Far from his promises as the candidate of change, Obama’s announcements of the military tribunals, Guantanamo and the declassification of evidence of torture, demonstrates the continuation of Bush legacy. Contradictory to the expectations that he had awoken in a large sector of the population, the new democratic government is demonstrating it’s valiant guarantee to defend the United States interests throughout the world.
Obama’s military tribunals
The Wall Street Journal (A publication that isn’t left leaning) couldn’t have titled the article more clearly. “Obama’s Military Tribunals….another bow to Bush’s anti-terror legacy.” After making a big deal about the closing of Guantanamo and suspending the questioned military tribunals, on May 15th the government announced it’s reestablishment, denying those detained for terrorism (in the majority of the cases without any proof) the fundamental right to be tried before a civil tribunal.
This has provoked a wave of indignation amongst human rights organizations and lawyers’ associations: The ACLU (Civil Liberties Union) accused Obama of “adopting the Bush administration’s obstruction tactics and dark policies.” Others like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International once again charged the military tribunals of violating human rights and inherently being illegitimate, because it’s impossible to: “reactive a fundamentally unjust system.” With Europe and other countries’ silent consent, who lent their land and air space for transporting detainees, Guantanamo will continue to operate – as well as other bases like Bagram (Afghanistan)- with inhumane detention conditions. Even though under the new administration there have been certain improvements in conditions in some regions, as Zachary Katznelson reported, lawyer who represents 30 prisoners, most of whom continued to be held in “steel solitary confinement cells, that are the size of a bathroom, for up to 22 hours a day.” The same lawyer showed his disapproval of Europe’s compliance; “European countries allow US planes, carrying prisoners, to cross their air space(….) Europe doesn’t have thier hands clean.”
Espionage and torture: legalized
But this “tour” didn’t fall from the sky. Before these statements, Obama’s staff came out in defense of wire taps and espionage, explicitly blocking an exemplary case. One of the case representatives said:”….Obama’s Justice Department only has one objective: avoid any judicial precedent over the legality of wiretaps done without judicial order from the Security Agency.” At the sane time, Obama took back his announcement to publish the photographs related to the anticipated investigation of torture during the CIA and army interrogations under the Bush administration, whose most sadly known case was the “dry submarine” practiced on the alleged terrorists. Tuesday May 12th Obama said that he was revising the possibility of publishing the photos, showing torture and confinement, that were declassified by a judicial order related to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit.
On Wednesday May 13th the government announced that in the name of national security and the US government staff in foreign countries, that they would not release the photos. In other words the government is protecting and covering up the tortures that according to Obama were done “under orders.” The abuses that took place in Abu Grahib, that came to light during the Bush administration, turned into a symbol of the detested Iraq War. The wide spread rejection of this war was reflected first in the Democratic party triumph in the 2006 congressional elections, and later, along with the economic crisis, ended up bringing Obama to the White House. The fact that it’s Obama, the figure that capitalized on the overall disapproval of Bush, who defends methods just as similar, generates a great deception among his supporters. At the same time, in the midst of the Republican Party’s slump, the right’s most rancid members are taking advantage of this defense; they see a political opportunity to vindicate the bush era.
Obama’s new war
One of the most anticipated changes was the end of the war policy, whose emblem is the Iraq and Afghanistan war and occupation. The withdrawal of troops from Iraq (maintaining “only” 50,000 soldiers) came accompanied with a tour in the foreign politics that was nothing more than a re-concentration of troops in Afghanistan, the new priority in the “war on terrorism”, that will reach 68,000 soldiers in by 2010. May 14th Congress voted for 368 in favor and 60 against an additional package of 97 billion dollars for the war and an 4% increase of the already enormous Defense budget. Obama’s “third war” (See La Verdad Obrera Nº 324) already extends to southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, where the United States pressure on the Pakistani government to initiate an offensive against the Taliban has already amounted to 2 million displaced in only 3 weeks. This new escalation has already accounted for its first massacre: in Farah, the US aerial attacks assassinated 143 people (93 of whom were women and children). And as if that wasn’t enough, there are accusations of the use of white phosphorus (a lethal weapon that the United States doesn’t even consider legal, even though after many years admitting to using them in Iraq. According to witnesses, in Bala Baluk (the attacked village) “there were craters everywhere, the villages had been destroyed by bombs, the explosions had destroyed the bodies, there weren’t any signs of damage done by missiles or grenades.” (Counterpunch 5/11).
Appointing Stanley McChrystal as new commander of the Afghanistan mission is an implication of the new war that the Obama administration is undertaking. McChrystal was the head of the JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), a specialized force in persecutions, captures, and selective assassinations.
The great expectations of change that signified the arrival of Obama in office after 8 years with the neo-conservatives, explains the deception expressed by democratic supporters, mostly young, African American, women and Latinos. Along with this deception is the uncertainty of the economy when unemployment has almost reached 9%. The new administration has demonstrated, far from the promise of change, continuity of political imperialism, with Obama as the “right man” for this difficult moment that the US has found itself in. If there are still doubts about the continuity that the actual administration represents, we must point out the new administrations arguments: national security, the war against terrorism and strategic interests.
About the torture photographs, Obama said that “the most direct consequence of releasing the photographs would be exasperating even more the anti-American opinion and put our troops under greater risk.” No bet would be safe in a bet over deciphering who is the republican and who is the democrat.
And if there are still doubts about the US patriotic defense overcoming the division between republicans and democrats, the debate over how much the legislators really knew about the authorization of “non-conventional” interrogation methods it was opened. A debate where the ultra-conservative afford to go against the head of congress, democrat Nancy Pelosi, who in 2002 participated in the CIA’s informative hearings over the “dry submarine” and other torture methods to obtain “declarations” of terrorism. Although nobody is surprised that the United States Imperialism uses torture, the public debate is repulsive and holds an “aseptic” approach to analyzing the torture methods that the US government justifies in the name of national defense.
This is because the imperialist democracy and its political staff never permitted or will it ever permit that the torture methods be tried in court, so that they can guarantee their world dominance. For this reason, they have never tried a US president, neither republic nor democrat. This was the case in Vietnam, in Nicaragua and in all of the wars, invasions, and insurrections in the history of United States imperialism. This is why they will never charge any of those responsible for innumerable war crimes, blatant human rights violations or the legalization of the torture methods. The only possibility of trying and penalizing those responsible for these crimes against humanity is the independent mobilization of the workers, the youth, the African American and Latino communities. Only an alliance of the workers and working class people of the imperialist countries, together with the oppressed world communities can put an end to war and capitalist barbarism.