It was high drama of the most intense kind, the articulate and reasoning President Barack Obama versus the hunched over, combative and even defensive ex-vice president Dick Cheney. So was this bare-knuckle brawl really all about torture, Guantanamo Bay, Al Qaeda and the now discarded "war on terror"; or was it really about American values, the rule of law and even the very foundation of the American state? More important, was it really about the architect of the Bush era "enhanced interrogation techniques" firing a pre-emptive strike as he sees the net closing in on all those involved in their authorisation?
Against the backdrop of the parchment copies of the American constitution in the rotunda of the National Archives and after a month-long simmering attack on his repudiation of the worst aspects of the Bush administration's "war on terror", President Obama came out swinging in a 21 May speech on national security. "Far from making us safe," he forcefully stated, "the misguided, enhanced interrogation techniques authorised by the Bush administration and the setting up of the Guantanamo Bay facility have left us in a mess." Insisting that America's adherence to the rule of law had been undermined, President Obama defended his decision to close the Cuban facility and to bring even the most hard-core Al Qaeda terrorists to mainland America to stand trial under the tried and tested law of the land.
"We lost our way," he said, pulling no J punches. "Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America's strongest currency in the world. We went off course."
This followed a setback the day before when the United States Senate voted 90 to five to deny President Obama the $80m he requested for the closing of the Cuban facility. In doing so, America's worst fears were on display; the previous eight years of warmongering by the Bush administration on display for all to see. Adding fuel to the fire, a visibly uncomfortable Senator Harry Reid, Democratic leader in the upper house, then went before the TV cameras and bumbled through a barely understandable explanation, his insistence that "all senators are adamant that we will not allow terrorists to be released in our states" being so far off the mark that it made no sense whatsoever. No administration official had even mentioned turning loose any prisoners on American soil, only the use of maximum security prisons--the so-called Supermax facilities--in Montana and Colorado...