by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
"Give Obama a chance." some of his less critical supporters say. "Do you think you're smarter than Obama?", some of the less polite ones ask. But those are not the real questions. The real question is how long it will be before the left wakes up and finds its own voice. Shut out of Obama's policymaking circles, there are few choices but to speak up. How long before more of us seek to unambiguously hold the new president and his record accountable? How long before protesters hit the street?
The Obama administration's position is not change. It is more of the same.”
In just three weeks, the Barack Obama administration has demonstrated its determination to hold on to the same presidential prerogatives claimed by George W. Bush. Bush’s successor evidently wants the same prerogatives and he wants to get them through by the same means. Obama supporters either don’t care or are too deep in denial to admit this now obvious fact.
The much talked about Obama administration changes in interrogation policy and intelligence gathering are nothing more than talk. Leon Panetta, CIA director nominee, made it official during his confirmation hearing.
Initially Panetta stated an incontrovertible and well documented fact, that the Bush administration kidnapped people around the world for the purpose of interrogating and torturing them. When republican Senator Kit Bond took Panetta to task for being truthful, Panetta obediently remembered his place, backtracked and told an enormous lie. “I am not aware of the validity of those claims.”
The Senate wasn’t finished with Panetta, who must have forgotten that under no circumstances was he to stand up for truth and justice. The Obama administration made a big deal about following the rules regarding prisoner treatment laid out in the Army Field Manual. Panetta was then asked/told if he would ever violate those rules if he felt he needed too. Once again, he folded and used the same rationale for torture that the Bush administration used. “If we had a ticking bomb situation, and obviously, whatever was being used I felt was not sufficient, I would not hesitate to go to the president of the United States and request whatever additional authority I would need." A predictable plot line from stale movie thrillers is still directing official government policy instead of American and international law.
Panetta said that renditions to third countries may continue.
Republican Senators weren’t finished showing Panetta who is boss. He ended his session reassuring the minority party members he would check to see if “enhance interrogation techniques” ever provided useful information. Panetta also said that renditions to third countries may continue. “Using renditions, we may very well direct individuals to third countries. I will seek the same kinds of assurances that they will not be treated inhumanely.” I certainly wouldn’t want to be a prisoner who got an assurance from the American government.
As Panetta disabused anyone of the notion that the two parties behave differently, a court in London, England revealed that the Bush administration and now the Obama administration threatened to withhold intelligence information if courts in that country persisted in asking questions about the treatment of Britons held in Guantanamo. The British judges were not amused. “Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials ... relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be."
Those judges with their fancy wigs just don’t get it. Neither Bush nor Obama cares that much about democracy. The Obama administration issued a statement saying just that. “The United States thanks the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information and preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens.”
The American Civil Liberties Union assessed the situation clearly. “The Obama administration's position is not change. It is more of the same. This represents a complete turn-around and undermining of the restoration of the rule of law. The new American administration shouldn't be complicit in hiding the abuses of its predecessors.”
“Neither Bush nor Obama cares that much about democracy.”
So, when do we march? We have an administration that has officially upheld the lawlessness of the previous administration. The same people who took to the streets or at the very least engaged in righteous indignation over Bush administration actions should not silently sit by and allow Obama to do the same things.
It isn’t too soon to protest. He told us right away that there is no change we can believe in. We don’t have to wait for bombs to fall on Iran or for more prisoners to be denied their human rights.
It is not only acceptable but imperative that we speak up now. We must say that Iran has the right to have nuclear power or nuclear weapons or satellites or anything else it wants without being threatened by the United States. We must say that the continuation of Bush administration human rights abuses will not be excused under the guise of giving Obama one hundred magical days to learn his new job.
It is time to take not only Obama to task, but faux progressives to task as well. They are the Obamites who claimed they would hold his feet to the fire if we would just shut up and let him get elected. It is time to protest against them too and call them out for being the hypocrites they are.
That means a lot of protesting needs to be done. Why waste time when Obama isn’t wasting any. We must get started now.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com. Ms. Kimberley maintains an edifying and frequently updated blog at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com .