Tuesday, March 04, 2014

"For I Have Promises To Keep ..."

(Cartoon by Matson and found here.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Karen Greenberg (a professor at Fordham University) had an interesting analysis of Obama's presidency from the standpoint of some of the promises he made during his campaign and during the early days of his administration.  Those in the progressive base who worked so hard to get him elected were elated.  The eight-year long nightmare of the Bush Administration was finally over.  Unfortunately, things haven't exactly worked out the way many of us hoped. Greenberg's scorecard on several issues nicely captures our disappointment.

From the 2/27/14 Los Angeles Times:

Ending torture

On his first day in office, Obama ordered an end to the practice of torture, or as the George W. Bush administration preferred to call it, "enhanced interrogation techniques." In the president's words, "effective immediately" individuals in U.S. custody "shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in the Army Field Manual."

Of the four promises, this is the one the president has come closest to keeping.

Greenberg notes that the "black site" prisons were closed down and Obama did set some limits on interrogation techniques (although forced-feeding continued.)

Closing Guantanamo

On his first day in office, Obama also pledged to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention facility — home at the time to 245 detainees — within a year. That proved politically impossible. As of January, 155 detainees remained at the prison, including 77 who had been cleared for release. But the president insists he is still trying. In his State of the Union address last month, he urged legislative action: "This needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay."

But even if the president is successful, there's a catch: He has made it clear that he means to close Guantanamo only in the most technical sense. While he would like to empty the facility, he is quite prepared to keep the strikingly un-American Guantanamo system of indefinite detention itself intact, allowing some suspects in Washington's war on terrorism to be held indefinitely without charges or trial if they are considered a risk to national security.  [Emphasis added]

Unless and until President Obama ends the concept of indefinite detention of anyone, including citizens, not only has this promise been broken, but is totally unacceptable treatment by an allegedly constitutional government.

Ending unnecessary secrecy

Another goal Obama identified on his first day in office as key to his presidency was establishing a "sunshine" administration. He pledged to end the excessive secrecy of the Bush administration and put more information in the public arena.

Obama's self-professed aim was to restore trust between the people and their government by pledging to promote accountability and provide "information for citizens about what their government is doing." Toward that end, the president quickly released a number of previously classified documents from the Bush years on torture policy.

But that, as it happened, was the end of the sunshine. In the five years since, little of note has occurred in the name of transparency and much, including a war against whistle-blowers, has been pursued in the name of secrecy. The administration has also, even after Edward Snowden's devastating revelations, continued for the most part to defend the  NSA's massive, secret, warrantless surveillance.  [Emphasis added]

The NSA has been strengthened and has extended its reach into who knows how many homes and computers, and there is no way for the victims to do anything about it because they don't know about it.  The drone program operates in a similar super-secret fashion, spying and even assassinating.  This is not the transparent government Obama promised.

An end to war without limits

At the outset of Obama's presidency, the administration downplayed the notion of a borderless battlefield that encompassed the globe. It also threw on the trash heap of history the Bush administration's term "global war on terror."

In his recent State of the Union address, the president stated his continued aversion to the notion that Washington should pursue an unlimited war. He was speaking by now not just about the geography of the boundless battlefield but of the very idea of warfare without an end point. "America," he counseled, "must move off a permanent war footing."

But despite the president's insistence on placing limits on war, and on the defense budget, his brand of warfare has helped lay the basis for a permanent state of global warfare via "low footprint" drone campaigns and special forces operations aimed at an ever-morphing enemy usually identified as some form of Al Qaeda."  [Emphasis added]

The use of drones, satellite imagery, and interception of phone and email messages, justified by the use of the magic words "Al Qaeda" and "terrorists", has continued to burgeon under the Obama administration. 

The cartoon, showing Obama morphing into George W. Bush, provides an apt image for what we have seen over the past five years.  All those promises broken, and in the most expensive way imaginable, and I'm not talking about just the dollar cost.

 This is not what I voted for.  Not at all.

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Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Great post, I'm spreading the word.

4:12 PM  

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