Where Does Barack Obama Stand on Torture?

In this photo from yesterday’s signing of the “Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006,” (I know, I know- try not to laugh) Obama stands to the right of Bush. Let’s put pressure on him so that in the case of torture, he does not stand at Bush’s side at all.

Good question, and, apparently, one which the folks in his Chicago office were completely unprepared to answer when I called them this morning.

Here’s a rough paraphrase of my conversation:

Me: “As a resident of Illinois, a liberal and a constituent of Senator Obama, I would like to know where he stands on the pending legislation regarding the detention and torture of detainees. What is Senator Obama’s position on this issue?

Obama Staffer: Um….can you hold on for a moment please (inaudible off-phone murmurs).


Obama Staffer: Sir? I can’t give you a statement on that.

You know there’s more…keep reading and TAKE ACTION. Call Senator Obama today. Contact info after the jump.

Me: Why not? Is the Senator not concerned that a bill is currently goose-stepping its way through Congress that legalizes torture, and will legalize the detention of even American citizens without trial, without access to the evidence being used against them and without any further legal recourse?

Obama Staffer: I can’t speak for the Senator.

Me: I understand that, but are you telling me he has no prepared statement or position form which you can read?

Obama Staffer: No. Hang on a moment… (inaudible off-phone murmurs).


Obama Staffer: No, I’m sorry, I cannot speak for the Senator.

Me: Don’t you find that odd? Particularly since he is widely regarded to be a strong contender for the Presidency in the next election? I would think tat he would have a clear position on this fundamental issue.

Obama Staffer: I’m sorry, sir. We could send you his position in a letter. May I have your addr-

Me: – A letter? The vote will probably happen today. Why don’t you e-mail it to me instead so at the very least there’s a chance I could review his position PRIOR to today’s expected vote?

Obama Staffer: Can you hang on a moment?

And so forth. Where does Obama stand? I have no idea. Call his office for yourself and see if you can get any answers:

Washington D.C. Office
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-2854
(202) 228-4260 fax
(202 228-1404 TDD

Chicago Office
John C. Kluczynski Federal Office Building
230 South Dearborn St.
Suite 3900 (39th floor)
Chicago, Illinois 60604
(312) 886-3506
(312) 886-3514 fax
Toll free: (866) 445-2520
(for IL residents only)

Springfield Office
607 East Adams Street
Springfield, Illinois 62701
(217) 492-5089
(217) 492-5099 fax

Marion Office
701 North Court Street
Marion, Illinois 62959
(618) 997-2402
(618) 997-2850 fax

Moline Office
1911 52nd Avenue
Moline, Illinois 61265
(309)736-1233 fax

(Cross-posted to my friends call me nikkos)

35 Comments so far

  1. gabe (unregistered) on September 27th, 2006 @ 2:22 pm

    isn’t it obvious? just to the right. ;)

  2. nikkos (unregistered) on September 27th, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

    I think the joke was funnier when I told it, right under the photo….

  3. Todd (unregistered) on September 27th, 2006 @ 2:43 pm

    Nope, it was better when Gabe said it.

    And BTW Nikkos, I like your new moustache in the picture above. Why the strange expression though?

  4. nikkos (unregistered) on September 27th, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

    Yes, my comedic stylings simply PALE in comparison to the wit of JoJo/Ben/Todd whatever alias you’re going by this week.

    I find it very illuminating that to my detractors, torture is a joke. Laugh it up guys. I think you’re fucking sick.

  5. Bill V (unregistered) on September 27th, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

    Obama’s stance on torture is on top of course. Always applying pressure to the eyes, neck or groin area. Political satire is so much fun!

  6. nikkos (unregistered) on September 27th, 2006 @ 3:08 pm

    Uh, Bill, this isn’t satire. this is serious. Honestly, I would have expected a little more from you my friend.

  7. Todd (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 8:20 am

    Here’s an article that details several of the catches we’ve made and plots that have been disrupted, using what Nikkos would label “torture”. How insensitive of us to try and defeat the enemy.


  8. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 8:54 am

    …or in other words: the ends justify the means, eh Todd/Ben/JoJo? that seems to be the extent of your argument. Unfortunately for you, it is also the very same argument employed by Al Qaeda to justify the killing of nearly 3,000 American civilians. But then again, why should I be surprised to find an idiot like you in such good company? You would have been right at home in Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany.

    I won’t even begin to refute the nonsense you offer on behalf of your argument from that paragon of thought and journalism, the National Review.

    I would note, however, that the article conveniently ignores some of the most glaring abuses and mistakes- and these are just a couple that we know about- undoubtedly there are “black sites” and secret detention centers of which we know nothing.

    Maher Arrar, for example, a Canadian citizen whom we “renditioned” to Syria who was tortured for over a year, then released upon the conclusion that he was not a terrorist. The Canadian government recently admitted that his detention was wrong and apologized. Read more here: http://myfriendscallmenikkos.blogspot.com/2006/09/bush-gets-syrious-at-un.html

    I see the article does mention Jose Padilla, a guy so stupid he thought he could weaponize uranium by swinging it in a bucket over his head. Read more here: http://myfriendscallmenikkos.blogspot.com/2006/09/al-qaedas-mop-buckets-of-death.html

    I wonder what your hero Abe Lincoln would say upon learning that his party has become the Torture Party.

  9. Todd (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 10:28 am

    First off, my name is Todd.

    I don’t recall making an argument; I just posted a link to an article.

    Equating the interrogation of terrorists and the attacks on 9/11 is ridiculous; right up your alley Nikkos. Just following the hate-America template…Do you not find it interesting that every press release and statement made by Al Qaeda, OBL, etc sound exactly like Democratic talking points? It honestly seems like the terrorists and the Democrats have the same speech writers.

    Secret detention centers? OMG! What are they thinking? That we’re in some war or something like that?

    Wow. Torture Party. That’s really clever – I haven’t heard that one yet.

    Nikkos – If you hate the United States so much and revile everything we do, why don’t you take up residence somewhere else?

  10. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 10:40 am

    You seem to think that torture is congruent with American values. I do not. It really is as simple as that. Even George Washington opposed torture.

    I don’t see how we are going to change each other’s minds on this topic.

    For the record, I did not equate torture with the 9/11 attacks- I equated your justifications for torture and Bin Laden’s justification for killing American civlians.

    Todd eh? Am I wrong in thinking that you have posted comments here and on my blog under a variety of guises, conveniently changing aliases and starting over each time I demonstrate that your ideas and arguments are without merit? Or do you and your right wing buddies Ben and JoJo all share the same computer?

    I’m not even ging to respond to your offensive suggestion that I leave the country. While you no doubt consider yoruself a patriot your belief system is closer to that of an authoritarian or dictatorial state than it is to a democratic republic.

  11. Todd (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 11:26 am

    Yes, you are wrong, on all counts.

  12. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 11:33 am

    OK Todd, then please clarify your position: do you or do you not support the use of torture?

  13. Bill V (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 11:53 am

    Yes, serious subject. I was following the lead from the first few comments, and of course any photo that includes Barack and George together. Good luck in getting and answer to your question, I bet it takes a long time.

  14. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 11:57 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Bill.

    I know that people like Todd don’t have the courage of their convictions to come straight out and say, “Yes, I support torture.”

    I can only surmise that this is so because deep down even Todd knows torture is wrong. To put it quite simply, torture is not an American value.

  15. Todd (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 1:10 pm

    Before I can say whether or not I support torture, the word torture must be clearly defined. Torture and “torture” are two different things these days. Liberals think that every person in Gitmo is being tortured, despite the detainees gourmet meals, US provided prayer rugs and Korans. BTW, why do liberals not cry about a violation of church and state due to the state sanctioned prayer rugs and Korans? TOTAL HYPOCRISY. Seriously, why are there no complaints about this?

    But anyways, some liberals say exposure to loud music is “torture”. It’s hard to take those people seriously.

    Perhaps it would be a more efficient use of time to be more specific and name the actual method, rather than calling it “torture”. For example, I think waterboarding is fine. People in the US military go through that procedure as part of their training. So, if you name specific methods, I’ll be glad to weigh in, but I won’t be caught in the trap of saying I approve torture because it can mean so many different things.

  16. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

    So your answer would be “yes.”

  17. Todd (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 1:21 pm

    Did you not read my previous post?

  18. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 1:24 pm

    Yes: you support torture.

    Waterboarding is torture and you are “fine” with it.

    I would think that a patriot as brave as you would at the very least have the courage of your convictions and just admit that you think torture is A-OK.

    What else is there to say?

  19. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 1:52 pm

    Todd, a follow-up thought.

    You say:

    “For example, I think waterboarding is fine. People in the US military go through that procedure as part of their training.”

    Has it ever occurred to you WHY it is part of military training? Is it because it boosts morale, builds teamwork and character? NO. It is because our enemies employ torture techniques such as waterboarding and the military wants our soldies to be preapred for that.

    (It should be noted that escape, evade and resistance training is meteed out typically to only elite groups within the U.S. military: SEALs, Special Forces, Rangers, fighter pilots. It’s not a part of basic training nor something every soldier goes through, to the best of my knowledge.)

    So, to recap:

    Waterboarding is torture, as evidence, I submit your own argument that the U.S. military trains its own soldiers how to withstand it.

    The U.S. Military therefore, considers waterboarding to be torture.

    Todd is “fine” with waterboarding.

    Thus, Todd supports the use of torture.

  20. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 1:56 pm

    It should also be noted that in a training setting, participation in the waterboarding exercise, while required for continued military service, is not the same as being waterboarded in a Vietnamese prison, a Soviet (or American) gulag.

    At the very least, in the training scanrio, the soldier can opt out. They may not be able to continue onward in their military training, but it’s not like you can opt out if you’re actually somebody’s prisoner.

    This distinction is central to understanding torture. While you may enjoy being asphyxiated during a sex act, for example, being FORCIBLY asphyxiated is a whole ‘nother thing. A thing we call torture.

  21. Todd (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

    I went out of my way to say that there are different definitions of torture and that I can’t say whether I support various methods of interrogation or “torture” until they are clearly defined. Your response is to disregard my statement and extrapolate that my support of waterboarding equals a support of “torture”.

    Waterboarding does not physically harm anyone. It might scare the shit out of someone, but they’re not missing an eye or a finger.

    I’m ok with loud music, so to you I would support torture. I’m not ok with gouging someone’s eyes out; does that mean I don’t support torture?

    Your rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth, hatred for anything that isn’t in line with your views makes you a very irrational person.

    Instead of saying I support “torture”, why don’t you list a couple of techniques that you consider “torture” so I can gauge what you’re talking about.

  22. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

    “Waterboarding does not physically harm anyone. It might scare the shit out of someone, but they’re not missing an eye or a finger.”

    “Scaring the shit out of someone” is also known as psychological trauma. Some victims of waterboarding carry that fear with them the rest of their lives. But hey, as long as they have all their fingers right? I’d like to see you tell an American soldier that is a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder to get over it, it’s not a big deal.

    Why bother arguing specific techniques with you? You’ve already stated that if it works, then you’re cool with it.

    I know that you feel as though I am not debating you fairly. My frank response to that plea is: tough. If I thought you had a shred of intellectual honesty I might very well engage you on specifics. But in reality, they are only a dodge to distract attention from the fact that you support torture but are afraid to admit it in a public forum.

  23. Todd (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

    Wow, I didn’t see your last post until after I posted, so I missed your mention of American gulags. And now I see your most recent post where you prove to have not a bit of intellectual honesty. I have continually said I don’t support every kind of “torture” because there are different kinds, definitions, but you insist on lumping them altogether.

    Name an American gulag and explain how they compare to the Soviet gulags.

    There is another distinction between soldiers opting out of waterboarding and TERRORISTS opting out, a fact that you seem to forget. Terrorists were picked up on the battlefield trying to kill our boys – does that not mean anything to you? Why do you want to afford all these rights to people who fight in civilian clothing, blow up women and children at funerals of the people they just blew up the day before, behead innocent people, use mosques and hospitals as hiding spots, shoot innocent children in the back, etc.

    You are more concerned about the psyche of terrorists than you are of protecting innocent lives and American soldiers.

    You are a disgrace and an embarrassment to this country and we’d be much better off without people like you. Seriously, go somewhere else.

  24. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

    The torture techniques currently being discussed in the Senate and which just passed the House are not limited to foreign nationals picked up on the field of battle. The legislation will allow President Bush to detain AMERICAN CITIZENS without charge, without trial and without access to legal representation and would expose them to the possibility of being tortured. But hey, as long as its only libruls and traitors like nikkos, you’re probably fine with American citizens being tortured.

    Also, my intent here is not to “protect” terrorists, as you say, but to protect America’s standing in the world, to protect our soldiers from being subject to like treatment, to protect our Constitutional rights from sadists like President Bush, and to protect our American values, to the extent to which any remain.

    the only question which remains is this: how much rhetorical abuse can I heap on you and your ignorant arguments before I am guilty of torture?

  25. bob (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

    You know what Todd, anyone who is splitting hairs on exactly what is torture supports torture. Your evasions, half-truths and leading statements let it be known very clearly – you, and everyone like you, supports torture.

    The army has pretty clearly defined torture, in support and reference to the Geneva Conventions (they seemed to have had no problems with any sort of “vagueness” – funny, eh?) King George could have gone with that definition and I doubt anyone would have had much of a problem with said rules. However, that’s not what our boy king wants – like the spoiled little rich brat he is, he wants to make up all the rules by himself and be able to change them whenever he wants. You say that your kind are good not because you do what is right and honorable, but rather because you say that you are good – Dictators, facists, tyrants all say they are good and working for the benifit of their people. How one acts and treats the least of his constituency is how one is judged.

    That a man can declare himself above the law is EXACTLY what our forefathers fought and died to protect us AGAINST, and now you and your kind have the temerity to say you are torturing in the name of Washington, nullifying the Judiciary in the name of Lincoln, ripping apart the constitution in the names of Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and the other men who forged this country and kept it whole? You and your torturing and toadying kind are the most low, cowardly human beings alive, and while we americans will tolerate you amongst us, we do so knowing that while you hold such views you can never truely know what it means to be an American.

  26. bassoholic (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

    No, Todd, YOU are in fact the great embarrassment to this country. Does your support of torture remain when it is a foreign country holding American troops as enemy combatants, applying these same torture techniques? Or does this support only apply when it is “our boys” doing the deeds in question. It seems easy for you to disregard human decency when it’s “our guys” doing the questioning. I’m going to guess from your comment to Nikkos to “Seriously, go somewhere else” that you probably live in a gated community in a distant suburb.

  27. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

    Bob and Bassoholic-

    Thank you both for your support as well as for your exceptionally eloquent denunciations and refutations of the pro-torture mindset.

    Your support- and willingness to vocalize it publicly- are not only much appreciated but much needed in these dark times.

  28. Todd (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

    “You know what Todd, anyone who is splitting hairs on exactly what is torture supports torture.”

    Well that’s intelligent. No doubt you are embarrassed at actually typing that sentence. It’s actually called trying to clearly identify an issue before weighing in on it. Give it a try sometime, fellas.

    Until then, good luck getting your heads out.

    Oh yeah, Nikkos – you still need to name that American gulag, which you won’t because there isn’t one. But it sure does show what you think about this country.

  29. nikkos (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

    First, Bob ripped you a new one and that’s all you have in reply? Dude, if you let Bob defeat you here sooner or later he will come to your home and kill you in your bed, just like the terrorists.

    The American gulag would be one of the “black site” CIA detention centers you think are so necessary. I’d tell you where it is but that’s classified and you certainly don’t have the clearance. Therefore, you must content yourself in the knowledge that our detention centers at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib also qualify, hot meals and prayer mats notwithstanding. That halal meal doesn’t mean a whole lot when you’re half dead from being drowned.

    Since you feel so strongly on this issue, I assume you have contacted Senators Obama and Durbin to express your support of the President’s legislation?

  30. Todd (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

    Bob certainly did rip me a new one, if by that you mean that he said a bunch of stuff that didn’t make sense and trotted out tired old lines such as King George. But thanks, I’ll take note of the threat on my life and use it where I think necessary.

    A classified site, which you know absolutely nothing about, so obviously, in typical liberal fashion, it’s a gulag. It’s probably run by Nazis, er I mean conservatives, right?

    I have contacted Obama and Durbin on various issues, but not this one.

  31. bob (unregistered) on September 28th, 2006 @ 4:16 pm

    I am glad I got you to see the light and agree that you are on the wrong side of the arguement. After all, I did “rip you a new one.”

    Its so easy to win an arguement if you focus on one little point and ignore the body of the post which would otherwise completely refute your arguement, but since you now agree with the those of us who abhore torture I guess its all going to be doughnuts and coffee from now on.

    And if my last post didn’t make sense, I suggest you enroll in a remedial english class – nobody else seemed to have had a problem with it.

    Now Toddy, you are still a vile coward for bending to the will of those of stronger fiber than you – next time, don’t give up so easily. I’m sure when its your turn to be waterboarded (but not tortured, no no no!) I doubt they’d even be finished with the saran-wrap before you started spilling your guts…

  32. nikkos (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2006 @ 1:39 pm

    For the record, both Obama and Durbin voted against the legislation. I never did receive an e-mail or a letter from obama’s office though.

  33. Gemini Moon (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

    Barak Obama for president! He has my support!

    Dearborn MI

  34. nikkos (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 2:30 pm

    May I ask why?

  35. ttrentham (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 8:42 pm

    So, Todd, what happens when we’ve tortured someone who’s innocent and isn’t a terrorist? What happens when we torture a 15 year old? You’re ok with that as well?

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