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April 22, 2009

Another Spectacular Success For Media Memory Hole


The Abu Ghraib story was broadcast on Sixty Minutes on April 28, 2004. One of the first times Bush addressed it was on May 6, in prepared remarks with King Abdullah of Jordan in the Rose Garden:

BUSH: We also talked about what has been on the TV screens recently, not only in our own country, but overseas -- the images of cruelty and humiliation. I told His Majesty as plainly as I could that the wrongdoers will be brought to justice, and that the actions of those folks in Iraq do not represent the values of the United States of America...

I assured him Americans, like me, didn't appreciate what we saw, that it made us sick to our stomachs.

On April 16, 2009, the Obama administration released the main Justice Department torture memos. Five days later, Obama met with King Abdullah in Abdullah's first visit to the White House since he took office, and then took questions. The most obvious thing in the world to ask would have been whether Obama stood by Bush's commitment that "the wrongdoers will be brought to justice."

Of course, the White House press corps failed to do so—even after Obama's response to the questions that one reporter did ask about the memos:

Q: You were clear about not wanting to prosecute those who carried out the instructions under this legal advice. Can you be that clear about those who devised the policy? And then quickly on a second matter, how do you feel about investigations, whether special -- a special commission or something of that nature on the Hill to go back and really look at the issue?

OBAMA: For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it's appropriate for them to be prosecuted.

With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws, and I don't want to prejudge that. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there.

As a general deal, I think that we should be looking forward and not backwards. I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively, and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations.

Moreover, not a single news outlet mentioned Bush's five-year-old commitment.

So, President Bush pledges to Abdullah in front of the world that the wrongdoers will be brought to justice. Almost exactly five years later, when the wrongdoers are known to have included the highest levels of the Bush administration, Abdullah visits the White House again, and no one anywhere in the media remembers it ever happened. Success!

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at April 22, 2009 10:43 PM

Yeah, he was 'gonna get' OSAMA BIN LADEN and whoever outed VALERIE PLAME too.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 23, 2009 01:06 AM

I'm sure both leaders appreciate our media's discretion:

From 2001 until at least 2004, Jordan's General Intelligence Department (GID) served as a proxy jailer for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ... More than just warehousing these men, the GID interrogated them using methods that were even more brutal than those in which the CIA has been implicated to date.

...While in GID detention in late 2002, one of these prisoners, Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, wrote a long note describing his ordeal...Consistent with what al-Sharqawi told two fellow prisoners at GID at the time, the note states that the GID interrogators "beat me in a way that does not know any limits.... [They said] we'll make you see death."

Posted by: Carl at April 23, 2009 02:53 AM

Oh right, there's that sense of hopelessness I'd lost. It's like a well-worn pair of shoes.

Posted by: Dayv at April 23, 2009 03:02 AM

That’s some hard hitting journalism alright. I’m sure someone is looking into the matter right now. I believe I have pinpointed the change we can believe in. In 2004 blue ties were in for national leader attire while in 2009 I see that maroon ties are preferred.

Posted by: Rob Payne at April 23, 2009 03:18 AM

Very nice catch. Americans might remember if King Abdullah held hands with both presidents as they walked. I wanted to try to be funny about it, but actually I think it's true. Oh, fuck it-- maybe we should all pass the time with a game of solitaire.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 23, 2009 04:34 AM

I like this maneuver, I do, it's a stroke of genius: President Barack Obama opened the door on Tuesday to possible prosecutions of US officials who laid the legal groundwork for harsh interrogation... Yes! Go Obama!

I'm sure they already calculated that no one will ever be indicted, let alone convicted, for writing a friggin legal opinion.

Posted by: abb1 at April 23, 2009 04:38 AM

George W. who?

Posted by: SteveB at April 23, 2009 08:38 AM

It is always this kind of crap from the media. We MUST work on media reform. I think a representative media system must be established by the people. Begging mainstream medai to do a good job will not work. See my latest video: Good News Stories Plus Solutions: Media Reform

Posted by: Tom at April 23, 2009 08:41 AM

"The most obvious thing in the world to ask would have been whether Obama stood by Bush's commitment that 'the wrongdoers will be brought to justice.'"

C'mon, Jon, get your mind out of the past. Obama has his vision turned forward! Onward! Upward! Outward! You've got to get your memory under better control.

Posted by: Duncan at April 23, 2009 09:45 AM

The press knows Bush's commitments weren't worth shit, Jonathan. So they ignored them, same as I and everybody else did.

Posted by: Jay Gold at April 23, 2009 11:59 AM

The press knows Bush's commitments weren't worth shit, Jonathan. So they ignored them, same as I and everybody else did.

Posted by: Jay Gold at April 23, 2009 11:59 AM

But weren't the guards at Abu Ghraib tried and convicted and punished? So Bush made good on his promise. What's the worry?

Posted by: Seth at April 23, 2009 01:56 PM

No argument on the passivity of the media, but Obama's statement (the part in between the the passages you bold-faced) is actually the most legally correct statements he's made about accountability for the torture policy. That is, that the wrongdoers in the previous White House may, indeed, be prosecuted, and that it's not his decsion to make but the Attorney General's.

Unsatisfactory as they may be, these comments are hugely preferable to his statement accompanying the release of the Office of Legal Counsel memos. They were also a significant walk-back of Emanuel's and Gibbs' assertions in recent days the administration position was for no prosecutions of anyone in the previous administration for torture.

Media coverage of the same remarks you excerpt "bolded" the passage in between your bolded passages, and I don't think it was wrong to do so.

Posted by: Nell at April 24, 2009 11:46 AM

Hey, no offense, but "duh" on this one, guys. Don't you remember that the Press emailed Bush after that speech and asked if he minded if they put him on the record? And that he politely declined? Can you give the guy *some* respect at least?

Posted by: Guest at April 24, 2009 08:44 PM

BTW, The King, is he a retard? He looks like a retard, not that anything is wrong with that.

Posted by: abb1 at April 25, 2009 06:06 AM