Frankly, I doubt that Obama will actually go through with it. Leftists like to talk big about how horrible and murderous America’s military and intelligence services are, but history has shown that they are just hypocritical cowards when it comes to acting on their hysterical rhetoric. John Kerry started his political career with this statement made under oath before congress in 1971:
I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command….
They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.
A shocking allegation but absolutely standard for the pro-communist-victory leftist of the day. It’s important to remember that for Kerry and the rest of the 25% most leftward part of the American political spectrum, America’s fight against communism in Indochina wasn’t just foolhardy or doomed but actively evil. America was engaged in an evil imperialistic war to prevent the people of Indochina from embracing the enlightened communist future they desired. Since America was a Nazi-like country that would attack and oppress innocent people, it followed that American soldiers would use Nazi-like tactics.
This incredibly negative view of the American military and America itself wasn’t the worst thing about the far Left in the ’70s. The worst thing was that it turned out they made all these allegations and abandoned the people of Indochina to communist mass murder purely as a cynical tactic to gain political power. When they could no longer milk any additional benefit from slandering America, they suddenly discovered that “crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command” weren’t that big of a deal.
The Left won sweeping control of the federal government in 1976, in the wake of Watergate, so a naive observer who believed in leftist sincerity would assume that they would move aggressively to root out the evil that had spread throughout the American military, intelligence services and government in general. It would be insane to leave lieutenants who started their careers committing war crimes on a “day-to-day basis” in the military so that 30 years later they could rise into the ranks of top generals.
Instead, they dropped the war crimes allegations as quickly as they could and moved to protect people like John Kerry from prosecution from the many laws he’d broken. (Kerry was a naval reserve officer at the time he made his slanders. If he actually had evidence of crimes he had a legal duty to report the specifics to national and international authorities. If he didn’t actually have evidence then he was responsible for acts against the good order of the military. Either way, he was headed for prison.) In the process they oh-so magnanimously included an open ended pardon for just about any war crime anyone may have committed in Indochina. How big of them!
Magnanimity had nothing to do with the pardons. The leftists knew that following through on prosecutions for war crimes would have revealed virtually all of the charges to be false. The American public would have seen the leftists as the cynical hypocrites they were, and people like John Kerry could have never become senators or run for the presidency.
Obama was mentored by these same leftists. From the beginning, he cynically exploited slanders against the current generation of Americans fighting the War on Terror to whip up support for him on the far Left. Now that he has power and following through on his slanders would cost some or all of that power, he will betray the far Left just as his mentors did.
I predict this theater will repeat itself every generation. Slandering the American military is a safe and easy way to engage in self-gratifying moral outrage. Leftists can prove how superior they are to everyone else by attacking people who can’t fight back. Then, when it comes time to lay their cards on the table, they can further prove their superiority with magnanimous pardons. It’s a no-lose strategy for them.
[update (2009-4-23 10:30am): The left won’t engage in show trials they would lose control of the narrative that feeds their need for moral outrage. Specifically, show trials would reveal that top Democrats signed off on enhanced interrogation. ]