Okay, so I open up my Twitter feed earlier this afternoon, and the following Tweet, by one John Cusack (the actor), smacks me in the face.
Now, there are two ways to take the above. Either he sincerely hopes the president is able to do his difficult yet challenging job, and is able to sleep despite the numerous difficult decisions he must make every day. Let’s hope he doesn’t sweat tiny details. On that, we agree; why would anyone want a job like the President’s, where one is daily asked to makes Hobson’s-style Choices.
The second way to take the above is as sarcastic; a cowardly dig at a president who has to make decisions every day that can potentially effect billions of people, from an actor who pretty much never has to decide between life and death for anyone of any significance.
Cusack chose the latter, as evidenced by the propagandistic bullshit he chose to link to with his Tweet. Here is a working link to the piece he used as his basis for a cowardly dig at the President. This is typical of a lot of progressives, who seem only able to see things in black-and-white terms, and who go after anyone who doesn’t act on those terms. In this case, he apparently happened upon a story that tugged at his “conscience” and he went after the president. And it was irresponsible.
This is not personal toward Cusack; I love his work, and I don't question his passion when it comes to politics. But a prominent person with three quarters of a million Twitter followers has a responsibility to at least tell the truth. Of course, to tell the truth, he has to know the truth. Do actors have the right to air an opinion? Of course they do. But "liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it," as George Bernard Shaw once opined. And the more people listen to you, and the more you affect the discourse, the more responsibility you have.
Besides, the implication against Obama isn’t actually political, it’s personal. The implication is that he has no heart, and no conscience. My point is, Cusack has no information, and no real basis to make such a harsh judgment.
According to the article, the NDAA is apparently being used to justify one particular detention at Guantanamo Bay prison. Never mind that actual facts show otherwise.
The Yemeni-born prisoner in question, Musa’ab al-Madhwani, has been at Guantanamo Bay prison since 2002, many months after his capture in Pakistan. Note; he was captured in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. There is credible evidence that he was beaten to get his initial confession, but it is unclear who actually tortured him, not that it matters. But President Obama was not even president when he offered up that information back in 2005.
According to the article, al-Madhwani was given a hearing in January 2010. Here’s a snippet from the article:
The US court system would go later acknowledge this treatment and took al-Madhwani’s word that the confession only came after it was beaten out of him. In January 2010, US District Judge Thomas Hogan called 23 of the 26 documents that government presented as evidence against the man “tainted” because "coercive interrogation techniques" were used to obtain them. Judge Hogan would also rule, however, that the remaining three pieces of evidence were not. Even if months of torture in unimaginable conditions would cause al-Madhwani to admit guilt, the judge ruled that confessions offered up years later, which he viewed as “fundamentally different,” were enough to keep him detained.
Judge Hogan would also go on the record to say that al-Madhwani was a “model prisoner” at Guantanamo and explained in court documents, "There is nothing in the record now that he poses any greater threat than those detainees who have already been released." Other excerpts described the prisoner as “a lot less threatening” than former Gitmo detainees already released, and “at best … the lowest level al-Qaeda member” who should be returned to Yemen. The District Court wrote then that the “basis for continuing to hold him is questionable.”
Unfortunately for those progressives, like me, who actually keep up with the news, Hogan ruled against releasing al-Madhwani. Yes, that's right. He had so many nice things to say, but he didn't order him released. How odd. Well, not really; he cited the AUMF, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was passed September 18, 2001. Remember those initials, because they'll be relevant later.
Not only did Hogan not order him released; the Court of Appeals sided with the District Court. The only mention of the NDAA is in the government’s opposition to cert, which was filed within the last few weks. The Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, Jr., filed that one, not Barack Obama. Interestingly, they cite the Detention section of the NDAA in its entirety:
In response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress enacted the AUMF, which authorizes “the President * * * to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” AUMF § 2(a), 115 Stat. 224. The President has ordered the Armed Forces to subdue both the al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban regime that harbored it in Afghanistan. Armed conflict with al-Qaida and the Taliban remains ongoing, and in connection with that conflict, some persons captured by the United States and its coalition partners have been detained at Guantanamo Bay. In Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA), Pub. L. No. 112-81, 125 Stat. 1561 (2011), Congress “affirm[ed]” that the authority granted by the AUMF includes the authority to detain, “under the law of war,” any “person who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
There are two things to note in the above; the exact language of the Detention section of the NDAA, which notes that it “affirms” the AUMF. You know, that law that Congress had already passed more than ten years ago. If the AUMF was passed in 2001, why is Obama getting any flak right now. Presumably, according to the law itself, the authority would exist even if Obama hadn't signed the NDAA, which passed Congress with a veto-proof majority, anyway. But the fact is, this kid was a member of al Qaeda. Not only was he caught in Pakistan, not Afghanistan, but the article itself, which is based on information from al-Madhwani’s attorneys, makes note of it:
In a statement filed by his attorneys, they describe Musa'ab al-Madhwani as an “easy-going teenager” before he was recruited in a coffee shop by strangers who promised him “a month-long adventure" in 2001. Al-Madhwani agreed, but regretted his decision after being forced into a military training camp in Afghanistan. After al-Qaeda operatives destroyed the Twin Towers, the Afghan facility where he was trained was shut down. He attempted to return to his home in Yemen, but ended up unable to make the trip. In 2002, al-Madhwani found himself living from house-to-house while trying to figure out a way to make it back to Yemen. Eventually authorities closed in a group of insurgents, and al-Madhwani happened to be on the scene.
“The group I was arrested with were staying in two apartments,” he would tell an Administrative Review Board. “One person from each apartment refused to surrender and fought the Pakistani forces sent to arrest us. I was in the group that chose to surrender,” he said. According to al-Madhwani, the authorities were “thankful for our cooperation and surrendering without fighting.” That cooperation would only enter al-Madhwani into a decade of darkness.
So, basically, this kid and his attorneys practically admit he was al Qaeda, even while they’re pumping him up to be some sort of innocent victim. Pure innocents don’t join with and conduct military training with a terrorist group. I’m not saying he’s guilty. I’m saying that we don’t know.
And that’s the point in all of this. We don’t know what the president and his intelligence people know. We have no choice but to trust the government, which is what pissed me off about the Bush Administration. The Bushies purposely misled everyone to get what they wanted. For someone on our side to accuse Obama of the same disregard for truth is appalling. Not only that, but it's politically treacherous, because it feeds into the right wing meme, that all government is bad, and it discourages people from voting, which is how the Republicans keep winning, even though they're a small majority.
Is the detention provision of the NDAA perfect? Hell no. But if you want better law, give him a better Congress. You don’t get to help the right wing put in a Republican Congressional majority and then act shocked and blame the president because most of the bills contain provisions you don’t like. If you want to see what could have happened, read the House version of the bill, and start with page 567. That is what the Republicans actually wanted to pass.
I would also point out another reality; the best way to get rid of the detention provision of the NDAA and the AUMF, if they are indeed unconstitutional, is to get the Supreme Court to declare them so. What better way to do that than to include it in your opposition to cert? Think about it.
And when you think about it, consider the fact that this article chose as its “proof” a Gitmo prisoner who admits he was part of al Qaeda as a misguided youth, and who is not only represented by counsel, but who has had so many hearings, his case is in front of the Supreme Court.
One piece of advice for anyone chastising the President for not doing everything perfectly. Put yourself in his shoes. What would YOU do in this situation? Better yet, what COULD you do in his situation? Then learn as much as you can to learn what options are available. It might be useful to know that, even if Obama thought Musa'ab al-Madhwani was absolutely innocent, he still couldn't release him, because Congress has written laws that preclude that possibility.
So, yes, John; President Obama should be able to sleep well, because he’s done all HE can do. As someone with such a high profile, you should know you have an added responsibility to get things right. So, get it right.