January 2009: Obama Signs EO to Close Gitmo and Stop Torture
Trump's Next EO: “Keep Gitmo Open and Sustain Torture”
In one of his first acts as president (photo above) former President Obama signed executive orders closing this country’s secret prisons overseas, banning torture and authorizing an end to the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba – this story from here (NY Times).
Standing behind Mr. Obama in the above photo (in the Oval Office on January 22, 2009, were 16 retired generals and admirals who had his back, figuratively as well as literally. They were hardly soft-on-terrorism types).
A few of them were lifelong Republicans. But these military men, working with Human Rights First, felt a moral imperative to oppose torture. They were convinced that it not only trampled core American principles, but also produced useless intelligence while potentially endangering United States troops who might fall into enemy hands.
A leader of that group was James Cullen, a retired brigadier general who had begun Army life as a private during the Vietnam War. He became a lawyer, serving for many years in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and later in private practice. In alliance with the human rights group, he and his once-uniformed colleagues lobbied major politicians to support a ban on coercive interrogations. General Cullen died recently in Scarsdale, NY at age 72. His death is a reminder of how former military men and women of conscience and courage can provide helpful support for the civilian leadership — and, if necessary, be a bulwark against the worst instincts that at times grab hold of it.
Now today: Obama didn’t fully get his way since today Guantánamo, though reduced to a few dozen prisoners, is still operating, but Trump more than once has expressed full faith in the harsh methods described euphemistically as enhanced interrogation techniques (which is the buzzword for torture).
Call his remarks and such as a WTF moment in our history with a president whose respect for the rule of law is meager and whose expressed affinity for example: waterboarding and even in his own words: “A hell of a lot worse” is needed.
Now Trump has surrounded himself with retired generals, and many Americans are counting on them to restrain his most reckless impulses. The endless barrage of insults and threats from the tweeter in chief — plus decisions running counter to sound national security policy — shows that efforts to rein him in have been mixed at best.