President Obama’s decision not to release photos of abused detainees really bothers me. I know that he now feels differently than he did during the campaign, probably because of what his higher security clearance has made clear to him. He’s also backtracking on some promises made about Guantanamo. Now inmates there who he once believed should be tried or released, he’d like to keep indefinitely. Supple thinking is a good thing in a president, as we have certainly learned over the past eight years. Those same eight years, however, have also taught us to think long and hard when our president tells us we have to trust that he’s doing something for the right reasons. For national security reasons. That just gives me a real wiggins after Bush. I want to trust Pres. Obama, but I truly wish I didn’t have to take his word for this one.
The decision to keep the photos under wraps made me uncomfortable, denying people we know we can’t convict their release makes me queasy. Dick Cheney’s bizarre jockeying for position helped crystallize my thinking about it all, oddly enough. I, like many others, think Cheney’s all over the place so that if or when there’s another terrorist attack on the US, he can say he knew better than the current administration. He’s wrong. He was wrong about torture, and he’s wrong to think his phony war made people safer. He’s wrong to think that giving up any bit of freedom in order to be safe is worthwhile. But is the Obama administration right? Can we sacrifice our loftiest ideals for safety’s sake? The Constitution doesn’t apply to foreign nationals, but can we hold prisoners forever, without public trials, and still be true to that foundation?
Memorial Day is when we celebrate and honor the men and women who gave their lives for our country. They did so because they believed in the freedoms they protected. We, lowly individuals, are not those freedoms. The liberty this country promises is greater and more enduring than any single human could ever be. No one gets out of here alive anyway, and we can’t take our freedoms with us. They remain, beacons to a world where no one is as free as a US citizen. Ideals aren’t just pretty words we toss around when everybody’s feeling secure. They’re real, they mean something to citizens and to the wider world. Preventing an attack may save lives, but we would do better to value the Constitution above all our individual lives. Betraying America’s promise will only dishonor those who died for it.