“In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill…we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one.” — Plato
In August 2008 I was asked to be part of a panel discussion that covered a number of issues, among them the prospect for Obama’s election. One of the panelists, a close friend, mesmerized by the prospect, went on to describe this as an historic shift in the U.S electoral system. Not convinced by the argument, I decided to look at Obama’s political background. The more I read, the more I was persuaded that the “Redeemer” was a phony one. I posted my finding, positing that nothing will change under Obama administration. I came under attack for being cynical and not giving Obama a chance. My reply was we will wait and see. The election is over and Obama has been in office for more than a year. As they say the “honey moon” period is over and I intend to revisit the issues that concerned me then to establish how close were my assessment.
During the campaign, amid their state of elation, many disregarded Obama’s past record and took any criticism of these past actions as partisan attacks deserving equally partisan counterattacks. Some continued their reluctant support after candidate Obama became grand finalist and prayed for the best. And a few still continue their rationalizing and defense, with illogical excuses such we like him, he is better than Bush or ‘Give the man a break!’, ‘He’s had only two months, then six month in office, give him a chance!’ and currently, ‘be reasonable – how much can a man do in a year, wait for the full term?!
By what standard shall we judge Barack Obama?
Let us for the sake of being candid, use Obama’s action as the framework by which we judge him. It is his actions that would tell us who is the real Obama and not his rehotrics of hopes and change. Let me begin in the first part of the article by focusing on National Issues:
On the State Secrets Privilege
The Obama administration has invoked the state secrets privilege in all cases that have gone before the law including the followings: Al Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama, Mohammed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, and Jewel v. NSA. In defending the NSA illegal wiretapping, the Obama administration maintained that the State Secrets Privilege, the same draconian executive privilege used and abused voraciously by Bush and his Neocon cronies, required the dismissal of the case in courts.
On NSA Warrantless Wiretapping
The new Administration has pledged to defend the Telecommunications Industry by giving them immunity against any lawsuit that may involve their participation in the illegal NSA wiretapping program. In 2007, Obama’s office released the following position of then Senator Obama: “Senator Obama unequivocally opposes giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies … Senator Obama will not be among those voting to end the filibuster.” But then Senator Obama made his 180 degree flip, and voted to end the filibuster. After that, along with other colleagues in Congress, he tried to placate the critics of his move by falsely assuring them that the immunity did not extend to the Bush Administration – the Executive Branch who did break the law. Another flip was yet to come, awaiting his presidency, when Obama’s Justice Department defended its predecessor not only by using the State Secrets Privilege, but taking it even further, by astoundingly granting the Executive Branch an unlimited immunity for any kind of ‘illegal’ government surveillance.
Let me emphasize, the Obama Administration’s action in this regard was not about ‘being trapped’ in situations created and put in place by the previous administration. These were willful acts fully reviewed, decided upon, and then implemented by the new president and his Justice Department.
Accountability on Torture
President Obama’s action or inaction on Torture can be summarized very clearly as follows: First give an absolute pass, under the guise of ‘looking forward not backward,’ to the ultimate culprits who had ordered it. Next, absolve all the implementers, practitioners and related agencies, under the excuse of ‘complying with orders without questioning,’ and then start giving the ‘drafters’ of the memos an out by transferring the decision for action to the states. After granting the ‘untouchable’ status to all involved in this shameful chapter in this nation’s dangerous downward slide, he now refuses to release the photos, the incriminating evidence, and is doing so by using the exact same justification used repeatedly by his predecessors: ‘Their release would endanger the troops,’ as in ‘the revelation on NSA would endanger our national security’ and ‘stronger whistleblower laws would endanger our intelligence agencies’ and so on and so forth.
The Revival of Bush Era Military Commission
After all the talk and pretty speeches given during his presidential campaign on the ‘failure’ of Bush era military tribunals of Guantanamo inmates, Mr. Obama has decided to revive the same style military commission, albeit with a little cosmetic tweak here and there to re-brand it as his own. Many former supporters of Mr. Obama who’ve been vocal and active on Human Rights fronts have expressed their ‘total shock’ by this move and its pretense of being different and improved, “As a constitutional lawyer, Obama must know that he can put lipstick on this pig – but it will always be a pig,” said Zachary Katznelson, legal director of Reprieve. Thankfully the ‘on the record’ statements of Candidate Obama in 2008 on this issue, contradicting his action today, are accessible to all:
“It’s time to better protect the American people and our values by bringing swift and sure justice to terrorists through our courts and our Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
Suspect terrorists (emphasis on ‘suspect’) cannot have just trials consistent/in line with our ‘courts and Uniform Code of Military Justice’ via military commissions. It’s almost an oxymoron! And if you add to that the other Obama-approved ingredients such as secrecy, rendition, and evidence obtained under torture, what have we got? Anything resembling our courts and Uniform Code of Military Justice system?
Militery Boudget for 2010
Barack Obama will ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on top of a record $708 billion for the Defense Department next year. The extra $33 billion in 2010 would mostly go toward the expansion of the war in Afghanistan. Obama ordered an extra 30,000 troops for that war as part of an overhaul of the war strategy late last year.
Indefinitely Imprison Detainees without Charges
One of the most intense controversies of the Bush years was the administration’s indefinite imprisoning of “War on Terror” detainees without charges of any kind. So absolute was the consensus among progressives and Democrats against this policy that a well-worn slogan was invented to object: a “legal black hole” Liberal editorial pages routinely cited the refusal to charge the detainees — not the interrogation practices there — in order to brand the camp a “dungeon,” a “gulag,” a “tropical purgatory,” and a “black-hole embarrassment.” As late as 2007, Democratic Senators like Pat Leahy, on the floor of the Senate, cited the due-process-free imprisonments to rail against Guantanamo as “a national disgrace, an international embarrassment to us and to our ideals, and a festering threat to our security,” as well as “a legal black hole that dishonors our principles
But all year along, Obama — even as he called for the closing of Guantanamo — has been strongly implying that he will retain George Bush’s due-process-free system by continuing to imprison detainees without charges of any kind. In his May “civil liberties” speech cynically delivered at the National Archives in front of the U.S. Constitution, Obama announced that he would seek from Congress a law authorizing and governing the President’s power to imprison detainees indefinitely and without charges. But in September, the administration announced he changed his mind, rather than seek a law authorizing these detentions, he would instead simply claim that Congress already “implicitly” authorized these powers when it enacted the 2001 AUMF against Al Qaeda — thereby, as The New York Times put it, “adopting one of the arguments advanced by the Bush administration in years of debates about detention policies.”
The blueprint for this disastrous administration came early when Obama appointed nothing but neocons to his foreign policy team. The Secretary of State and the National Security advisor have even both admitted that the Council on Foreign Relations/Henry Kissinger are calling the shots. Sec. Clinton at a speech at the new HQ for the Council on Foreign Relations:
I have been often to, I guess, the mother ship in New York City, but it’s good to have an outpost of the Council right here down the street from the State Department. We get a lot of advice from the Council (Council of Foreign Relations), so this will mean I won’t have as far to go to be told what we should be doing and how we should think about the future.
National Security Advisor, James Jones, had this to say earlier this year:
As the most recent National Security Advisor of the United States, I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger. Jones was also giving a speech to the Council on Foreign relations at the time. Kissinger is a fabulous role model for war, don’t you think.
If these were not enough, Obama added the appointments of dual US-Israeli citizen, Illinois Congressman Rahm Emmanuel and Zionist David Axelrod to top White House posts, as well as Lawrence Summers (long-time Harvard ally of the torture advocate Alan Dershowitz) as chief White House economic adviser. Summer is a life-time Israel-Firster, who used his presidency at Harvard University as a bully pulpit to attack a student-faculty group critical of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories. As the former Treasury Secretary under the Clinton regime he was a key architect of the speculator-dominated financial system, which is currently in total collapse. Obama went on to name one of the foremost, unconditional Israel-Firsters to be his key Middle East policymaker – Dennis Ross, a leading Zionist ideologue and co-author of a presidential position paper advocating pre-emptive war with Iran. Ross is the pivotal Zionist figure in Obama’s entourage and his appointment will guarantee that the Obama regime will follow and support with American guns and American tax-payer money every Israeli war crime, assault or invasion on its Arab and Farsi speaking regional neighbors. Ross, Axelrod, Summers, Emmanuel and their craven followers in Congress together with the AIPAC and the entire Zionist community-based network will ensure that Obama is inextricably ‘embedded’ in their agenda. They will not allow the publication or support of any intelligence investigation, judicial inquiry or United Nations report, which challenges Israel’s occupation of Palestine and promotion of pre-emptive war with Iran based on the fabrication of data about its so-called nuclear threat. Each and every recently appointed Zionists has condemned the United Nations and International Atomic Agency reports refuting Israel’s phony claims of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. They will make sure that newly appointed National Security Adviser, General James Jones will never bring up or make public his highly critical internal report based on his on-site investigation of Israel’s crimes against the civilian Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates are so deeply ‘embedded’ in the Zionist network and so deeply infused with the Israel-First ideology that no other ‘pressure’ will be necessary. The three are, in effect, Zionized Zombies, eager to fawn and truckle, even to grotesque excesses, at every wink and gesture, signaling military handouts, UN vetoes and repeated provocative acts of war against Iran. They have even exceeded Bush in their eagerness to please their Zionist mentors by recognizing Jerusalem as the ‘undivided’ capital of the Jews – effectively denying the rights of the Palestinian residents. What can we expect from someone that asks Peres what can he do for the Zionist regime.
Obama asks Shimon Peres: “What can I do for Israel?”
– Haaretz, November 17, 2008