PJ Media

Obama's Safe and Cozy Pretend World

Most of those who claim torture is never justified, and most of those who believe closing Guantanamo will not endanger America’s national security — but will in fact make America safer — are pretending.

They delude themselves. The others? They are either disingenuous or lying through their teeth.

Pelosi has been the standard bearer for the latter, constantly refining her story about what she knew and when she knew it, as facts emerge to contradict each new version. But Pelosi’s lies are fooling no one outside of the hard left, America-hating mob. Obama, by contrast, makes his pitch to the reasonable man, to those who want to be good and prefer not to think too long or hard about the consequences.

Obama has for the most part been careful to stop short of lying when talking about torture and Guantanamo — he relies on straw men, non sequiturs, selective omission, and other rhetorical tricks. And his disingenuous talk is more of a threat than Pelosi’s blatant dishonesty, as it’s more persuasive to those who can’t be bothered by opposing views — or to research the facts for themselves.

With the help of an obsequious media, Obama has managed to create the impression that he’s dismantling the most controversial Bush administration policies while substantively keeping them in place. In the process, he’s repeatedly denigrated his predecessor and those who served under him.

Obama tied the various threads of his pretend national security policy together in his May 21 speech at the National Archives. He pretended that waterboarding was “torture,” using the term interchangeably with “enhanced interrogation.” Experts disagree as to whether waterboarding constitutes the legal definition of torture, and you can call it torture if you wish, but if waterboarding is torture then it’s the first form of torture that journalists and radio personalities have willingly subjected themselves to in the name of “research.”

When those same people agree to have their fingernails pulled out, perhaps we can take their claims that waterboarding is torture seriously.

Having pretended that waterboarding is torture, Obama went on to pretend that it doesn’t work. There is, of course, plenty of evidence that it does work, but Obama and his allies must pretend it doesn’t so that their criticism sounds pragmatic rather than partisan.

Obama similarly sought to mislead on Guantanamo Bay, pretending that it has become a rallying cry for America’s enemies — when the very existence of the U.S., democracy, women’s rights, and freedom of religion is what has always riled the Islamists.

He also pretended that the mere fact of Guantanamo’s existence has damaged America’s standing in the eyes of the world, rather than the relentless and mendacious campaign waged against it by Democrats, activist lawyers, assorted celebrities, and the media. Closing the detention center will not appease those people, because their opposition is based not on concerns about Guantanamo, but at best on naked political opportunism and at worst on sympathy with the motives of the Islamic extremists held there. And while Obama may have bought himself some good press by bribing the government of Palau to take some of the 17 Chinese Uighurs from Guantanamo (thus not only giving a hostage to fortune, but setting the stage for Survivor: Last Terrorist Standing), if detainees are moved to the U.S. then Supermax or Fort Leavenworth will quickly replace Gitmo in the lexicon of anti-Americanism.

Most disgraceful of all were Obama’s claims that President Bush’s policies have made America less safe, and that the use of “torture” might cause terrorists to mistreat American troops seized on the battlefield. As if — should Guantanamo close tomorrow — the jihadists would limit their attacks to U.S. military targets overseas rather than trying to think up new ways of killing as many civilians as possible on American soil. As if — in the absence of waterboarding — al-Qaeda would send captured Americans to Red Cross-approved camps, rather than behead them live on the internet.

Britain doesn’t run Guantanamo and doesn’t waterboard, but that didn’t stop al-Qaeda from murdering a British hostage in Africa on Wednesday.


Obama’s remarks were bad enough even before they were thrown into sharp relief by the murder of Private William Long in Arkansas by an Islamist fanatic. Bush kept America safe for seven-and-a-half years; if you apply the lazy logic of the left, Obama managed to keep the country safe for a little over four months. But Obama — who never misses an opportunity to allude to “fearmongering” by his predecessor and by his current opposition — must pretend that America’s security has been endangered by Guantanamo so that he can scare people into supporting his policies.

Most compelling of Obama’s disingenuous arguments is that Guantanamo and waterboarding have caused Americans to abandon the moral high ground — that we’re no better than the terrorists they’re fighting. But again, the president is pretending. Guantanamo is an imperfect solution to a problem not of America’s making. And no one, Obama included, has yet come close to devising a better one.

When American forces “torture” terror suspects, they do so as a last resort in order to save innocent lives. When the jihadists torture their victims, it’s recreational — they inflict pain for their own gratification and to intimidate those who would resist them.

Thankfully, it’s becoming increasingly evident that for all of Obama’s rhetorical sleight of hand, the American public is unconvinced. The plot to indict former Bush officials over the “torture memos” backfired spectacularly, with Pelosi the main victim. Moderate Democrats have rebelled against Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo. And Dick Cheney’s national security speech, which effectively demolished each of Obama’s arguments minutes after he presented them, ended the president’s monopoly on moralizing and got the public to discuss the substance of the issues.

Polling on Guantanamo and torture suggest Americans are either evenly split on the two issues or support the use of torture in exceptional circumstances by a small majority and support keeping Guantanamo open by a large majority. Given that years of MSM propaganda has both prevented people from learning the facts and led them to answer pollsters with the “correct” positions rather than with what they truly think, the actual numbers are likely a lot higher.

Human nature makes us want to feel good about ourselves and to believe the best about others. In the case of terrorism, it’s easier and more comforting to believe that someone wants to do bad things to you because you’ve done bad things to them, rather than because of the good which you stand for. Because it follows that if you stop, they’ll stop.

Which is much more palatable than the alternative, which is that this won’t end unless we kill the terrorists and defeat their ideology, or they kill us and destroy our way of life.

In an imperfect and dangerous world, the left likes to pretend that we can always do exactly what we’d like to do in a perfect one. That’s why the make-believe world that Obama offers is so seductive. And that’s why it’s vitally important that those who have the facts to counter his rhetoric, and the moral courage to hold and explain unpopular positions, keep reminding America and the world of the reality.