On Thursday President Obama will deliver his much anticipated address to the “Muslim world” in Cairo, Egypt. The principal goal of the speech is to lay a foundation for better relations between the United States and the peoples of the region. Tin eared statements from President Bush – such as saying that America was on a “crusade” following 9-11 – along with the scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and the falsehoods and incompetence that surrounded the invasion of Iraq, all served to tarnish America’s image in the region. The collapse of America’s moral authority under President Bush will not be fixed by a single speech, but the speech is part of a larger comprehensive strategy of engagement that is actively being pursued by the Obama administration.
Today, John Boehner and the Republican House leadership are introducing legislation to keep Guantanamo detainees from being transferred to facilities in the United States. They claim that this serves American security. But the reality is that our criminal justice system has a long history of holding hardened terrorists successfully, including the perpetrator of the first World Trade Center attacks, numerous 9/11 conspirators, the Shoe Bomber and Timothy McVeigh. But John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and other Republicans in Congress continue to claim that the men and women who run our prisons and help keep America safe can’t do their jobs.
Five years ago, Dan Rather of CBS News reported systemic abuse of prisoners under U.S. control at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The shocking photos not only brought shame to the United States but served as a tremendous recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.
Last Thursday, the Obama administration released classified Bush-era legal memos in an effort to turn the page and provide transparency on the policy of torture pursued by the Bush administration. In response, Bush administration officials, worried about their failed reputations and legacy, vigorously attacked the Obama administration – claiming that revealing Bush-era torture techniques makes America less safe. With the release of these memos, conservatives have revealed their true colors, moving the debate from whether “enhanced interrogation” constitutes torture to simply arguing that torture works and that the United States should torture.