Obama’s Tortuous Road

Tower at GitmoPresident Obama is off to a quick start as the 44th President of the United States. I’ll give him credit for rolling up his sleeves and getting right to work.

Today, Thursday January 22, 2009, Pres. Obama issued three (3) separate executive orders dealing with the Guantanamo Bay detention camp – aka Gitmo – and the interrogation techniques that will be allowed in the future under his administration and US law.

  • The 1st executive order demands that the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay be closed within one year.
  • The 2nd executive order formally bans torture by requiring the Army field manual be used as the guide for terror interrogations
  • The 3rd executive order will mandate a systematic review of detention policies and procedures and a review of all individual cases.

This is an action on Obama’s part that will make a lot of his constituency happy. The Liberals had nothing good to say about Gitmo or the US’ current methods for extracting information out of the terrorists, terrorist sympathizers, and illegal combatants detained at Guantanamo Bay. Even many more conservative and pragmatic Americans like myself welcome Gitmo’s closing, if for different reasons than Liberals.

But before the Liberals get too happy and the more militant and/or Utilitarian Conservatives too angry, one should see how this reduction in the US’ repitoire for dealing with- and extracting critical information from our terrorist enemies is set to play out.

According to David Espo, an t least two more executive orders are expected in coming days, according to two Obama officials who of course spoke only under the condition of anonymity.

  • The 1st executive order will require all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army Field Manual while questioning detainees. The manual explicitly prohibits threats, coercion, physical abuse and waterboarding.
  • The 2nd executive order will set up a study of interrogation methods that could be added to the Army manual, including some that may be more aggressive than those currently permitted.

So Pres. Obama wants to eliminate the US’ alleged use of torture to interrogate terrorists and illegal combatants – at least from a legal perspective. He may or may not be intending to dramatically alter what interrogation methods are allowed to the CIA and the rest of intelligence community. I wonder just how the his more Liberal constituency is going to like this latest departure of Obama’s from the ideology they projected onto him?

Personally, I’m strongly against making such changes to the U.S. Army Field Manual. It’s one thing to tacitly condone trained and hopefully dispassionate professionals from the intelligence community using harsh techniques to interrogate prisoners / detainees. It’s quite another to explicitly allow such methods to the military who will often be operating in emotional and heated conditions in the field. I don’t like the possible ramifications of that, both to others and to our troops.

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