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Obama Changes Course on Antiterrorism

A Commentary By Michael Barone

Monday, May 18, 2009

Step by step, Barack Obama has been reversing himself on antiterrorist policy. Last month, he announced he would not appeal a federal court decision ordering the government to release photographs of terrorist interrogations. This was in line with his decision to release on April 16 four memoranda prepared by the Bush administration Justice Department on that subject.

But that didn't end political debate, as Obama apparently hoped, but heated it up. Dick Cheney demanded the release of memoranda showing whether the interrogations had produced intelligence that saved American lives. Left Democrats protested Obama's decision to rule out prosecution of CIA interrogators, while conservatives decried his refusal to rule out prosecutions of Bush administration lawyers (a matter for Attorney General Eric Holder, he said, as if he couldn't issue a direct order). Word was given out that Holder would decide against prosecutions. Then, last week, Obama reversed himself and said the government would appeal the court order and not release the photographs.

All of which explodes the meme, propagated by left Democrats and mainstream media, that Guantanamo was some kind of gulag and the treatment of detainees a war crime. Europeans cheered when Obama announced Guantanamo would be closed but have volunteered to take few if any detainees. Chairman David Obey of the House Appropriations Committee won't pony up money to send them elsewhere until the administration announces its plans, while Senate appropriations said it will provide money only if they're not sent to the United States.

Why all these Obama reversals? There is a cynical explanation and a non-cynical explanation. The cynical explanation is that candidate Obama was happy to exploit the issue when he was seeking the votes of the many Democratic primary participants who wanted America to lose in Iraq, but now is backtracking when he is facing a larger constituency most of which wants America to prevail and Americans to be protected. You go where the votes are.

He knew that thousands of Americans following his orders would die, as more did in the next few days than have in six years in Iraq.

COPYRIGHT 2009 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

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