Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Bush is correctly regarded as a lying, war-mongering, torturing tyrant.
Is Nobel peace prize winner Obama even worse?
Many governments, U.S. congressmen and other individuals have demanded that Obama return his Nobel peace prize for bombing Libya without congressional approval.
Bush got us into 2 wars to protect our strategic national interests in ... er ... broccoli. Obama just got us into a third war for the same reason. Bush's decision to invade Iraq was met with large protests. Similarly, most Americans didn't want Obama to get involved in Libya.
The Bush administration funded terrorist groups (and see confirming articles here and here). Obama is allegedly funding terrorist groups in Iran, and is now aiding the Libyan "rebels", even though there are allegations that 1,000 of them are Al Qaeda radicals (and there are some indications that their leader is a CIA asset).
Obama has increased the number of drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Indeed, most people who have looked at the numbers believe that Obama has killed many more civilians with drone attacks than Bush did using the same method.
The Brookings Institution noted in 2009:
Critics correctly find many problems with this program, most of all the number of civilian casualties the strikes have incurred. Sourcing on civilian deaths is weak and the numbers are often exaggerated, but more than 600 civilians are likely to have died from the attacks. That number suggests that for every militant killed, 10 or so civilians also died.
Former constitutional law teacher Glenn Greenwald says that - in his defense of state secrecy, illegal spying, preventative detention, harassment of whistleblowers and other issues of civil liberties - Obama is even worse than Bush.
Indeed, Obama has authorized "targeted assassinations" against U.S. citizens. Even Bush didn't openly do something so abhorrent to the rule of law.
Obama is trying to expand spying well beyond the Bush administration's programs. Indeed, the Obama administration is arguing that citizens should never be able to sue the government for illegal spying.
And as I noted in 2009, in a post entitled "Can Nobel Prize Winner Obama At LEAST Stop the Torture?":
You may assume that things have changed after President Obama was sworn in.
However, the Obama Department of Justice is trying to protect torture memo writer John Yoo. As constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley notes:
The president literally has gotten onto a plane this evening to go to Norway to accept the Nobel Prize, while his Justice Department is effectively gutting a major part of Nuremberg.
The Obama administration is arguing not only that they shouldn't be prosecuted, but it's now saying that you shouldn't even be able to sue them civilly .... It's an international disgrace.
Well, it may be a disgrace, but at least torture isn't continuing under the Obama administration, right?In fact, many reporters have said that the Bagram prison facility in Afghanistan is worse than Guantanamo ever was. Moreover, abuse is apparently still occurring there.
As Spiegel wrote on September 21, 2009, in an article entitled "Prisoner Abuse Continues at Bagram Prison in Afghanistan":US President Barack Obama has spoken out against CIA prisoner abuse and wants to close Guantanamo. But he tolerates the existence of Bagram military prison in Afghanistan, where more than 600 people are being held without charge. The facility makes Guantanamo look like a "nice hotel," in the words of one military prosecutor...
Bagram is "the forgotten second Guantanamo," says American military law expert Eugene Fidell, a professor at Yale Law School. "But apparently there is a continuing need for this sort of place even under the Obama administration.
"From the beginning, "Bagram was worse than Guantanamo," says New York-based attorney Tina Foster, who has argued several cases on behalf of detainee rights in US courts. "Bagram has always been a torture chamber."
And what does Obama say? Nothing. He never so much as mentions Bagram in any of his speeches. When discussing America's mistreatment of detainees, he only refers to Guantanamo.
Obama still never mentions Bagram.
From the beginning, Bagram was notorious for the brutal forms of torture employed there. Former inmates report incidents of sleep deprivation, beatings and various forms of sexual humiliation [and rape with sticks]...
At least two men died during imprisonment. One of them, a 22-year-old taxi driver named Dilawar, was suspended by his hands from the ceiling for four days, during which US military personnel repeatedly beat his legs. Dilawar died on Dec. 10, 2002. In the autopsy report, a military doctor wrote that the tissue on his legs had basically been "pulpified." As it happens, his interrogators had already known -- and later testified -- that there was no evidence against Dilawar...
However attorney Tina Foster feels that the new initiative is just a cosmetic measure. "There is absolutely no difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration's position with respect to Bagram detainees' rights," she says during an interview with SPIEGEL in her office in the New York borough of Queens.
And see this.
Moreover, Obama is still apparently allowing "rendition flights" - where prisoners are flown to countries which freely torture - to continue. This itself violates the Geneva Convention and the War Crimes Act of 1996.
Specifically, to the extent that the U.S. is sending prisoners to other countries for the express purpose of being tortured are true, violation of the war crimes act by the highest officials of our country would be probable. For who else but Obama, Gates and other top officials would have the ability to authorize such flights? How could such a program be undertaken without their knowledge? And how could such a program be anything but the intentional "ordering" of torture, or at least "knowing about it" and "failing to take steps to stop it"?
Finally, Jeremy Scahill - the reporter who broke most of the stories on Blackwater - says that some forms of torture at Guantanamo have continued under Obama, and may even have gotten worse. For example, Scahill points out that:The Center for Constitutional Rights released a report titled "Conditions of Confinement at Guantánamo: Still In Violation of the Law," which found that abuses continued. In fact, one Guantanamo lawyer, Ahmed Ghappour, said that his clients were reporting "a ramping up in abuse" since Obama was elected.
As Marjorie Cohen - professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, past president of the National Lawyers Guild - writes at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy:
And see this, this, this and this.
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is facing court-martial for leaking military reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico brig in Virginia. Each night, he is forced to strip naked and sleep in a gown made of coarse material. He has been made to stand naked in the morning as other inmates walked by and looked. As journalist Lance Tapley documents in his chapter on torture in the supermax prisons in The United States and Torture, solitary confinement can lead to hallucinations and suicide; it is considered to be torture. Manning's forced nudity amounts to humiliating and degrading treatment, in violation of U.S. and international law.
Nevertheless, President Barack Obama defended Manning's treatment, saying, "I've actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures . . . are appropriate. They assured me they are." Obama's deference is reminiscent of President George W. Bush, who asked "the most senior legal officers in the U.S. government" to review the interrogation techniques. "They assured me they did not constitute torture," Bush said.
After State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley criticized Manning's conditions of confinement, the White House forced him to resign. Crowley had said the restrictions were "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid." It appears that Washington is more intent on sending a message to would-be whistleblowers than on upholding the laws that prohibit torture and abuse.
Torture is commonplace in countries strongly allied with the United States. Vice President Omar Suleiman, Egypt's intelligence chief, was the lynchpin for Egyptian torture when the CIA sent prisoners to Egypt in its extraordinary rendition program. A former CIA agent observed, "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear - never to see them again - you send them to Egypt." In her chapter in The United States and Torture, New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer cites Egypt as the most common destination for suspects rendered by the United States.
Whether or not Obama is worse than Bush, he's just as bad.
While we had Bush's "heck of a job" response to Katrina, we had Obama's equally inept response and false assurances in connection with the Gulf oil spill, and Obama's false assurances in connection with the Japanese nuclear crisis.
And Bush and Obama's response to the financial crisis are virtually identical: bail out the giant banks, let Wall Street do whatever it wants, and forget the little guy.
The American voters asked for change. Instead, we got a different branch of the exact same Wall Street/military-industrial complex/Big Energy (BP, GE)/Big Pharma party.