The Blog

Now What?

1:38 PM, Jan 14, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

It's very nice that Susan Crawford can now continue her work with a clear conscience, but it seems the left has missed the point of this story entirely. We already knew that the Bush administration had ordered the use of aggressive interrogation techniques on a number of detainees, and we already knew that there was some disagreement about whether those techniques constituted torture as defined by international treaties and U.S. law. Liberals will call it torture, Bush and Cheney do not. Crawford asserts that, in her view, the aggregate effect of the otherwise legal techniques authorized by Bush was, in fact, torture. All of which does nothing to advance a solution about what to do with Mohammed al-Qahtani.

Barack Obama has come up with a clever strategy on Gitmo -- order the closure of the U.S. prison there and take the next one to eight years figuring out how best to implement the new policy. The left has given him a pass on this as they will give him a pass on just about anything for the foreseeable future, but the implication is clear: Obama has no idea what to do with men like Qahtani who pose a very real threat to the American people but cannot be convicted in federal court for the crimes they have already committed.

Obama at least seems to understand that simply attacking the Bush administration for the decisions it made in the aftermath of 9/11 will no longer suffice as a substitute for some alternative policy. His supporters haven't yet arrived at the same conclusion. There are a dozen liberal bloggers using this story as a launching pad for an attack on the war crimes of the Bush administration, but none has offered any solution to the problem that plagues Judge Crawford -- what now?

In less than a week Barack Obama will be sworn into office and Democrats will need to stop defining themselves by their opposition to George W. Bush and start arguing in favor of serious policies for keeping this country safe. For all the self-righteous talk about constitutional protections and international law and due process, the current consensus on the left would have Obama free Qahtani and prosecute Bush. If that's the outcome dictated by a principled liberalism, then liberalism won't be ascendant for very long.