Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hey Obama: No John Brennan for CIA!

Nobody in Left Blogistan wants Obama to put John Brennan in charge of the CIA, due to his support of torture. People who have been particularly forthright about denouncing Bush's torture regime, like Sullivan and Greenwald, are particularly outraged at the possibility.

But John Brennan is a different matter. To appoint someone as CIA Director or Director of National Intelligence who was one of George Tenet's closest aides when The Dark Side of the last eight years was conceived and implemented, and who, to this day, continues to defend and support policies such as "enhanced interrogation techniques" and rendition (to say nothing of telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping), is to cross multiple lines that no Obama supporter should sanction. Truly turning a page on the grotesque abuses of the last eight years requires both symbolism (closing Guantanamo) and substantive policy changes (compelling adherence to the Army Field Manual, ensuring due process rights for all detainees, ending rendition, restoring safeguards on surveillance powers). Appointing John Brennan to a position of high authority would be to affirm and embrace, not repudiate, the darkest aspects of the last eight years.
Why is such a man even considered for the post under Obama? This man cannot end the taint of Bush-Cheney. He was Bush-Cheney. In fact, if Obama picks him, it will be a vindication of the kind of ambivalence and institutional moral cowardice that made America a torturing nation. It would be an unforgivable betrayal of his supporters and his ideals. It would be an acknowledgment that Tenet himself is not a war criminal, while the facts indisputably prove that he was.

In fact, I'd like to see much more evidence of whether Brennan himself is implicated in the war crimes and unlawfulness of the past eight years. If nominated, the Senate should find out. Whatever his qualities, Brennan is not change. He has even used Tenet's disgusting adoption of the Gestapo euphemism "enhanced interrogation."
If Obama is floating John Brennan as a trial balloon, I'd like to add Internal Monologue's guns to the blogospheric AA battery shooting it down. It is vital that we both substantively and symbollically utterly repudiate the moral and legal cesspool that is the Bush administration's torture regime. This appointment would not do so.

Note to liberals: Obama's election does not mean our work is over. He will be better than Bush. But he won't always do things the way we'd like. We have to exert pressure, rather than just sitting back and trusting his goodness will prevail. And of course sometimes we'll still lose. But not to even push would be a huge mistake.


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