SHE THINK THOSE RENDITION FLIGHT'S WERE FOR , CIA PICNIC STOPS!???

SHE SUPPORTED THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND IT'S POLICIES BY QUIVERING IN THE CORNER AND LETTING IT ALL SLIDE IN FRONT OF HER AND NOW SHE SPEAKS OUT!?

AND PANETTA, THERE IS ALREADY A MAJOR WAR TAKING PLACE THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY THAT YOU HAVE DISMISSED REGARDING 9-11 BEING AN INSIDE JOB AND THIS IS KNOWN WORLD-WIDE BY OTHER INTELLIGENCE PEOPLE!?

I DOUBT VERY SERIOUSLY, ETHICS IS THE CIA'S STRONGPOINT IN ALL OF THIS!?

The article's "middle-ground" tone is so cute. Like letting torture and murder slide is some sort of brilliant move that rejects "extremists" of "both sides."


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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