I’m not sure how many of you are old enough to remember that movie, Which Way Is Up? starring Richard Pryor. It was not one of Richard Pryor’s funniest movies. He played Leroy Jones,a confused and naïve character who was pulled in many different directions. When I look at President Barack Obama, I see some similarities. It’s not every month or every week, but it is every single day that the Obama administration is putting out a new fire and trying to lay the groundwork to make sure that fire does not happen again. From Iraq to Afghanistan, from Wall Street to Detroit, from toxic assets to Guantánamo Bay, Barack Obama has been pushing his agenda.
This brings me to an article I saw on the Washington Post website over the weekend entitled, “Detainees Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots.” Do you remember Abu Zubaydah? He was the first big “high-value target” that the Bush administration captured. April 9, 2002, President Bush said, “The other day we hauled in a guy named at Abu Zubaydah. He’s one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States. He’s not plotting and planning anymore. He’s where he belongs.”
This Washington Post article points out the problems that the Bush administration has left for President Barack Obama. Abu Zubaydah was once characterized by President Bush as the “chief of operations” for all of Al Qaeda. Unfortunately for us, that wasn’t true. As a matter of fact, it is now believed that he really wasn’t an Al Qaeda member at all, but an associate. According to Ron Suskind’s book, “The 1% Doctrine,” Zubaydah was a guy who suffered a head injury at a relatively young age. He kept a diary, which was found by the CIA. The diary clearly shows that the “Al Qaeda operative” was insane. He truly had a split personality. His diary was written in two, if not three, distinct voices. It is now believed that Al Qaeda used him as a kind of travel agent because he was clearly expendable.
Think back to 2002 and 2003 Remember the terror alert that Al Qaeda was going to attack the malls? This information came as a result of the torture of Abu Zubaydah. After a little bit more wate-rboarding, we learned that Al Qaeda was going to attack banks in the financial district. The terror level went up yet again. We did not get one bit of actionable intelligence from Abu Zubaydah. It could be argued that we got some information about how Al Qaeda worked but no information on active plans.
So what do you do with an Al Qaeda operative (who isn’t really an Al Qaeda operative) who has been tortured? This is the conundrum that the Obama administration faces. Abu Zubaydah has been in American custody for over seven years. He was born in Saudi Arabia. His father was a Palestinian. He was captured in Pakistan. Do you send him overseas? To whom?
What is fair? How do you keep America safe? What do you do with the other approximately 245 detainees? My head is spinning and this is just one of Barack Obama’s thousand or so problems. Do you know which way is up?