The worst job in the circus, I’m told, is cleaning up after the elephants.
So, poor Barack Obama! Coming into the White House after the Bush-Cheney circus means he’s the custodian-in-chief who has to try tidying up the huge human rights messes that were left by that herd of pachyderms. So many piles, so little time.
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How’s the clean-up coming? Only so-so. On the plus side, Obama recently stripped the CIA of its lead role in what the Bushites called “enhanced interrogations.” Torture, is what it was. The FBI (a somewhat gentler agency in the interrogation field) now takes the lead role, using stricter rules and getting more oversight.
But the same day Obama announced this, he made his own mess of sanitizing a disgusting mess known as “extraordinary rendition.” In last year’s presidential race, Obama pledged to end this practice of , as he put it “sending away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries.”
Instead of ending rendition, however, Obama is extending it, though he promises a more spic-and-span version. U.S.-held prisoners still can be zipped away to God-knows-where in the dead of night to be interrogated by foreign agents, but Obama says he will seek “diplomatic assurances” from those governments that they will not torture our prisoners.
Isn’t that sweet. He might ask Maher Arar how effective these little diplomatic niceties really are. In 2002, this detainee from Canada was dispatched by the U.S. to Syria, which promised no abuse. Officials nodded, smiled, winked – and Syrian agents then proceeded to beat Mr. Arar with electric cables.
You don’t clean up a nasty mess like extraordinary rendition by just stirring the pile to rearrange it – it has to be completely removed.
“Renditions to Continue, but With Better Oversight, U.S. Says,” The New York Times, August 25, 2009.