The many roads of inquiry into the Bush administration's abusive "interrogation techniques" all lead to one stubborn, inconvenient fact: Torture is not just immoral but also illegal. This means that once we learn the whole truth, the law will oblige us to act on it.
Understandably, the Obama administration wants to avoid getting bogged down in a long, wrenching legal drama that almost certainly would be partisan and divisive. But I'm not sure it's possible to skirt the criminal implications of what we already know, let alone what we might find out in a full-scale "truth commission" investigation with access to all relevant witnesses and documents.… Seguir leyendo »
It's hard to argue with the results thus far from President Obama's "no drama" approach to campaigning and governing, but I think he should learn to chew a little scenery when the occasion demands. Theatricality is one of the weapons in any leader's arsenal, and a well-timed glower or growl can have more impact than a sheaf of position papers.
Obama's critics are upset that at the recent Summit of the Americas, held in Trinidad and Tobago, he treated his fellow leaders from around the hemisphere as peers. Obama's collegial attitude was, indeed, a break from tradition -- and was long overdue.… Seguir leyendo »
The Congressional Black Caucus delegation that visited Havana last week was naive not to notice -- or disingenuous not to acknowledge -- that Cuba is hardly the paradise of racial harmony and equality it pretends to be. Still, that's no reason for the United States to continue the illogical, ineffective, hard-line policies that have produced an unbroken 47-year record of failure.
President Obama's action yesterday -- he eased some restrictions on travel, gifts and remittances, but only for Cuban Americans -- is barely a start. He should go so far as to actually base our Cuba policy on reality. After all, we've tried everything else.… Seguir leyendo »
It was around 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1959, when Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista slipped away to the airport and fled his island nation, hauling as much loot as his aircraft could carry. Hours later, the audacious young man whose badly outnumbered guerrilla forces had defeated Batista's army stepped onto a balcony overlooking Cespedes Park in the eastern city of Santiago. It was the first time that Fidel Castro had faced a cheering crowd as Cuba's unquestioned leader. It would hardly be the last.
The turning of the year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution -- and yet another reminder of wrongheaded U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
The federal manslaughter indictment of five Blackwater Worldwide security guards in the horrific massacre of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad may look like an exercise in accountability, but it's probably the exact opposite -- a whitewash that absolves the government and corporate officials who should bear ultimate responsibility.
If what Justice Department prosecutors allege is true, the five guards -- Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough -- should have to answer for what happened on Sept. 16, 2007. The men, working under Blackwater's contract to protect State Department personnel in Iraq, are charged with spraying a busy intersection with machine-gun fire and grenades, killing at least 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 others.… Seguir leyendo »
A concept that excludes nothing defines nothing. That's why one of the most urgent tasks for President-elect Barack Obama's "Team of Rivals" foreign policy brain trust is coming up with a coherent intellectual framework -- and a winning battle plan -- for the globe-spanning asymmetrical conflict that George W. Bush calls the "war on terror."
Terrorism (for the umpteenth time) is a tactic, not an enemy; Bush might as well declare war against flanking maneuvers or amphibious landings. Everyone knows what Bush is trying to say, and no one can deny the potential of terrorist attacks to destroy lives and change the world.… Seguir leyendo »
"I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture, and I'm going to make sure that we don't torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world."
That unequivocal passage from President-elect Barack Obama's first extended interview since the election, broadcast on "60 Minutes" Sunday night, was a big step toward healing the damage that the Bush administration has done not just to our nation's image but to its soul.
Amid the excitement of the election and the urgency of the economic crisis, it has been easy to lose sight of the terrorism-related "issues" that defined George W.… Seguir leyendo »
Few landmark Supreme Court rulings have been so widely predicted as yesterday's decision striking down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. The mere fact that the court agreed to hear the case was a pretty good indication that the justices were itching to make some kind of big statement about the Second Amendment. Questions from the bench during oral arguments in March left little doubt as to which way the wind was blowing.
This case, for me, is one of those uncomfortable situations in which my honest opinion is not the one I'd desperately like to be able to argue.… Seguir leyendo »
It shouldn't be necessary for the Supreme Court to tell the president that he can't have people taken into custody, spirited to a remote prison camp and held indefinitely, with no legal right to argue that they've been unjustly imprisoned -- not even on grounds of mistaken identity. But the president in question is, sigh, George W. Bush, who has taken a chainsaw to the rule of law with the same manic gusto he displays while clearing brush at his Texas ranch.
So yesterday, for the third time, the high court made clear that the Decider has no authority to trash the fundamental principles of American jurisprudence.… Seguir leyendo »
For nearly five decades, the United States has pursued a policy toward Cuba that could be described as incredibly stupid.
It could also be called childish and counterproductive -- and, since the demise of the Soviet Union, even insane. Absent the threat of communist expansionism, the refusal by successive American presidents to engage with Cuba has not even a fig leaf's worth of rationale to cover its naked illogic. Other than providing Fidel Castro with a convenient antagonist to help whip up nationalist fervor on the island -- and prolong his rule -- the U.S. trade embargo and other sanctions have accomplished nothing.… Seguir leyendo »
Has anyone noticed that Iraq, supposedly transformed into an oasis of peace and tranquility by George W. Bush's troop surge, is growing less peaceful and tranquil by the day?
The nation's attention has been riveted by the presidential campaign, with its compelling characters and its edge-of-your-seat story line. Iraq is treated almost as a theoretical issue: What would happen there if Barack Obama became president, as opposed to what would happen if Hillary Clinton became president, as opposed to what would happen if John McCain became president? There has been little debate about what's happening in Iraq right now.
That seems likely to change.… Seguir leyendo »
Twenty years ago, when The Post decided to send me to South America as a foreign correspondent, the first thing I did was run out and buy a copy of Evelyn Waugh's "Scoop." Published in 1938, Waugh's great comic novel charts the misadventures of William Boot, a mild-mannered columnist who normally ekes out a living by writing, badly, about the English countryside -- "Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole," goes one classic Boot line -- but mistakenly is sent to cover a civil war in the fictional African nation of Ishmaelia. High jinks ensue.
One of the book's many delights is its over-the-top depiction of the swashbuckling, cutthroat, hilariously amoral British press.… Seguir leyendo »
How did thousands of African Americans come to descend on the town of Jena, La., yesterday for a march and rally that brought to mind the heady days of the civil rights movement? The answer says as much about what has changed over the past half-century as it says about what hasn't.
Most people know the outlines of the story by now, but here's a synopsis: Black students at the local high school sat under a tree that everyone knew was a place where white students usually congregated. White students reacted by hanging three nooses in the tree. Racial tensions escalated from there, including fights in which both black and white students got roughed up, but no one was seriously injured.… Seguir leyendo »
The next six months in Iraq are crucial -- and always will be. That noise you heard yesterday on Capitol Hill was the can being kicked further down the road leading to January 2009, when George W. Bush gets to hand off his Iraq fiasco to somebody else.
It's clear by now that playing for time is the real White House strategy for Iraq. Everything else is tactical maneuver and rhetorical legerdemain -- nothing up my sleeve -- with which the administration is buying time, roughly in six-month increments. Appearing before a joint hearing called by the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, Gen.… Seguir leyendo »
If I were an iPhone owner, I'd be hopping mad. I'd be iRate.
Just 10 weeks ago, otherwise sane individuals were camping overnight in long lines for the privilege of paying $599 for a mobile phone. These people were fully aware that most wireless companies will give you a basic phone for free, but the object of their ardor was anything but basic. It was a lifestyle choice. It was an advertisement for oneself. It was a shiny little slice of the future, a thin slab of cool. So what if it cost, gulp, 600 bucks? How could anyone get hung up over anything so prosaic as the price?… Seguir leyendo »
The next time you hear confident assurances from the White House and its supporters that the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq is working and that something called "victory" is within sight, remember the Yazidis.
The who? Before Tuesday, you almost certainly would have asked that question -- before two villages in northern Iraq, populated by an obscure religious sect, suffered what is now officially the deadliest terrorist attack of the war, with more than 400 people confirmed dead. The final toll is expected to rise, but the coordinated suicide truck bombings in the Yazidi towns already constitute the second-worst terrorist attack of modern times, trailing only the carnage of Sept.… Seguir leyendo »
You might have thought that now isn't the most opportune time for the elected leaders of both the United States and Iraq to pack up and head to the beach, ranch or villa for a nice long vacation. Silly you.
You probably reasoned that with 162,000 U.S. troops sweltering in the war zone, with the Iraqi government fracturing along sectarian lines and with what is billed as a make-or-break report from the U.S. commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, due next month, maybe tradition ought to be ignored and the summer heat withstood just this once. You doubtless pointed out that no matter how uncomfortable triple-digit temperatures might be for the grandees of Washington and Baghdad, soldiers burdened with body armor and combat boots -- and the constant threat of getting shot or blown up -- have it a bit worse.… Seguir leyendo »
Several times a month, a woman calls my office in the middle of the night and leaves long voice-mail messages about how she's the target of a vast, sinister conspiracy. I won't give her name -- obviously, she suffers from a mental illness. The conspiracy she perceives involves the U.S. military, the CIA, interference with her brain waves and constant monitoring by the evil people who, for whatever reason, have decided that her thoughts somehow threaten their nefarious plans. Sometimes she disguises her voice and pretends to be a lieutenant in the heroic resistance against mind control.
She always seems upbeat and energized, and I think I understand why: This must be a great time to be a paranoid.… Seguir leyendo »
I should knock wood before writing this, but why is it that the United States hasn't seen attempted terrorist bombings similar to the ones that fizzled Friday and Saturday in Britain?
The investigation of the botched attacks in London and Glasgow is far from complete, and authorities can't even be certain that this spasm of intended mayhem has ended. With suspects still being rounded up, it's hard to tell where these plotters fit on the scale that runs from "trained al-Qaeda operative" all the way down to "deluded, suicidal wannabe."
From what we know so far, however, it doesn't seem that there was anything exotic, or even particularly sophisticated, about the materials used in the two car bombs that failed to explode near Piccadilly Circus.… Seguir leyendo »
Later in this column, I'm going to defend Britain's decision to award a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie, despite a sharp official complaint from the Pakistani government and bitter protests elsewhere in the Muslim world. But first, a story and some shameless name-dropping.
One day in 1993, when I was The Post's bureau chief in London, I got a phone call from a journalism acquaintance I barely knew, inviting me and my wife to dinner. I accepted, then almost immediately started thinking of reasons to back out -- I had other things to do, I needed a break from socializing, who was this guy anyway.… Seguir leyendo »