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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/13/10

Dawn Johnsen Is a Victim of the War on Terror

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On April 9, Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to lead the Office of Legal Council (OLC), withdrew her nomination. Her nomination had been in various stages of limbo for more than a year.

There is a great deal of speculation out there regarding the reasons for Johnsen's withdrawal. Sadly, most of the speculation I've heard involves the fact that Johnsen was an outspoken critic of the George W. Bush administration's torture and state secrecy policies. She also previously served as an attorney for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Because of her "controversial" (i.e., law-respecting) positions, the Senate Democrats apparently do not have the votes to confirm her.

And, because of her "controversial" (i.e., law-respecting) positions, the Obama White House apparently does not have the stomach to push the issue, according to an unnamed Senate Democratic leadership source quoted by ABC News.

For the White House to push for Johnsen's confirmation would mean endorsing her views that the Bush administration should be held accountable for its illegal behavior in its so-called "war on terror". But, of course, Obama likes to skirt the issue by saying that he wants to look forward, not backward. No wonder Obama did not include Johnsen in his recent recess appointments.

And it is a very sad shame.

After the sorry legal advice that Bush and Cheney dragged out of their own OLC, Johnsen would have been like a welcome breath of fresh air for those of us who value human rights and respect the rule of law.

As Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way, said upon Johnsen's withdrawal, "Dawn Johnsen's only offenses were to stand up against illegal torture under the Bush administration and to defend a woman's right to choose. Her criticisms of the Bush-era OLC have been echoed by legal scholars of both parties and by the Justice Department's own internal investigations. And a belief in the Constitutional right to reproductive freedom isn't just mainstream: it's the law of the land."

But, apparently, Obama's "change we can believe in" will be implemented very selectively, lest he step on too many Republican toes. (Did health care use up the quota?)

So, all things considered, I really cannot blame Johnsen for wanting to move on with her career.

And I wish her much success and happiness in her life outside the White House.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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