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Guess who hates torture and wants to close Gitmo?

Gen. David Petraeus, that’s who:

“With respect to Guantanamo,” Petraeus added, “I think that the closure in a responsible manner, obviously one that is certainly being worked out now by the Department of Justice — I talked to the Attorney General the other day [and] they have a very intensive effort ongoing to determine, indeed, what to do with the detainees who are left, how to deal with them in a legal way, and if continued incarceration is necessary — again, how to take that forward. But doing that in a responsible manner, I think, sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.”

The difference between Gen. Petraeus and your garden-variety Republican on issues like these, of course, is that it’s Gen. Petraeus’ job to actually try to win America’s wars instead of figuring out how to use them as a wedge issue in the next election campaign. In wars of counterinsurgency — as Petraeus wrote in his counterinsurgency manual — trying to out-tough your opponent can actually cause you to lose the war. The smart counterinsurgent works to avoid creating new enemies even as he eliminates the old ones. Which means that torture and Gitmo are counterproductive. Real life is not a Rambo movie, no matter what Republicans think.

Dick Cheney’s “Feigned Outrage”

There’s not a lot I have to say about yesterday’s dueling national security speeches that isn’t probably better said by Spencer Ackerman, Fred Kapan and John Dickerson, to name a few. As ever, American politics is a Rorsach test: Bill Kristol looked at Dick Cheney’s speech and saw a “statesman” who offered a welcome contrast to our “preachy” president. Me? I saw a president determined to treat Americans like adults — and a snarling former vice president who treats his opponents with utter contempt.

Consider this from Cheney’s speech:

Yet for all these exacting efforts to do a hard and necessary job and to do it right, we hear from some quarters nothing but feigned outrage based on a false narrative. In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.

You can’t criticize Cheney in good faith apparently. In fact, as his speech wore on it became clear he was returning to classic Republican themes: If you don’t like what we’re doing — if you criticize it — you’re part of the “blame America first” crowd who kinda-sorta loves terrorists and hates the fine upstanding men and women who go to war on our behalf.

Another term out there that slipped into the discussion is the notion that American interrogation practices were a, quote, recruitment tool for the enemy. On this theory, by the tough questioning of killers, we have supposedly fallen short of our own values.

This recruitment-tool theory has become something of a mantra lately, including from the president himself. And after a familiar fashion, it excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do. It’s another version of that same old refrain from the left, We brought it on ourselves.

(Snip)

Those are the basic facts on enhanced interrogation. And to call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims. What’s more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness and would make the American people less safe.

As Spencer Ackerman points out, the America-hating lefties who believe that torture has helped — not hurt — our enemies includes Gen. David Petraeus and Air Force Col. Donald Bacon.

And as for Cheney’s “libel” comment: It’s misdirection, based in a solipsism that figures that because we are the good guys, we can’t do bad things. It’s similar to the idea of: “If the president does it, by definition it’s not illegal.” Which isn’t true. But Cheney apparently believes it is — or, at least, wants so badly for it to be true that he’ll act that way in any case.

Anyway, compare Cheney’s contempt for opponents with President Obama’s handling of the same:

Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. I believe that many of these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens — fell silent.

These are, perhaps, mere stylistic differences. But given a choice between styles, I’ll always prefer the politician who treats his opponents with respect than, well, Dick Cheney.

The torture memos are released

Today, the Obama Administration did a good thing: It released a number of Bush Era legal memos that laid the foundation for the torture of terror suspects, giving Americans — and the world — better insight into the details of what the CIA did behind closed doors.

I have so far read only one memo in its entirety: An August 2002 document by Jay Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal judge. It is an amazing piece of rationalizing and ass-covering. It considers the legal definition of torture, then goes to some lengths to prove that each of 10 techniques is not torture.

The law:

(1)“torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2)“severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
(A)the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; the threat of imminent death; or
the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality;

“Prolonged mental harm” is the escape clause here. We’ll get to that in a minute.
The techniques in the memo range from a swift grabbing of the lapels to slapping to sleep deprivation stress positions to waterboarding. And each is rationalized away in Bybee’s memo via euphemism, obfuscation and good old-fashioned lying.

Slapping, for example, is meant to make the terror suspect think physical harm could become him. The memo says so. But here’s the kicker: If nobody actually explicitly threatens further physical harm — if the terror suspect merely infers, as he’s meant to, that such harm may be imminent — it’s not even close to being illegal!

Though it may hurt, as discussed above, the effect is one of smarting or stinging and surprise or himiliation, but not severe pain. Nor does it alone constitute a threat of severe pain or suffering … Like the the facial hold and the attention grasp, the use of this slap is not accompanied by a specific verbal threat of further escalating violence. Additionally, you have informed us that in one use this techinque will typically involve at most two slaps. Certainly, the use of this slap may dislodge any expectation that (terror suspect) had that he would not be touched in a physically aggressive manner. Nonetheless, this alteration in his expectations could hardly be construed by a reasonable person in his situation to be tantamount to a threat of severe physical pain or suffering. At most, this technique suggests that the circumstances of his confinement and interrogation have changed.

But wait. If you’re trying to get a terror suspect to understand that they can be treated with physical aggression, why in the world would that suspect be unreasonable to think that further, more severe types of violence would be visited upon him? Particularly when that slapping is followed within days or weeks — the introduction of all these techniques was supposed to take place over 30 days — by escalations in the assaults on his physical comfort: stress positions, sleep deprivation and (eventually) waterboarding?

(And truthfully, a slap or two across the face — which I find personally distasteful — probably is pretty small beans as far as this stuff goes. But it’s important to note how Bybee (and the Bushies) try to pretend that even this small thing isn’t doing the thing they intend it to do.)

Here’s where the euphemisms come in. Stress positions don’t cause pain, they cause “muscle fatigue” which causes “discomfort” — never mind that the positions, as described, would cause your muscles to feel as though they were on fire. Sleep deprivation — for a week at a time — doesn’t inflict suffering; again, it’s “discomfort.” And waterboarding, well, sure, that actually does create the threat of imminent death…

Wait. Seriously? They’re admitting that waterboarding is supposed to make a suspect feel like they’re about to die?  Yes. Luckily, the Bushies have it covered: It’s not torture, they say — despite hundreds of years of precedent that, yes, it is torture — because no prolonged mental harm results.

And how do they know that? Because all the people who went through the military’s torture resistance training program emerged without long-term mental problems! There was no prolonged mental harm!

Forget the irony of the torture resistance program for a minute, though. There’s a basic difference between the terror suspects and the military trainees that is integral to all of this, and it undermines Bybee’s premise: The military guys knew they were going home, eventually. No amount of role-playing was going to change that. But Bybee was approving the techniques to knock such certainties out from under the terror suspects. They didn’t know they were going home. They were meant to believe that more and worse things were going to happen to them — perhaps in perpetuity, or perhaps until death. Mightn’t that cause prolonged mental harm? Heck, we already know that sustained solitary confinment causes such harm. Why wouldn’t this bad treatment?

And that’s where the “prolonged mental harm” clause becomes a “get out of jail free” card — at least, in the eyes of the Bush Administration. Because it could take years to make such determinations — and by then, who is going to want to pursue it? Not President Obama, that’s for sure. Under this logic, the only way to commit torture would be to kill a person in the course of interrogation. And maybe not even then.

More to come. Maybe.

Why I might vote for Ralph Nader in 2012

What weird traffic this blog gets. Looking at the blog’s “dashboard” of statistics, I see that one of the top searches bringing people to me right now is “Obama hates America” — the result, I suppose, of my frequent use of headlines that tend to cariacature conservative positions. Also, the result of my writing about Rick Santorum.

Still, I’m guessing that people using that search term aren’t exactly looking for what I’m writing.

Another weird item: A blog post I wrote last fall during the presidential campaign — explaining that, yes, I was voting for Barack Obama, but giving reasons not to put too much hope in him — is still one of my top traffic-getters. The post? “Why Barack Obama may not be all that.

As we near the 100-day mark of the Barack Obama presidency, it’s worth revisiting that post, because I was sadly correct about one reason to be suspicious:

Presidential power doesn’t contract itself. The last eight years have seen the Bush Administration repeatedly assert its authority to act as it pleases, without limits from Congress and the courts. The courts have been more effective than Congress in pushing back, but the presidency holds more unilateral power in governmental decision-making than it did when Bill Clinton left office.

And here’s something fundamental about human nature: Presidents don’t tend to give power away. Somebody has to take it away. Congress did a lot of this in the post-Vietnam era, and a lot of those safeguards stood (though they eroded a bit) until the current presidency. Barack Obama has promised to live by the older, less dictatorial limits, but he would be an extraordinary president if he didn’t claim some of the authority the Bush Administration has grabbed for itself. Seems unlikely to me.

It seems unlikelier than ever, now.

Obama opened his administration with actions designed to dazzle people — like me — who felt the previous administration had overreached. He signed orders to close Gitmo within a year and to end the CIA’s use of A) torture and B) secret prisons. I was thrilled. Sure, some Republicans were arguing that there was less there than met the eye, but I was convinced they were speaking more out of sour grapes than anything else. Now I have to concede they might’ve been right.

Why? Here are a few examples from recent weeks:

• First, there’s warrantless wiretapping. Politico:

Earlier this month, the (Justice) department presented an expansive series of arguments urging a federal court in San Francisco to throw out a lawsuit over warrantless surveillance first filed against Bush. The department’s brief not only asserted the state secrets privilege, which has long infuriated civil libertarians, but also made a sweeping assertion that Americans have no rights to challenge surveillance that violates the law unless the information is improperly released.

Let me repeat myself about the state secrets privilege: It’s a way that presidents can shield themselves and their administrations from court scrutiny of wrongdoing by asserting that publicly releasing the information would damage national security. There is, currently, no process in place for a court to verify that assertion. The state secrets privilege, then, forces the courts — and the American people — to trust the government is acting in good faith to shield itself from sunlight in matters where it has been accused of wrongdoing. That defies everything we know about human nature. I’ve said this before: “No president — not in a democratic nation, at least — should be able to declare his actions utterly beyond scrutiny. Ever.”

Still, the state secrets assertions were no worse than what had been done by the Bush Administration. Now, however, the Obama Administration is going one better, also offering up a “sovereign immunity” claim — essentially, you can’t sue the government for illegally eavesdropping on you unless the government has admitted to eavesdropping on you.

Conservatives like to grumble about “activist judges,” but the truth is that the court system remains — along with the voting booth — one of the venues which common people can use to call their government to account. The Obama Administration is trying to take that away. And that should trouble anybody who believes the American government should be accountable to the people.

• Second, there’s the not-small matter of prisoners of war. Again, Politico:

Then, on Friday, the department issued similarly broad arguments against a court ruling giving legal rights to some detainees held by the U.S. military at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The government motion said the decision could aid “enemies of the United States” by allowing them to use “the U.S. court system as a tactical weapon.” The filing led to a New York Times editorial Monday sharply criticizing Obama for positioning Bagram as “the next Guantanamo.”

The Gitmo comparison is correct. Why? Because Guantanamo was created to live outside the bounds of both domestic and international law — freeing the Bush Administration, it believed, to treat the detainees however it chose. Obama’s order to close Gitmo seemed to signal and end to such lawlessness. Instead, it just moves the lawlessness elsewhere.

Understand: The U.S. is free to hold prisoners of war at Bagram without giving them habeas corpus rights. The problem in this particular case is that several prisoners — non-Afghanis — were captured outside Afghanistan and brought to Bagram. The Obama Administration is asserting these prisoners don’t have the right to challenge their detentions either. It is saying, then, that it can arrest people anywhere in the world — not merely a battlefield — and hold them without any kind of due process rights.

Ugh.

Taken as a whole, it would seem that the Obama Administration is only a little better — at best — than its predecessor at adhering to the usual norms of government accountability and due process that characterize a democratic government under the rule of law. And let’s be frank here: A little better isn’t good enough. As it stands, it now looks very much as though the Obama Administration made political and cosmetic decisions about the future of Gitmo without throwing away the wrongheaded ideas that were the foundations of its creation. It was a classic case of misdirection.

George W. Bush took the presidency in 2000 in part because many liberals looked at Democrats and Republicans and decided — much like the end of Animal Farm — that they couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Back then, the similarities were on economics issues; today, it may be the case that the two parties are simply too similar on civil liberties issues.

Since 2000, many liberals repented that they cast votes for Ralph Nader and (perhaps) accidentally gave the presidency to Bush. The lesser of two evils they (and I) came to believe might be evil, but it is still less evil. Right?

Perhaps.

But it seems that partisans on both sides of America’s political divide ought to uphold minimal standards of not-evil-at-all. Perhaps Democrats look at the deep unpopularity of the Republican Party and figure they can get away with betraying their base on these matters. They shouldn’t be so cavalier. Ralph Nader could always make a comeback.

Republicans criticize “Kumar” actor, because depicting sexual torture at Gitmo is worse than actually doing it

Probably should’ve seen this coming: Conservatives are now criticizing – mildly, but still – the White House decision to hire actor Kal Penn of “Harold and Kumar” fame. Apparently they’re not big fans of certain scenes in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

I’ll let National Review’s Mark Hemingway explain:

But when the White House said that Penn had passed the background check, I wonder if anyone actually watched his films? Specifically, the scene from Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay that portrays U.S. servicemen as raping the inmates at Guantanamo. You can watch the scene here — but be forewarned it’s quite graphic.

To be clear, I have ZERO beef with the film having a satirical point of view — making fun of the president and how he conducted the war on terror is completely fair game. Hegseth and I would even admit to enjoying the first Harold and Kumar film as something of a guilty pleasure. Moreover, given this magazine’s position on marijuana legalization, I hardly think we’re reflexively anti–stoner comedy around these parts.

But when you portray members of the U.S. military doing their assigned duty honorably as rapists and homophobes — well, then I think a lot of people would rightfully have a problem with that. I’d certainly like to know if the commander in chief condones such a portrayal, and whether it does honor to the White House to employ someone who thinks that this is acceptable. Penn has the freedom to make whatever films he likes, and from what I’ve seen he’s a talented actor. I realize that the film was going for laughs, but nonetheless, a simple apology from Penn might go a long way here.

Because there was no use of sex as a torture weapon at Gitmo. Right? Right?

He told 60 Minutes about one interrogation in particular, in which he translated for a female interrogator who was trying to break a high-priority prisoner — a Saudi who had been in flight school in the United States.

“As she stood in front of him, she slowly started to unbutton her Army blouse. She had on underneath the Army blouse a tight brown Army T-shirt, touched her breasts, and said, ‘Don’t you like these big American breasts?’” says Saar. “She wanted to create a barrier between this detainee and his faith, and if she could somehow sexually entice him, he would feel unclean in an Islamic way, he would not be able to pray and go before his God and gain that strength, so the next day, maybe he would be able to start cooperating, start talking to her.”

But the prisoner wasn’t talking, so Saar said the interrogator increased the pressure.

“She started to unbutton her pants and reached and put her hands in her pants and then started to circle around the detainee. And when she had her hands in her pants, apparently she used something to put what appeared to be menstrual blood on her hand, but in fact was ink,” says Saar.

“When she circled around the detainee, she pulled out her hand, which was red, and said, ‘I’m actually menstruating right now, and I’m touching you. Does that please your God? Does that please Allah?’ And then he kind of got pent up and shied away from her, and she then took the ink and wiped it on his face, and said, ‘How do you like that?’”

Then, the interrogator sent the prisoner back to his cell with a message.

“She said, ‘Have fun trying to pray tonight while there’s no water in your cell,’ meaning that she was gonna have the water turned off in his cell, so that he then could not go back and become ritually clean. So he then therefore could not pray,” says Saar.

“I know that the individual that we were talking that night was a bad individual. Someone who I hope never — I hope he’s in captivity forever, I hope he never goes anywhere. But I felt awful that night. I felt dirty and disgusting.”

Now, granted, this isn’t precisely what was depicted in Harold and Kumar. But nobody ever said the movie was a documentary. But it goes to show the audacity of the pro-torture camp: Depicting a form of torture is a shameful slur on the good name of our military. Actually doing it? Nothing could be more patriotic.

Once again: Let’s prosecute Bush Administration officials for torture

I know, I know: Stop me if you’ve heard this before. But that’s the case I make in this week’s Scripps Howard column with Ben Boychuk:

Investigation and prosecution of Bush-era officials — accompanied by their conviction or exoneration — would be painful and probably messy. There would undoubtedly be a political firestorm. It is nonetheless the right thing to do.

Why? Because torture has long been illegal under both international and domestic law. There are no exceptions made for torturing bad guys, no matter how bad they may be. If we turn our backs on those allegations for political convenience or to avoid a mess, we’ve turned our back on one of America’s founding principles: The rule of law.

What’s on the line? Our credibility and our longstanding moral leadership in the world. If we brush aside credible allegations of war crimes — and the International Red Cross is no fly-by-night bleeding-heart lefty organization; its job is to look into these matters on behalf of the international community — then we forfeit the moral high ground we have long claimed on human rights matters. “Torture for me, but not for thee” is not going to cut it when we confront two-bit dictators about their crimes against humanity.

Republican critics say the torture of terrorists helped save America from attacks. The evidence indicates otherwise — and, in fact, images of Abu Ghraib helped intensify the Iraqi insurgency that has killed so many Americans.

The critics say prosecutions of Bush Administration officials would “criminalize policy differences.” That’s not true. Instead, a fair process would re-affirm two things that we’ve always known and proclaimed to be correct: Torture is against the law. And nobody — not even the president, nor his top aides — is above the law.

Ben, of course, disagrees. But for not-exactly traditional reasons. You can read him here.

OK. Go ahead and investigate the Bush Administration for war crimes

I went on record a few months ago saying that I believed the Bush Administration had broken the law by ordering the torture of terrorism suspects — but that the Obama Administration shouldn’t get into the business of prosecuting its predecessors for those crimes. Why? Politics.

What (Americans) want from the Obama Administration is not to relive the worst parts of the last eight years, but to get started on the hard work of stabilizing the economy and getting the troops out of Iraq. Presidential administrations are not great at walking and chewing gum at the same time; an investigation into the excesses of the Bush Administration will suck the energy out of every other effort Obama needs to succeed if he — and the country — are to be successful.

And there’s simply no way to pull it off, anyway, without seeming like an exercise in the extreme partisanship Obama has tried to tamp down. Which, incidentally, is one key to him having the support he needs to get stuff done.

I’ve changed my mind. Why? Three reasons.

• It’s increasingly clear that President Obama won’t get the Republicans to come along for much of anything he needs or wants to accomplish. And that’s fine: Republicans have their own beliefs and priorities, and they shouldn’t support the president’s agenda if they don’t support the president’s agenda. But politics is a horse-trading business, at heart, and if the GOP doesn’t want to play ball, there’s no reason for Obama to shirk his other obligations as president in hopes of playing nice.

To be clear: I’m not saying prosecutions should happen for political reasons. I’m saying there were politicial reasons not to investigate and prosecute. But those reasons haven’t materialized quite the way I thought they would.

• In any case, it appears the GOP is playing hardball politics in defense of torture, refusing to confirm several Obama appointees unless the administration promises not to release secret Bush-era torture memos. The Obama administration should absolutely take that dare. But there’s no reason for Democrats to worry about appearing to politicize the issue when that’s exactly what Republicans have done.

• And in any case, we now know — thanks to the reporting of Mark Danner at the New York Review of Books — that the International Red Cross believes the United States committed war crimes in its detaining and torturing of terror suspects. And amid its many suggestions about how to deal with those crimes, the Red Cross report urged

that the US authorities investigate all allegations of ill-treatment and take steps to
punish the perpetrators
, where appropriate, and to prevent such abuses from
happening again.

Simply put, our international credibility is on the line. If we brush aside credible allegations of war crimes — and the International Red Cross is no fly-by-night bleeding heart lefty organization; its job is to look into these matters on behalf of the international community — then we forfeit whatever moral leadership we claim on human rights matters. “Torture for me, but not for thee” is not going to cut it.

Investigation and prosecution of Bush-era officials  — accompanied by their conviction or exoneration — would be painful. It would undoubtedly be a political firestorm. Those are the reasons I urged hesitation. But it’s increasingly clear that absent some sort of “truth and reconciliation” commission, it’s also the right thing to do.

Deep Thought

The same folks who poo-poo the symbolic significance of closing down Gitmo are outraged that Obama doesn’t want to keep a bust of Winston Churchill in his office — it might hurt our relationship with Britain, after all.

Dick Cheney is still Dick Cheney

It sometimes strikes me that the legacies of the George W. Bush administration will be so far-reaching that I could continue write anti-Bush blogs for sometime to come and not run out of fresh material. I’ll try to resist. However: Dick Cheney gave an interview to Politico, decrying the naivete of the new administration’s approach to torture and Gitmo. Spencer Ackerman has a pretty good takedown here.

But it’s worth examining Cheney’s mindset, as revealed through some quotes sprinkled throughout the article.

The choice, he alleged, reflects a naïve mindset among the new team in Washington: “The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that that’s what the Obama adminstration believes.”

I think Cheney is … naive about the Obama administration’s naivete. If anything, elected Democrats are well aware of their party’s “soft” reputation and tend to overcompensate for fear that something dreadful will happen on their watch.

And in any case, context suggests to me that when Cheney says the United States needs to be respected, what he actually means is feared. The problem with the fear approach — as we’ve seen — is that it does more to radicalize potential opponents. I know I’m a broken record on this stuff, but it needs to be repeated as often as Cheney makes his points: We know that Gitmo led to Abu Ghraib, which in turn intensified the insurgency in Iraq almost to the point the United States couldn’t contain it.

In other words: More Americans died because of Gitmo.

Cheney is right that the United States may have to do some unpopular things in the course of preserving its own security. Gitmo, though, was an unnecesary self-inflicted wound.

Cheney again:

“I think there are some who probably actually believe that if we just go talk nice to these folks, everything’s going to be okay,” he said.

Cheney elsewhere sniffs at the Obama’s “campaign rhetoric,” but he’s indulging in some campaign rhetoric of his own here. Nobody thinks that just talking is going automatically make everything OK. But as much as the Bush Administration always kept its options on Iran and North Korea open by saying it would never take military options off the table, it seemed plenty willing to take diplomacy off the table. It shouldn’t be an either-or choice. And once you start talking — and keep talking — something might come of it. If you don’t, nothing will certainly come of it. If that “might” possibility ends up saving a few lives down the line, why wouldn’t it be worth it?

Not in Dick Cheney’s world.

Andy McCarthy has an opinion that does not make me livid

I think I’ve established the bona fides of my dislike for Andrew McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor turned National Review writer who never met a torture technique or subversion of liberty that he didn’t absolutely love. So it’s only fair that I note that I don’t entirely disagree with his take on a military judge’s refusal of an Obama Administration request to suspend tribunals at Gitmo:

As regards whether to continue with the military commissions of the 21 detainees currently charged with war crimes, Obama may make a terrible decision, he may make a good one, or he may do something in between.  But in any event, it was entirely reasonable for him to ask for a four-month time-out — which was done in a very respectful manner that did not in any way denigrate the dignity of the military tribunals.  He is still getting his national security team in place and getting them the clearances they need to get up to speed on all the relevant facts, many of which are no doubt highly classified.  He is, moreover, the President of the United States and the commander-in-chief of our military forces in a time of war.  These considerations, by themselves, should have been enough for the judge to indulge his request — I can’t think of a single civilian court judge I ever appeared before who would not have respectfully deferred to a reasonable request for delay by the president in similar circumstances.

Now I say I don’t entirely disagree because, at the end of McCarthy’s posting, we see some of what’s motivating his call for deference to the president:

However inadvertently, Col. Pohl is just giving President Obama more reason to think there are better ways to deal with detainees than a system that denies abundantly sensible motions — and in which Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguard, arrested in possession of missiles intended for shooting at U.S. troops, gets sentenced to a grand total of six months on a war crimes conviction (which is what happened in the first commission trial).

Right. Since the military tribunals have ended up not being entirely the kangaroo courts everybody — including McCarthy — expected them to be, McCarthy is taking a “the hell with ‘em all” approach to matters. It’s not that McCarthy wants the judge to be fair to the new president; he was the judge to simply defer to the president’s judgement in this (and, based on his record of commentary) in all other matters. In that context, a little defiance doesn’t bug me at all.