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Did Obama Forfeit His Moral Authority?

One very telling sign that Obama is a moderate is that he has not gone after members of the Bush administration for war crimes (much to the chagrin of the far-left). In fact, he has said some downright nice things about not only Bush, but Reagan and other Republicans. While I admire him for his graciousness, even I have to wonder why he makes a point of praising Republicans. Not only does it completely piss off his left-wing base, it doesn’t seem to help with Republicans, most of whom don’t seem capable of saying anything even remotely nice about Obama.

I was thinking about this while reading a blog post by Jan Herman. It is short, so here it is in its entirety:

It’s 9/11: Eraser-in-Chief Bullshitter-in-Chief

When Barack Obama rebuffed calls for an independent truth commission, choosing not to investigate George W. Bush and his cronies as war criminals, he forfeited whatever moral authority he might have had as president. In his Aug. 31 Oval Office speech announcing “the end of the combat mission in Iraq” he even heaped praise on Bush for his so-called patriotism. At yesterday’s White House news conference he actually said, “One of the things that I most admired about President Bush was, after 9/11, him being crystal-clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam.” Does he really believe that? Does he think anybody believes that? What else does Obama “most admire” about his predecessor? He must be kidding.

I’m of two minds about this. Part of me thinks it would have been really important for America to make it really clear that torture is a war crime and will not be tolerated, and that even the president is not above the law. On the other hand, I can only imagine the chaos that would ensue if we started prosecution.

What do you think? Did Obama do the right thing by focusing on the future, working on the economy, ending two wars, health care reform, and other important tasks? Or has he indeed forfeited his moral authority?



  1. ebdoug wrote:

    On January 20th,2009 as soon as Bush got in that helicopter, I wrote and mailed a letter to the UN to say that they needed prosecute the foursome Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove for war crimes. This is the duty of the UN. It has talked about prosecuting Israel for crimes against the Palestinians which happened after Bush invaded a Sovereign country without UN sanction. The UN has done nothing. We belong to the UN. One of its duties is to prosecute war crimes. It is derelict in its duties. Obama wants to go forward instead of bogged down in backwards.

    Unfortunately we are going through a period where the UN has become extremely corrupt as we are just starting to find out. The money given to it is going into the pockets of head of the UN and his cronies. I told them that I would lose all confidence in the UN if they did not prosecute the US crooks. Bush killed off many many more citizens in Iraq than the leader of the Baltics and other massacres. The corrupt UN has done nothing. An easy thing to do would be to withhold any more funding of the UN until it does its job. Have you written them?

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink
  2. 1. It is entirely conceivable that the person who holds the office of the President of the United States of America does, has always, and will always receive orders from someone more powerful.

    2. Seeking to prosecute members of the former administration up to and including George W. Bush would not only be extremely difficult, it would consume massive amounts of time, money, and effort. Obama came into office with two major military operations, numerous smaller diplomatic issues, a huge recession, and a promise to finally reform the national health care system all on his plate.

    3. A country divided cannot stand. Obama campaigned on the idea that non-partisan politics could exist. The right-wing is fighting him at every turn and trying to make it look like it’s his fault that they’re not working with him. His aim was to bring the country together as one and not to focus on our differences. The conservative half of the nation dislikes him based on misconceptions that were spread by his enemies as part of a giant smear operation. Seeing a Democrat president trying to throw a Republican one in jail would only affirm their suspicions.

    The idea that he’s been painted as a leftist extremist so he should just become one is ridiculous at best. I find it to be particularly loathsome. I’d rather be right and dead than wrong and barely alive.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Permalink
  3. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    I’m not well read on the subject (and if anyone else knows of any good books on it I’d love to know them) but I believe the Nuremberg trials resulted in the hanging of war criminals for planning and waging an aggressive war. In other words, a war that is not waged for the defense of a country.

    For me the question is and always will be, if it was appropriate then, why not now? And if it isn’t appropriate now, was it then? I don’t think these are questions with easy answers…but perhaps they are simple answers.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink
  4. Patricia Andrews wrote:

    Well said, Tenthirtytwo. We seem to be very self-righteous when others commit crimes, but suffer from amnesia when faced with our own. It was only in the nineteen sixties that some of us recognized the crime of slavery. We dimly saw the crimes against native americans in the nineteen seventies, but in both cases have been pedalling backwards for the last thirty years on both of those issues. Why is anyone surprised that at this time we can slide past war crimes in the middle east — the “Who? Me?? syndrome!”

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink
  5. Falkelord wrote:

    I’m taking an International Law class as a degree requirement for law school, and my professor is from Cameroon. He’s probably the most intelligent person I’ve ever met one on one.

    During class, first day, the first thing he said was “The US does not recognize ICJ rulings 9/10 times. What does this mean? It means that we’re setting a bad example for the rest of the world. Your country comes up with these laws and sanctions and these UN groups, and then decides not to enforce or follow them. When it benefits them only.”

    Just thought I’d ad my 2 cents.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Permalink
  6. BTN wrote:

    Isn’t comparing Nazi Germany to the Bush administration a bit…excessive?

    Ironic that many of Obama’s most ardent supporters seem to take the viewpoint, “you’re either with us or against us ” isntead of “we don’t differentiate between ‘them’ and ‘us’. It’s just ‘us’.”

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Permalink
  7. The comparison is also flawed because the Nuremberg Trials came only after Germany’s defeat at the hands of entirely different countries. If Iraq had won the war, if Iraq had defeated the United States military on our own soil, it would be them who would be dealing with George W. Bush.

    I have my doubts that if that were the case, the trial would last nearly as long as Saddam’s did.

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 3:03 am | Permalink
  8. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    It wasn’t a comparison between Nazis and the Bush administration. My point was simply what people at Nuremberg were hung for. It wasn’t for “being nazis.” They were hung for what we did.

    Elvis, are you saying that war crimes can only be committed by the losing side?

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 5:16 am | Permalink
  9. patriotsgt wrote:

    On the prosecution of war crimes – As a Soldier, one of the things that so infuriated me and many many of my fellow Soldiers were the far left rantings about war crimes on the part of Americans, Bush included. If the Avg American knew how well we treat POW’s compared to how ours have and were treated we don’t think you’d make that accusation. What we’d like to see is equal condemnation of the other side. In that instance we would know that your efforts are sincere and not just politically motivated. Along with Bush’s supposed war crimes (and I have not heard a single example yet, just rantings)what about the beheadings by the other side? What about the other side setting our Soldiers and citizens on fire and dragging them through the streets or hanging them from a bridge? You see, through my and many others eyes your arguments are not credible when we only hear about one side. If you are truely against war crimes then please speak out against all. If you need living examples, ask John McCain he is the most reliable and vocal advcate against torture alive to day. Ask him his opinion.

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 5:41 am | Permalink
  10. patriotsgt wrote:

    Oh on the issue of “Did Obama do the right thing by focusing on the future” I absolutely believe Obama’s showed wisdom and chose the proper course.

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 5:44 am | Permalink
  11. ACADEMIC wrote:

    @ EB DOUG: The UN is not responsible for prosecuting war crimes. It has no authority to do so. The International Criminal Court, which was created by the Rome Statute, is the only body with such jurisdiction under international law. The United States is not a signatory to the Rome Statute and does not recognize the ICC. Any attempt by the ICC to prosecute Bush would therefore be doomed to failure.

    The UN could potentially demand an inquiry, but given that the US is a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, that would only happen if Washington wanted it to.

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 6:29 am | Permalink
  12. H. Rider Haggard wrote:

    When he first came into office, Obama should have said “I believe President Bush is a war criminal who started a war of aggression based on lies. But to prosecute him and his cronies would tear this country apart, and during my presidency I’m not planning to do that, nor allow my Attorney General to do that. Neither am I going to pardon President Bush, like President Ford did for President Nixon, nor any of his confederates. I want their war crimes hanging over their heads, and I want them to live with the possibility that some future president may prosecute them. I also want the electorate to be aware that if they elect a Republican president in the future, that Republican may pardon these people. But hey, now let’s focus on the future, not the grim past.”

    That’s what he shoulda said. But I think that at some point soon after the election, the powers that be took Obama aside and told him “That’s a beautiful family you got there. It’d be a shame if anything … HAPPENED to them. Capiche?” Because the President we got is not the guy who ran.

    And so Guantanamo is still open, the Patriot Act is still enforced, the war against the citizens on the excuse of drugs still goes on, and the bankster-military-industrial-healthinsurance-prison-securitytheater complex still thrives, consuming government funding and driving down our real productivity while supposedly increasing our GDP.

    So yeah, I think President Obama has lost his moral authority.

    But I’m still going to vote against Republicans and Tea Partiers in November. As Rahm Emmanuel says, damn him, where else am I gonna go?

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    Good comment, HRH. Even though I disagree with a few things you said, you said them well.

    I believe that much of the “the president we got is not the guy who ran” sentiment happened because of two things: people didn’t actually listen to Obama, who clearly ran as a moderate who promised to bridge the gap between democrats and republicans, and because the right kept calling Obama a “far-left radical liberal”, which he has never been.

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  14. TENTHIRTYTWO: Yep, that’s pretty much exactly what I’m saying. 😀 I think it’s just how things work.

    Historically speaking, world leaders have only been capitally punished in two situations: they lose a war, or they lose to a revolution. Obama’s election is a far cry from either…

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  15. ZJD wrote:

    If the Attorney General had the necessary motivation and support, I believe he could convict Bush and other members of his administration for war crimes. I do not believe these war crimes would take the form of indictments for specific acts (e.g. torture), as Patriot and others seem to be alluding to. Nor should they. However, if waging an aggressive war under false pretenses can be construed as a war crime – if invading a sovereign nation without an iota of political justification can be construed as a war crime – then Bush and key members of his administration are undoubtedly guilty. They had no right, absolutely none, for sacrificing American lives in that country and plunging it into violent turmoil.

    However, I do not believe they SHOULD be prosecuted – at least not now. Despite the fact that they lied (literally and intentionally) to the American people and the UN, it is important that our country move forward. An investigation of that nature would undoubtedly weaken our national unity and cause the citizenry to lose even more faith in our government. That is a cost we should not have to bear during these turbulent times. In other words, I believe an indictment on war crimes would at this point do more harm than good.

    That is not to say, however, that we should forget about Iraq. I believe it is vital that everyone understand the Bush administration’s true motivations for instigating that war. I don’t claim to know those motivations, but the most plausible hypotheses with the most convincing evidence point to a little three-letter word as the primary motivation. It is vital that we understand how that three-letter word influences our foreign policy, especially as that three-letter word becomes increasingly scarce. It is vital that we understand how that three-letter word affects the behavior and integrity of our elected leaders. But the politics surrounding that three-letter word do little to explain HOW the war actually began or – more importantly – how we allowed it to begin.

    That is why it is vital to understand how easily the truth is hidden. In my opinion, this is the most startling statistic concerning the war: 70% of Americans, in a poll taken a few months after the invasion of Iraq, believed that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. That is truly disturbing. It means that if Bush administration officials are ever found guilty of war crimes, our mainstream media should be construed as a willing accomplice. When 70% of our citizens believe a lie, it means that the primary sources of our information – the sources we trust to shed light on otherwise murky subjects – were complicit in the deception. That is unconscionable.

    Anyway, to answer the original question of whether Obama forfeited his moral authority: no, I don’t think so. But that does not mean the Bush administration should (ever, really) be let off the hook.

    Monday, September 13, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  16. James M wrote:

    I think that is what is known as being damned by faint praise.

    If the thing he most admires is not an action but a statement about what we are not fighting, a statement most educated people know was written not by Bush but by a speech writer, that’s a bit like saying the best thing about Bush is he did not actually start a nuclear war. (Possibly because he could not pronounce it.)

    Dammed by faint praise.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:13 am | Permalink
  17. patriotsgt wrote:

    ZJD – excellent wrap-up analysis.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 5:09 am | Permalink
  18. Dan wrote:

    First let me start by saying I am retired military and the oath I took time and time again was to the Constitution.
    With that in mind I am appalled have flagrant abused of it by the Bush administration.

    During the campaign Obama said he would join the international court.
    He should keep that pledge and let them decide what to do with Bush and company.

    He has lost the high ground, what started so promisingly has become business as usual, but the other choice is frightening.
    I will be voting despite being disillusioned.

    Iraq was about oil, and if I’m not mistaken a Chinese company won the right to pump it.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink