Recent news that President Obama is now going to press ahead with military tribunal reminds us of candidate Obama’s sharp criticism of George Bush’s plans to do the same: “As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions…Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists … Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.”
These abject reversals on military trials, Guantanamo, civilian courts for killers like KSM, Iraq, wiretaps, intercepts, renditions, and Predators is bewildering for a variety of reasons. Should the Right welcome Obama’s radical rejection of his earlier positions and welcome (per Vice President Cheney’s point that the president now ratifies the Bush protocols) Obama’s about-face — or still reserve a certain contempt for Obama’s past demagoguery and cheap caricatures of critical national-security protocols that were vital to our security?
And what are we going to make of all the past talk of the Left that Bush’s national security efforts were violations of the Constitution and synonymous with war crimes? What happened to all that? So the outrage was simply about power all along without a shred of principle? After all, since 2009 we have not seen a sequel to Rendition or Redacted or any other such Hollywood films. Will any more Ivy League law deans sue the Obama administration on behalf on Guantanamo inmates, or citizens targeted by Predators, or are they now working for Obama against such challenges? In short, the Obama complete embrace and often expansion on the Bush protocols, and the lock-step party-line, media-approved of ‘that was then, this is now’are some of the weirdest reinventions in American political history.