The Fatal Link Between Indefinite Military Detention & Obama’s DNA


When Obama caved in on regulating “too-big-to-fail” banks, health care insurance reform, Guantanamo, the debt ceiling fiasco, Bush-Cheney tax cuts, et. al., he did it thinking he could be sporadically engaged, let the rabid Right slap him around like a piece of cheap meat, settling for limp half measures–while life-long Democrats like me hang with him, holding our nose, because Republican alternatives are worse.

But if Obama loses a second term, his modus operani will have been the existential reason for his defeat, for nothing is worse than having your political dreams shafted by your own man. Obama’s odd passive-destructive impulse reached its apogee last weekend, when the president signed into law the 2011 defense bill, containing a rider that authorizes soldiers–soldiers!–to knock on our door at night and jail us without a trial, indefinitely, if the government “thinks” we are loyal to a terror organization or its sympathizers.

This, from a former professor of Constitutional law, over the objections of his own Secretary of Defense and directors of national security and the FBI.

What the hell is this–Pyongyang?

I’ve held my tongue through most of the other Obama disappointments, feeling sure that, at bottom, my man could at least connect the dots to comprehend the Main Event of our age–the political blood war waged by Brown Shirts in Pinstripes against our civil liberties.

On the strength of that, I stumped and spoke for him throughout Ohio on my own nickel for the last month of the ’08 campaign. But Obama’s latest flip flop (he had threatened to veto the bill) is so odious that it might have come straight out of the Dubya-Cheney playbook.

The president’s defenders will say, “What? You expected him to veto the entire defense bill over that one provision?

Damn right.

A Republican president did precisely that to me when G.H.W. Bush threatened to bring down the whole 1992 defense bill because it contained my abortion option for service members and their dependents in military hospitals aboard. My measure cleared the House and Senate with strong majorities. But guess what? When King George gave his ultimatum, Congress folded like a pup tent.

(Memo to Obama: this is how the Other Side plays. It’s called hardball.) 

Ah, but now the White House wants us to know it insisted on a presidential “waiver” for some suspects! This sop insults our intelligence. As the New York Times fumed in a scathing editorial, the bill provides no funds for any type of trial but military tribunals, one; and, two, who knows if future presidents will ever use the waiver?

Mr. President, the danger you’ve created for civil liberties and your second term–not to mention the country’s future–is the chasm you inexplicably crafted between the expectations of derring-do and the reality of diffidence. I’m sorry, but being “less worse” than your opponent is never a path to political success–certainly not when our democracy is at a crossroads. Or when, on a civil liberty, you could not be worse.

Years from now, remembering  you wistfully, I will think of the quote:

“The saddest words of tongue or pen are–It might have been.”

For further reading:

Glenn Greenwald, Salon: “Three Myths about the Detention Bill

Andrew Sullivan, The Dish: Obama Caves Again on Civil Liberties”

International Business Times: “Indefinite Detention Bill: Obama’s Trial of Broken Promises”

The Atlantic Wire: “House Passes Indefinite Detention Bill After Obama Reverses Veto Threat

The Los Angeles Times: Wrong Turn in the Terror Fight

Here are pro-Obama editorials; read them and make up your own mind:

Center For American Progress: “Terrorist Detainee Rules Are Not McCarthyist

The Intel Hub Blog: “Crushing Disinformation Surrounding Indefinite Detention of Americans Under the DNAA” (National Defense Authorization Act)

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11 thoughts on “The Fatal Link Between Indefinite Military Detention & Obama’s DNA

  1. Fr Chuck Cooper says:

    You have articulated my sentiments and the sentiments of many others Mr AuCoin. Thank you for your courage.

  2. Les AuCoin says:

    I appreciate you words so much, Chuck.

  3. Dan Hortsch says:

    Your “Damn right” is indeed right. He should have vetoed, should have showed some gumption. I (like so many others) do not understand him.

  4. Les AuCoin says:

    You know, Dan, most of my former colleagues don’t understand him either. I was struck–early in his term–when Members of Congress told me they couldn’t even get their calls returned.

  5. Ron Paul is the only real agent of change in the 2012 election.

  6. Thank you! So disheartening to see him roll on this, of all things.

  7. I guess this really is Pyongyang. It certainly isn’t the US as I understand it. I voted for the man, I held my nose and hoped he’d pull through. Then this. We’d already given up habeus corpus, now we’ve sacrificed the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments to the Constitution.

    • Les AuCoin says:

      Mother Jones just pointed out that, as the law is written, the power to “rendition” terror suspects from the U.S. to other countries (Egypt? Uzbekistan?) will also apply to suspects who are American citizens.

      Not that I’m saying that this will happen soon, but it’s tinder that could be lit by some event in the future, in which ensuing public panic creates an environment in which a president puts this power to use.

      There is no “slippery step” to the loss of our freedoms. It’s a staircase, and at each step, the public makes a conscious choice to stop or go on …

  8. The biggest problem with this article is that it presupposes that Obama’s original opposition to NDAA 2012 was because it is an affront to the Constitution and the right of due process. I urge the author to reexamine the statements issued by the Whitehouse on this. The original veto threat was offered because Obama felt that the Bill would restrict his authority in dealing with terrorism suspects. Upon getting language that he felt gave him more discretionary authority while appearing more temperate, he giddily signed the bill.

    • Les AuCoin says:

      Quoting from the New York Times (12/15/11) editorial on the subject:

      “The measures, contained in the annual military budget bill, will strip the F.B.I., federal prosecutors and federal courts of all or most of their power to arrest and prosecute terrorists and hand it off to the military, which has made clear that it doesn’t want the job. The legislation could also give future presidents the authority to throw American citizens into prison for life without charges or a trial. The bill, championed by Republicans in the House and Senate, was attached to the military budget bill to make it harder for Mr. Obama to veto it.

      “Nearly every top American official with knowledge and experience spoke out against the provisions, including the attorney general, the defense secretary, the chief of the F.B.I., the secretary of state, and the leaders of intelligence agencies. And, for weeks, the White House vowed that Mr. Obama would veto the military budget if the provisions were left in. On Wednesday, the White House reversed field, declaring that the bill had been improved enough for the president to sign it now that it had passed the Senate” [emphasis added].

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