Saturday, June 1, 2013

Obama Misgivings: Naked in the Cell

Mad Dog has the Fairey poster of Obama in his house, but he put it on his wall with some misgivings. Putting up a poster of a political figure seemed uncomfortably reminiscent of Hitler posters and photos found in private homes throughout Germany after WWII.  For years, after the end of WWII, maybe still, no magazine cover photos of Hitler were allowed to be published in Germany, for fear they would wind up framed in bars or in private homes. 

And, the fact is, when we get to "know" a political figure it is always a slow process of revelation. Putting up a poster or photo of a politician is an act of demi-worship at worst, and strong endorsement of a man, at best, and the fact is, what we ought to admire about a man is his philosophy, his policies, knowing that as a human being, he may have many failings, knowing, if we had him over to dinner, we may not like him much.  (Although, Mad Dog has always thought he would like Mr. Obama, personally, until now.) But Mad Dog has long harbored uncomfortable qualms about putting a photo of a human being on the wall. Just too many echoes of hero worship, and those photos of Kennedy right next to Jesus Christ on the walls of so many of Mad Dog's Catholic friends always made Mad Dog cringe a little.

After 4 years, despite some disappointments related to passivity or failure to push hard enough, most of Mr. Obama's failures have struck Mad Dog as failures of our Constitutional form of government, which intentionally created a weak president, bound by laws and Congress into a position which rendered him the persuader in chief, but faced with a determined minority opposition, or worse yet, faced with the opposition controlling either chamber of Congress, the President has few options and little power.

So, when Mr. Obama failed to close Gitmo, one could say his heart was in the right place but the dolts in Congress simply thwarted his best intentions.

Now there is news concerning the incarceration of Private Bradley Manning at Fort Meade, Maryland. Private Manning has been stripped naked, kept in a cell with lights always on, forced to say, every 5 minutes, to his guards, "I'm okay," not allowed to sleep with his arm over his eyes to cover them against the constant light. In other words, for 9 months, before ever being convicted of anything, he has been punished, and torture is not too strong a word.  Altogether, he has been in jail 3 years without trial.

Either Mr. Obama knows about this--and it is hard to imagine he does not-- and Mr. Obama approves,  or he does not know, which in a way is an even more egregious lapse in leadership.  In either case, that he would allow such nastiness prior to a conviction, that he would embrace torture, diminishes the man substantially. 

Now that you mention it, Mr. Obama's administration has been missing in action when it comes to opposing strip searches in jailhouses. Surely, there is some case out there which could be brought before the five conservative  jackasses on  Supreme Court, to force them, once again to endorse this form of torture, to make them squirm a little, or possibly even, back down.

Taken with reports of more raids and deportations of immigrants than occurred under Mr. Bush, these indicators of Mr. Obama's embrace of torture and police state tactics are very disturbing. 

Mad Dog applauded killing Osama Bin Laden without trial. But that was a case of a man who had gone all youtubey, a man who admitted and even bragged about his crimes.  And we do not put foreign antagonists on trial before the hostilities end. Had we been able to kill Hitler or Tojo while hostilities were underway, we would and should have done that. We have a tradition of "wanted dead or alive," but in that case the fugitive has the option of turning himself in.

Private Manning is not Hitler. He may turn out to be  more like Daniel Ellsberg. In fact, it is entirely possible that far from putting any American soldier at risk, what Private Manning really put at risk were embarrassing revelations regarding the conduct, the goals and the reality of the war in Iraq.

Joe Nocera is all upset about force feeding hunger striking prisoners at Gitmo. Mad Dog can see the case for force feeding. 

There is no justification Mad Dog can imagine for keeping an accused prisoner naked in a cell lit 24 hours daily.


  1. Mad Dog,
    The bullying and mistreatment of Bradley Manning is inexcusable-and the 112 days credit awarded by the military judge doesn't seem like nearly enough compensation for nine months of hell. That being said, I'm not sure the President should be held responsible for the abuse of Manning. If the Pentagon assured him Manning was being treated as the protocol for suicide risks dictated, was it unreasonable for the President to believe that? OK-I will grant you that it would have been preferable that he had dug a little deeper into what exactly the conditions of Manning's confinement involved, and once the military judge deemed it punishment before trial the President should have spoken out more forcefully against the abuse. I still don't view this as examples of what you term indicators of him embracing torture and police state tactics. Do you really believe that Mad Dog? I do realize I am employing a double standard because if we were discussing George W. I would be saying it was the moron's job to know what was going on and that he was responsible for what took place on his watch. In retrospect perhaps that was not always fair to President Bush...

    By the way--what's the status of the Obama poster-still on the wall with a black shroud over it?

  2. Maud,

    One reason to air this angst is to be talked down from the ledge. You may have done that for Mad Dog.
    The poster, framed, remains in place, at least for now.
    Mad Dog is still appalled, but he is willing to take your point the President may be shielded from some things by his subordinates. But if we are willing to believe that, then we must accept that Bush did not know about Abu Gharaib. When he said, "This is not who we are," he was dead wrong, at least about his own administration. I'm beginning to wonder if this is simply who we are as a nation, a bunch of sadistic bullies, when we have a man tied down and helpless.
    Mad Dog's touchstones at this point are "VEEP" and "House of Cards," which speaks to Mad Dog's level of sophistication when it comes to what happens inside the offices and minds of public servants.

    Mad Dog