A Different Kind Of Expendiency

So the OLC final torture memos are out. They make grim reading.

History helps put them into a broader context. How a new ruling regime attempts to radicalize and eventually suborn legal norms into ideological formlessness is an important barometer of their progress in freeing themselves from the despised Older Order’s shackles. The shirt or barracks color is not particularly relevant. It’s a manifestation of sociological and political science basic precepts.

The post immediate post-9/11 period and these memos are the more extreme examples of this phenomenon. But it would be a mistake to buy into that singular cause and effect narrative. The intent and even initial processes were pre-existing. Same process, albeit without the extra voltive charge of these examples, rolled down other silos of American life, government and expertise for 8 years: from the environment, NASA and science, civil economic and health safety regulations, etc. Professional isolation and insularity of each silo arising from American regulatory/legal/government complexities prevented an overall societal awareness to dawn for years.

Running on, running blind

CIA again both helped cause and bore the biggest brunt of the radicalist imperative. It was in many respects a no win situation.

White House demands for CIA to ‘act’ in response to this or that burning political imperative over the decades taught the Agency the hard way caution and bureaucratic self preservation. CIA learned the D.C. game of hard knocks – who would end up holding the bag when tempers and emotions cooled? White Houses and staff come and go. That this cynical caution was one of many reasons ushering in the Agency’s twilight and final destruction is also arguably true.

Obama’s decision to provide indemnification for officers and contractors who relied in good faith on OLC legal opinions is the correct if painful one. Without question a bureaucratic CYA element involved. But it’s also true that an officer or contractor is not expected to be a constitutional scholar. One familiar with constitutional law, the personalities at CIA, WH and OLC and customs and norms reading these memos easily sees their shoddy, subpar and brazenly amateurish analysis. And many officers wisely dodged this entire tar patch knowing its moral and career implications.

Government can not function if the government provides its employees the allegedly highest caliber legal sanction and then later subjects them to retroactive punitive measures based on demos’ current mood. Moreover, the statutory provisions for indemnification is a decades long established defense and Community legal framework to protect those providing governmental services from crushing liability. (Everything from space shuttle launches, etc.) It was the right call.

As Anon noted here last nite, not every situation is Nuremberg. It’s a facile historical factoid debased in a Youtube ‘public intellectual’ world. Administration defense and indemnification as set forth is limited to those officers and contractors operating in strict compliance with the appalling OLC green light. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the program exceeded in the field. Video destruction, etc. assumes greater saliency in this light.

Stabilization of liberal democracy remains our primary goal post-Warlord. War crimes do not have statute of limitations. Those who knowingly orchestrated OLC’s debasement and set the overall radicalization process in motion remain subject to prosecution. Obama is right to ignore the Olbermanns of the world and focus his immediate political capital going forward if by doing so the door remains open for creating the necessary factual record for a future reckoning.

Timing is also critical. The rump Movement *needs* a stab in the back betrayal meme and political theater to accelerate reconstitution. What a Pyhrric victory for Olbermann et al.’s heedless, zealous calls for prosecution to assist its over soon return.


  1. Anon says

    Yeah – lol – the proverbial hacky sack sighting would definately bother him – We do recall seeing William Rusher speak on campus once – following his chat, he puffed on his pipe and expounded on conservatism and the overall concern seemed to by style and aesthetic deviations that annoyed him. Bohemianism run amuck. Bohemians who did not even know they were bohemian – cue the slob in the corner with a Homer Simspson t-shirt belching.

  2. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Forgetting how to persuade is inevitable one supposes when long repressed anger and true intent are given release via actual unencumbered power. William Buckley noted the same problem when ‘conservatism’ gained power post 1994. Agree with you that the similarities across ADL, Pat’s diminished legions the general paleocon malaise are there.

    It would be like Pat walking across a college campus seeing kids with white earbuds kicking a hacky sack knowing the future was lost to him.

  3. Anon says

    This kind of Catholic panic – AL points to – Is not totally unlike the panic at adl. There are similar levels of delusion and resentmen – A general sense of loss consumes the paleocon Catholics (themselves cafeteria Catholics in denial). It’s the very dominance that makes them feel weak. Maybe Buchanan and Foxman have more in common than either is prepared to admit

  4. Anon says

    We often misspell hypocrisy as hypcracy – But we’ve come to think that this accident is actually an insight – an accidental insight – we live in a Hypocracy because hypocrisy is the coin of the realm.

  5. Anon says

    But Meridor is excellent compared to Abe Foxman – speaking afterward — Foxman, with out any sense of irony or self awareness, actually warned that we live in a time of “hypocracy” and then he actually couple that word with a pretend worry about “looming nuclear cloud” building over Iran. Foxman spoke like a man who is unaware, on some level, that most people don’t see it that way. He’s in a bubble. Is he really worried about Iranian nukes? We don’t have any idea. But if he is worried about that instead of worring about Israel developing good relations with its neighbors (basic statecraft), then he sort illustrates the problem.
    Foxman looked sad and his words rang hollow – He must sense the world he knows (good guys vs. pat buchanan) is slipping away. We doubt he voted for Obama – but he probably feels he has to tell people he did.

  6. Anon says

    We almost (but not quite) feel sorry for Amb. Sallie Meridor today as we watch him speak to the anti-defamation league.

    Most telling was his opening thank you to Elliot Abrams – a right winger with a criminal record.

    Gradually ADL has become a right wing organization – with all sorts of selective outrage about things and convienient memory about stuff it chooses to forget and ignore.
    Obama worries the whole crowd – they resent his popularity and the fact they have to pretend
    to like him.
    Many in the crowd still pretend to be liberals – and they like to think of themselves as liberals and as a minority group like blacks.
    But the amount or pretend and make believe has
    become overwhelming – Pretending that a far far far weaker Iran is looming threat to Israel’s security NOW has become difficult.
    Meridor is doing his best to act the part of man who is afraid his country might be attacked and destroyed any moment.
    But he is unconvincing at a time when Israel has to learn again how to convince people of things – rather than bludgeoning a meme.

  7. Anon says

    that link on techdirt was great – it would be pretty funny to demand a commission from a reporter if you appeared in a newstory under his byline

  8. Anon says

    re journalistic pomposity – J-schools, imo, are part of the problem – Also, the better journalists (sports, car enthusiasts, gadjet reporters, foodies, weapons, etc) all
    love their subject,
    But ‘elite’ journalists don’t really care about policy that much – they care about arc and narrative etc – and pecking orders etc. a really loathsome bunch. Frauds like Dave Broder loom large as grandees of old-skool whatever. MoDo etc has confessed boredom with policy etc.

  9. Dr Leo Strauss says

    An supplemental perspective: http://techdirt.com/articles/20090417/1544524544.shtml
    ‘Why ‘journalists’ may well possess the highest pomposity and vacuity on a societal utilization curve.

    It’s the same phenomenon that drives us to distraction watching ‘coverage’ on Detroit. The print and broadcast companies who can’t figure out a way to survive on outmoded business models for over 15 years pass judgment on Detroit’s ‘incompetence’ and lack of customer awareness’. Media grandees rage equally as hard as their Lockean dinner counterparts that why doesn’t [insert capitalism totem here] get that they are irreplaceable, blah, blah, blah – albeit our grandees vent over finer chardonnay.

  10. Anon says

    Whenever there is a partisan audience at these speaker sessions – left or right – questioners always have a tough time asking an actual question without prefacing an extensive preface with extra bio details about themselves – so it was with a woman questioning Winston lll – telling him that she was critical of Obama but was by no means a racist and, in fact, gave more money to charity than Joe Biden of all people.
    Winston tried to reply – reminding her that Bush started Tarp – Obama was continuing Tarp. She was unsatified – She did not really care about Tarp. Winston was puzzled – Was not Tarp the issue? The Banks?
    No – she stammered away upset that all that stuff she hears about Obama on talk radio and in direct mail (stuff Churchill is totally unaware of) is not being addressed.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      As General Ripper said to Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), “Mandrake, in the name of Her Majesty and the Continental Congress, feed me this [ammo] belt boy.”

      In truth the attendees there are not much different from their alleged betters at salons and parties in NYC or D.C. The latter are equally disconnected not only in directly analogous ways but also by more alarming indirect ignorance. Many, for example, bemoaning the death of print/their jobs have no idea what ‘value’, ‘profit’, ‘entrepreneur’, ‘risk’ really are other than words they have thrown around for 40 years.

      The John Locke attendees clearly are bewildered a Churchill wouldn’t oppose Fascist Socialism on its face. But their ‘betters’ are equally bewildered that a free market economy won’t provide them guaranteed income security because of ‘who they are’ and ‘their ideas.’ And in turn the Locke attendees perhaps more clear headed about economic truths on the ground.

  11. Anon says

    Tremendous humor tonight – disconnectdness – on c-span – with Winston Churchill lll speaking at the John Locke foundations in Charlotte, NC.

    Churchill seemed somewhat surprised to find this is only a Locke meeting in a name sense – It’s actually a hard right wing Movement type audience filled with people who hear Rush as Gospel and regard Obama as socialist (bizarre from a Euro understanding of that term).

    So Churchill is questioned by people in the audience who are totally puzzled and flummoxed by what seems to be his pro Obama tilt.

    Churchill replies, as if he were replying to the traditional Obama critiques he reads in FT and the Economist (Obama should do a bit more x and a bit less y and should move troops here or not there etc).

    But the audience feels very unsatified – they don’t understand how he can praise Maggie and not hate Obama (forgetting the distinction of Thatcher’s 95 percent tax rates and Obama bringing back Clinton’s rates).

    Moans from the audience when Churchill says he has never heard or read anything Obama that indicates socialism (as most Europeans would say).

    But ofcourse socialism is really “socialism” – a code word that includes everything bad Dan Pipes might say about George Mitchell being hired or Obama being pro Palestine or maybe Obama being bad at bowling or maybe his bittergate or whatever.

  12. Anon says

    Interesting – Kristol has just cast aside that elliot cohen meme we discussed the other day – Obama was wrong because he defied the brass’s best wishes, saith Kristol.

  13. Anon says

    The literary smugness in Bybee’s style is pretty telling – His tone is that of someone pretending to weigh great issues a la OW Holmes or Charles Evans Hughes – But he’s just a little man thug hiding behind the authority of his office. He does not bother to explain why previous prescedent is wrong – He just sort of Judges this or that from on high. On can imagine him being swayed by the latest article on phrenology – he deals in even more dubious areas.
    He would have been better off just saying ‘let’s beat the s*** out of some arabs’
    It’s sad to imagine some young intelligence officer joining the agency with certain things in mind – like obtaining missle technology from hostile powers or tracking flows of funds or stealing valuable diplomatic secrets – Suddenly he finds himself in the razzle and some neocons just want him to urinate on a Muslim to snag a false confession.

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