Former Vice President Cheney says that President Obama's reversal of Bush-era terrorism policies endangers American security. The Obama administration, he charges, has "moved to take down a lot of those policies we put in place that kept the nation safe for nearly eight years from a follow-on terrorist attack like 9/11." Many people think Cheney is scare-mongering and owes President Obama his support or at least his silence. But there is a different problem with Cheney's criticisms: his premise that the Obama administration has reversed Bush-era policies is largely wrong.
Last Monday, two days after Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan, I drove around Islamabad in search of Musharraf supporters. As police beat and arrested the president's political opponents, the country's elite was becoming increasingly restive, and even people on the street sounded annoyed. Shopkeepers complained about slow business,the government had shut down more than ten private TV channels, and cell service was spotty. Then I arrived at the Christian slum near my house, where I met a 28-year-old man named Javed.
Early last spring, outside a guesthouse in Kabul where I was staying, an injured Afghan man limped up to the locked gate. He wore a blazer with suede elbow patches and leaned on crutches. Because a suicide bomber had attacked the building not long before, a guard blocked the entrance of the unannounced supplicant. The fact that the man refused to give his name didn't help his case.
BEFORE THERE WAS Walter Reed—before the revelations in The Washington Post, before the congressional hearings and presidential commissions and resigning generals—there was Joshua Murphy and his bad dream. In November 2005, Murphy returned home to Wichita Falls, Texas, after service that included a year patrolling the treacherous Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City as a specialist in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Prior to the war, he had been outgoing, social, well-liked—“just your basic eighteen-year-old kid,” in the words of his mother, Monica.
On Monday morning in Baton Rouge, Josephine Bell was trying to tidy her family's living area. "Help me sweep up now!" she yelled at one of her sons, handing him a broom and pointing to a pile of spilled cereal beneath a cot. "I want this area clean!" Bell, her husband, and her two sons had arrived in Baton Rouge eight days earlier, when, heeding the call to evacuate New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approached, they left their home in the city's Uptown neighborhood and headed, on a special bus, 80 miles west on I-10.
In a recent report, Amnesty International referred to the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo as "the gulag of our time." The term--a Russian abbreviation for Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagerei, or Main Camp Administration--refers to the network of Soviet labor camps established during Stalin's rule that continued, in a different form, for much of the Soviet Union's history. During a press conference on Tuesday, President Bush rejected the charge as "absurd." Amnesty has defended its use of the term.
I am not sure just what it was that made me drop everything on December 31 and join six colleagues on a medical relief mission to Sri Lanka. At the moment I made the decision, it simply seemed like the right thing to do, and in retrospect it still does. But it turned out that the need for our small group was very different than we had anticipated: there was far less acute disease and injury than expected, but the human misery was of a sort that will require attention for years to come. In a strictly clinical sense, we accomplished far less than we had hoped. And yet it was important to be in that place at precisely that time. Ultimately, we did what doctors have always done, even before the Hippocratic physicians of ancient Greece enunciated their code of professional responsibility: we tried to help, as did so many others.
MANY OF MY friends, if they are still in legal practice, now hate it. “The world’s most overrated job,” one of them says. Lined up at motion calls: a lost generation, the Warren Court baby boom, the flood of us who went to law school in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We took Tocqueville seriously, and thought lawyers were America’s governing class. And the Warren Court was a Court of gods—Black, Douglas, Warren—hurling thunderbolts to start our cultural revolutions. Back then, the law seemed like a romance.
We can't prevent earthquakes. But technology and techniques now exist to save lives after such tragedies, and that is why it has been so disturbing to witness trained rescue workers arriving in Mexico City too late to help many trapped in collapsed buildings. Members of a French team complained bitterly that they could have saved dozens, if not hundreds, of additional lives if they had been called to the scene promptly after the disaster struck.