Contrary to conventional wisdom there is never going to be a deadline reached at which the legacy of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should be forgotten. Not because some of us might justifiably have a grudge. But because their legacy lives on with real life consequences. George and Dick were sold to us as the A-Team. They knew what was best for the economy, their stellar national security and foreign policy expertise were the standard by which all future policies would be measured. Even given the span of two terms Bush and Cheney’s policies, trumpeted regularly by his supporters on TV and in print, turned out to be dismal failures. Then and now Dick Cheney, who has the gull to pop up occasionally and offer up his expertise, was a former Secretary of Defense under Reagan ( where he cut ten divisions from the armed forces) was always cast as the national security expert. On that basis, or that continued misplaced perception, many conservatives would like to see him as president in 2012. Out of office in 2009 Dick Cheney said this about President Obama’s national security policies,
As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. [. . .] He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war.
For seven years Cheney and like-minded sycophants used similar language to attack anyone that dared disagree with the mighty voice of right-wing authority on all things pertaining to terrorism. Critics of the Bush administration were more than wrong they were terrorist sympathizers. There was always that arrogance of absolute tactical and moral authority. To their credit it was a clever tactic. Stick to a message that appealed to the base fears of much of the public and repeat daily. Silencing the Lawyers
A total of 779 prisoners have been held in Guantánamo in connection with the war on terror. Five hundred seventy-nine were released, most by the Bush Administration, a quiet recognition of errors made in the decisions to detain them. A large number of those still detained are contesting their imprisonment through habeas corpus—under which the government must make a minimal showing that it has a reasonable basis for holding the prisoner. In roughly three-quarters of these cases so far (36 out of 50 decided), which are being heard before largely Republican-appointed, conservative federal judges in Washington, the court has found that the United States has no reason to hold the prisoner.
[ ]…What happened to the 600–800 Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders for whom the prison was originally conceived? We now have a pretty good idea. In the late fall of 2001, military operations in Afghanistan were successful, and Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership figures had fled to two last redoubts—the city of Kunduz in the northeast, and the Tora Bora region along the Pakistani frontier. But for reasons known only to him, Vice President Dick Cheney ordered a halt to the bombardment of Kunduz and opened an air corridor to allow the Pakistani military to airlift the Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders out of Kunduz. The maneuver was ridiculed by one U.S. military official present at the time as “Operation Evil Airlift.” The United States quickly moved to fill Gitmo with nobodies.
The Conservative A-Team of terror fighting let Bin Laden get away at Tora Bora, squandered victory in Afghanistan and assisted Al Qaeda. To shore up their reputations as the national security pros the Bush administration threw a combination of predominately low-level stooges and innocent bystanders into Gitmo. Some lawyers have been successful at pushing the cases of those detainees for whom the reasons for detainment are dubious. The mythical legacy of Bush-Cheney and the conservative movement as the Gurus of national security has and continues to come undone. What can conservatives do to stop the ever widening erosion of their national security credentials. They can persecute the lawyers, who are proving to Bush appointed judges no less, for exposing the ineptitude and lawlessness of the Bush administration’s actions in the “war on terror”.
Instead, influential Republicans in Congress are crying out for an investigation of the lawyers. Florida Republican Jeff Miller has secured a provision in the current defense appropriations act (PDF) requiring that the Defense Department’s inspector general “conduct an investigation of the conduct and practices of lawyers” who represent clients at Guantánamo if there is some reason to believe that they “interfered with the operations” at Gitmo or “violated any applicable policy of the Department.” Of course, as Steven Vladeck has explained, in the thinking of the Bush era, prisoners were to be held at Gitmo without access to attorneys or the ability to make legal arguments, so everything that the defense counsel did amounted to “interference with the operations”–starting with securing a series of Supreme Court decisions holding that those operations were illegal.
The defense counsel working at Guantánamo have been subjected to a barrage of officially sponsored indignities. They have been tarred with ethnic slurs and accusations of homosexuality, accused of undermining national security, subjected to continual petty harassment. They have also had their livelihoods threatened through appeals to their paying clients. These events have been reported as separate incidents in the press, but this conduct results from a carefully orchestrated Bush Administration policy that goes under the rubric of “lawfare.” With the Bush Administration out of power, these efforts have been taken up by former Vice President Dick Cheney, his daughter, and a collection of Republican hacks. There’s nothing remotely “disgraceful” about the efforts of defense counsel to identify witnesses and collect evidence, and to prove torture if indeed torture was used. That’s the essence of justice. Congressman Miller is afraid that the truth of what happened to these prisoners will be fully exposed and that they may be proven innocent.