Monthly Archives: January 2009
Questions about President Obama's executive orders on the incarceration and interrogation of detainees
The big news of this week: Obama’s first executive orders were not the reversal of the Mexico City Policy (as every major media source and not a few bloggers had predicted, and for which Obama waited until Friday) but the reversal of notable Bush administration’s policies on the incarceration and interrogation of detainees:
President Obama signed executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.The orders, which are the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.
And the orders bring to an end a Central Intelligence Agency program that kept terrorism suspects in secret custody for months or years, a practice that has brought fierce criticism from foreign governments and human rights activists. They will also prohibit the C.I.A. from using coercive interrogation methods, requiring the agency to follow the same rules used by the military in interrogating terrorism suspects, government officials said.
However, while some cheerleaders for Obama are already hailing an end to the gestapo-inspired “enhanced interrogration techniques”, a review of critical responses — from the political “right” AND “left” — suggests that the President’s gesture is more symbolic and an exercise in moral posturing. It appears that serious questions remain about what is actually accomplished by President Obama’s recent executive orders.
One of the most frequently voiced criticisms of right-leaning Catholics is that they were insufficiently critical of the Bush Administration over the past eight years. According to this criticism, conservative Catholics were too eager to paper over the faults of the Bush Administration, and they failed to object at critical points to the Administration’s policies. While such generalizations can be problematic, I agree with this critique in broad outline. One of the lessons I’ve taken from the past eight years is that this is a temptation that must be consciously resisted.
It’s hard to express my disappointment, then, at the recent post entitled Mexico City? Try Gaza Instead…over at Vox Nova. Here’s the post:
Something for the weekend. Another in my ongoing series of posts related to Lincoln leading up to his 200th birthday on February 12, 2009. The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe. Lincoln loved the Battle Hymn of the Republic. After he first heard it performed, he asked, with tears in his eyes, that it be sung again. Fittingly, it was sung at his funeral.
On the cold and rainy day of October 13, 1917 A.D. in the Cova da Iria fields near Fatima, Portugal, three shepherd children along with an estimated crowd of 100,000 witnessed the Miracle of the Sun. The sun danced and zig-zagged its way towards the crowd for approximately 10 minutes where it then suddenly ceased and returned to it’s natural position. The moment the sun ceased what was previously a wet and soaked crowd became dry along with the grass, dirt, shrubs, and trees in the within the surrounding area. Many miracles were reported as well as sitings as far away as Poland and Italy.
The following is a compilation of photographs taken that very day.
For more information go here.
In the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, a small group of Catholic and Evangelical Protestant intellectuals and activists, while saying that they personally support legal protection for the unborn and oppose the redefinition of marriage, promoted the candidacy of Barack Obama, who made no secret of his intention to wipe out the entire range of laws restricting or discouraging abortion and embryo-destructive research, or of his opposition to all state and federal initiatives (such as California Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act) to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. These men and women assured their fellow Christians and other social conservatives that Obama’s economic policies would reduce the incidence of abortion, and they promised that Obama was being honest when he said that he was opposed to “same-sex marriage.”
Despite these assurances, we fear that the Obama administration will swiftly begin an assault on pro-life laws and pro-marriage policies.
There have been some refreshingly candid (if not entirely harmonious) conversations over at Mirror of Justice recently about the blog’s mission as it approaches its fifth anniversary. Mirror of Justice is a great resource for Catholic legal scholarship, and it has a diverse set of contributors with different perspectives on Catholic legal theory.
I have thoughts about many of the issues that have come up, but one topic that I found especially interesting was the discussion of generational differences.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court, and also the day of the annual March For Life. It was also the anniversary of the day on which President Clinton had reversed Reagan’s Mexico City Policy, which denies US funds slated for international family planning services to any organization which provides or refers people to abortions. And the anniversary of the day on which President Bush reinstated the policy.
Given that President Obama had promised to move quickly to rescind the policy again as Clinton had, news organizations ranging from Lifesite News to NPR reported that he would probably follow his predescessor’s lead by issuing an executive order on abortion on January 22nd as well. It was thus mildly surprising when the Christian Broadcasting Network broke the story that Obama would not rescind the policy on the day of the March for Life. A few Catholic progressives got carried away and scolded their anti-Obama bretheren for jumping the gun, and it was more widely suggested this was a sign of the sort of approach Obama would take to moral issues more widely: treading slowly and granting respect to his opponents views.
- On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the oath of office in his attempt to recite it from memory while swearing in Barack Obama.
- The following day, for good measure, Obama took the oath again:
Obama and Roberts went through the drill again out of what White House counsel Greg Craig called “an abundance of caution.”
This time, the scene was the White House Map Room in front of a small group of reporters, not the Capitol platform before the whole watching world.
“We decided that because it was so much fun …,” Obama joked to reporters
Later on, Vice President Biden attempted to get in a cheap shot at Roberts while swearing in the senior members of White House Staff:
Obama: Joe, you want to administer the oath?
Biden: Am I doing this again? Oh! For the senior staff. My memory’s not as good as Justice Roberts‘ … Chief Justice Roberts.
Obama, not looking amused, gave Biden a tap on his back with his right hand in an attempt to get his VP back on track.
The oath then took place without any more incidents, but Biden did get some laughs from staffers and the press corps.
- Biden then proceeded to flub the oath while administering it to Colorado Sen. Michael Bennett.
I haven’t seen 22 weeks yet, but I’m going to, and I think all pro-lifers should. It brings home the ugly reality of abortion and the bitter grief and despair that inexorably, in this world or the next, each abortion brings. Here is a review. May God forgive us all for this great evil that flourishes in our land and in our world. Abortion is the ultimate taking of the gracious gift of life, and spitting in the face of He who granted it. Humanity has the capacity for so much good, and this great evil drags us down lower, much lower, than the innocent beasts. I pray that I will live to see the day when abortion will be viewed with the same horror that we now view slavery.
Let’s sit down and play a game. I’m sure some of you are familiar with it, but for those who are not, the game may need a little description. First, the game is entitled “I win.” No, no, come back, it is a fun game, I promise! Here’s the rules: I win. No matter what you do, I win. If you follow the rules, I win. If you don’t follow the rules, then you have forfeited, and I win. Pretty simple, right?
Hollywood celebrities inspired by President Obama engage in more expelling of hot air. The indispensable Iowahawk provides us with commentary. (Content advisory: some rough language.)
Continuing in the spirit of good will following the inauguration, I thought I would take this opportunity to emphasize a matter on which President Obama and I appear to agree. Namely, if this video is any indication, he and I have a similar opinion of his Vice President.
One hears rather often that George W. Bush has ended his presidency with record low approval ratings. Some articles I’ve read have said (apparently incorrectly) that they are the lowest ever.
The above was sent to me yesterday, and it provides an interesting comparison. Two presidents left office with approvals as low as Bush’s: Truman, who faced a struggling post-war economy and a increasingly difficult situation in the Korean War; and Nixon, who was in the middle of being impeached when he resigned.
History has been far kinder to Truman, overall, than Nixon. Indeed, I suspect that few people know that Truman ended his presidency as unpopular as Nixon and Bush. Certainly, I hadn’t realized it. It remains to be seen whether, in 50 years time, Bush will be seen as more like the former or the latter.
At the advent of a presidency that has been accused of being the most pro-choice in history, there’s some good news.
Wyoming is now considering jumping on the bandwagon of trying to make abortions more difficult. There are currently three bills before the legislature dealing with the topic of abortion. The first, and one that draws all manner of painful cries from NARAL and other pro-choice organizations, is the requirement that any pregnant woman seeking an abortion must have an ultrasound performed. The complaints here focus on the lack of equipment in some regions of the state, supposedly barring some women from being able to undergo the procedure. To this, I have to roll my eyes. There are people in Wyoming who have to drive two or three hours to reach a grocery store. You have to spend at least an hour on the road to go from one significant town to the next. I think travelling to Casper or Cheyenne or one of our other “large” towns for such an “important” procedure shouldn’t be beyond most Wyomingites’ ability. Of course, the real point is that if a woman sees her baby in the ultrasound, she’ll be smitten with a bout of guilt and won’t be able to go through with it. There’s a reason why we have the phrase “Out of sight, out of mind.”
A follow up to Darwin’s post. I do not think that the United States is an empire, at least in the manner of past empires, and I do not wish to reopen that debate here. I am more intrigued by the question of whether an empire has to be evil by definition. I think it is an undeniable fact of history that, as is the case with all forms of human government, there have been evil empires, the Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union top that list, mostly good empires, the British Empire I think is the prime example, and mixed empires, the Roman and the Spanish empires come to mind. Even a mostly good empire can be hard to live under, as the Founding Fathers and my Irish ancestors would attest, and even an evil empire will have its adherents. Like any human institution an empire has to be judged on its record. The best empires I think are those which bring peace and allow for trade and the exchange of ideas among different peoples. The wisest empires understand that no human institution can last forever and help to prepare by their actions their peoples for the day when the empire will be one with Nineveh and Tyre.
Pope Benedict XVI congratulates President Barack Obama; Cardinal George proposes "an agenda for dialogue and action"
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
On the occasion of your inauguration as the Forty-fourth president of the United States of America I offer cordial good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers that the Almighty God will grant you unfailing wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high responsibilities.