When Presidential Sermons Collide

President Obama gave an interview
earlier this week to an Indonesian television station
in lieu of the
scheduled trip to that country which was canceled due to the health
care vote. In 2008, Indonesia empowered
a national commission
to investigate human rights abuses committed
by its own government under the U.S.-backed Suharto regime "in an
attempt to finall

President Obama gave an interview
earlier this week to an Indonesian television station
in lieu of the
scheduled trip to that country which was canceled due to the health
care vote. In 2008, Indonesia empowered
a national commission
to investigate human rights abuses committed
by its own government under the U.S.-backed Suharto regime "in an
attempt to finally bring the perpetrators to justice," and Obama was
asked in this interview: "Is your administration satisfied with the
resolution of the past human rights abuses in Indonesia?" He replied:

We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses
existed. We can't go forward without looking backwards
. . . .

When asked last year about whether the United States should use
similar tribunals to investigate its own human rights abuses, as well
his view of other countries' efforts (such as Spain) to investigate
those abuses, Obama
said
:

I'm a strong believer that it's important to look forward
and not backwards
, and to remind ourselves that we do have
very real security threats out there.

That "Look-Forward/Not-Backward" formulation is one which Obama
and his top
aides
have frequently repeated to argue against any investigations
in the U.S. Why, as Obama sermonized, must Indonesians first look
backward before being able to move forward, whereas exactly the opposite
is true of Americans? If a leader is going to demand that other
countries adhere to the very "principles" which he insists on violating
himself, it's probably best not to use antithetical cliches when issuing
decrees, for the sake of appearances if nothing else.

The New Yorker's Jane Mayer -- in the last paragraph of her
new article
documenting the multiple lies told by former Bush
speechwriter and current Washington Post columnist Marc
Theissen in his pro-torture book -- offered the best summary yet as to
why Obama's "Look Forward/Not Backward" mentality is so destructive:

The publication of "Courting Disaster" suggests that Obama's
avowed determination "to look forward, not back" has laid the recent
past open to partisan reinterpretation. By holding no one
accountable for past abuse, and by convening no commission on what did
and didn't protect the country, President Obama has left the telling of
this dark chapter in American history to those who most want to
whitewash it.

Nothing enables the glorification of crimes, and nothing ensures
their future re-occurrence, more than shielding the criminals from all
accountability. It's nice that Barack Obama is willing to dispense that
lecture to other countries, but it's not so nice that he does exactly
the opposite in his own.

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