May 23, 2009
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
the campaign, amid their state of elation, many disregarded
Presidential Candidate Senator Barack 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 as 'He's been in office for only 20 days, give the man a
break!' and 'He's had only 50 days in office, give him a chance!' and
currently, 'be reasonable - how much can a man do in 120 days?!' I am
going to give this logic, or lack of, a slight spicing of reason, then,
turn it around, and present it as: If 'the man' can do this much
astounding damage, whether to our civil liberties, or to our notion of
democracy, or to government integrity, in 'only' 120 days, may God help
us with the next [(4 X 365) - 120] days.
I know there are those
who have been tackling President Obama's changes on change; they have
been challenging his flipping, or rather flopping, on issues central to
getting him elected. While some have been covering the changes
comprehensively, others have been running right and left like headless
chickens in the field - pick one hypocrisy, scream a bit, then move on
to the next outrageous flop, the same, and then to the next, basically,
looking and treating this entire mosaic one piece at a time.
all the promises Mr. Obama made during his campaign, especially on
those issues that were absolutely central to those whose support he
garnered, so far the President of Change has followed in the footsteps
of his predecessor. Not only that, his administration has made it clear
that they intend to continue this trend. Some call it a major betrayal.
Can we go so far as to call it a 'swindling of the voters'?
On the State Secrets Privilege
I am going to begin with the issue of State Secrets Privilege; because
I was the first recipient of this 'privilege' during the now gone
Administration; because long before it became 'a popular' topic among
the 'progressive experts,' during the time when these same experts
avoided writing or speaking about it; when many constitutional
attorneys had no idea we even had this "law" - similar to and based on
the British 'Official Secret Act; when many journalists did not dare to
question this draconian abuse of Executive Power; I was out there,
writing, speaking, making the rounds in Congress, and fighting this
'privilege' in the courts. And because in 2004 I stood up in front of
the Federal Court building in DC, turned to less than a handful of
reporters, and said, 'This, my case, is setting a precedent, and you
are letting this happen by your fear-induced censorship. Now that they
have gotten away with this, now that you have let them get away, we'll
be seeing this 'privilege' invoked in case after case involving
government criminal deeds in need of cover up.' Unfortunately I was
So far The Obama administration has invoked the state secrets privilege in three cases in the first 100 days: 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 the previous administration,
required the dismissal of the case in courts.
Not only has the
new administration continued the practice of invoking SSP to shield
government wrongdoing, it has expanded its abuses much further. In the
Al Haramain case, Obama's Justice Department has threatened to have the
FBI or federal marshals break into a judge's office and remove evidence
already turned over in the case, according to the plaintiff's attorney.
Even Bush didn't go this far so brazenly. In a well-written,
disgust-provoking piece plaintiff's attorney Jon Eisenberg, poses the question: "The
president's lawyers continue to block access to information that could
expose warrantless wiretapping. Is this change we can believe in?"
is the same President, the same well-spoken showman, who went on record
in 2007, during the campaign shenanigans, and said the following:
"When I am president we won't work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution." --Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, 2007
Yes, this is the same President who had frowned upon and criticized the abuses and misuse of the State Secrets Privilege.
On NSA Warrantless Wiretapping
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 [PDF] the Executive Branch an unlimited immunity for any kind of 'illegal' government surveillance.
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
Accountability on Torture
Obama's action and 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 our
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.
Not only that, he goes even further to shove his secrecy promotion down other nations' courts throat. In the case
of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen and a legal resident in Britain
who was held and tortured in Guantanamo from 2004 to 2009, and filed
lawsuits in the British courts to have the evidence of his torture
released, Mr. Obama's position has been to threaten the British
Government in order to conceal all facts and related evidence. This
case involves the brutal torture and so very 'extraordinary' rendition
practices of the previous administration, the same practices that 'in
words' were strongly condemned by the President during his candidacy.
he and his administration unapologetically maintain the same Bush
Administration position on extraordinary rendition, torture, and
related secrecy to cover up. Here
is Ben Wizner's, the attorney who argued the case for the ACLU,
response "We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice
Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration's practice of
dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This
was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its
condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to
stay the course." Yes indeed, President Obama has chosen to protect and
support the course involving torture, rendition and the abuse of
secrecy to cover them all up.
The Revival of Bush Era Military Commission
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.
the 'on the record' statements of Candidate Obama in 2008 on this
issue, contradicting his action today, are accessible to all:
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."
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
On War and Bodies Piling Up
Here is the first paragraph in a New York Timesreport on May 15, 2009:
number of civilians killed by the American air strikes in Farah
Province last week may never be fully known. But villagers, including
two girls recovering from burn wounds, described devastation that
officials and human rights workers are calling the worst episode of
civilian casualties in eight years of war in Afghanistan."
report also includes the disagreement over the exact number of
'Civilian Casualties' in Afghanistan by our military airstrike:
officials have accepted handwritten lists compiled by the villagers of
147 dead civilians. An independent Afghan human rights group said it
had accounts from interviews of 117 dead. American officials say that
even 100 is an exaggeration but have yet to issue their own count."
it really matter - the difference between 147 and 117 or just 100 when
it comes to children, grandmothers...innocent lives lost in a war with no
well-defined objectives or plans? If for some it indeed does matter,
then here is a more specific and detailed report:
copy of the government's list of the names, ages and father's names of
each of the 140 dead was obtained by Reuters earlier this week. It
shows that 93 of those killed were children -- the youngest eight days
old -- and only 22 were adult males."
releasing the photographs of the nameless unrepresented victims of
these airstrikes should be as important as those of torture. Because,
from what I see, they and their loss of lives have been reduced to some
petty number to fight about.
I was around twelve years old, in Iran, during the Iran-Iraq war, my
father, a surgeon in charge of a hospital specializing in burns and
reconstructive surgery, decided to take me to the hospital to teach me
an unforgettable lesson on war. I think one of the factors that
prompted him was my new obsession with classic war movies; you know,
ones like 'the Great Escape.' Anyhow, he took my hand and we entered a
'transition ICU Unit.' In that room, on a standard size hospital bunk
bed, laid an infant of eight or nine months of age, or what was
remaining of her. Over eighty percent of her body was burned; to a
degree that the skin had melted and absorbed the melting clothing on
top -impossible to remove without removing the skin with it. Instead of
a nose two holes were drilled in the middle of her face with tubes
inserted allowing breathing, the upper eyelids were melted and glued to
the lower ones, and...I am not going to go further - I believe you get
This baby was the victim of an air strike, a
bombing that killed her entire family and leveled her modest home to
the ground. My father pointed at this heartbreaking baby and said,
"Sibel, this is war. This is the real face of war. This is the result
of war. Do you think anything can justify this? I want to replace the
glamorous exciting phony images of those war movies in your head. I
want you to remember this for the rest of your life and stand against
this kind of destruction..."
And I do. This is why I am
offended by those petty numbers when it comes to civilian deaths. This
is the reason I believe some may need pictures of these atrocities as
much as those of torture to replace those 'Shock & Awe' footages
fed to them by our MSM.
All this death and destruction is
carried out while the administration's Afghan policy is still murky and
confused, and it's strategy ambiguous. Sure, our so-called 'New' Afghan
Strategy includes more troops and asks for a much larger budget
allocation; nothing new there. It is another war with no time table. It
is the continuation of the same abstract 'War on Terror' without any
definition of what would constitute an 'accomplished mission.' One
minute there is pondering on possible 'reconciliation' with the
Taliban, and the next minute seeking to topple it. In fact, to confuse
the matter even further, we now hear this distinction between 'Good
Taliban, Bad Taliban, and the Plain Ugly Taliban.' As stated by Karzai on Meet the Press on May 10, 2009, not all Taliban are equal!!
I can go on listing cases of Mr. Obama's change on change. Whether it is his reversal on protection for whistleblowers, despite his campaign promise to the contrary, or his expansion of the Un-American title of 'Czardom,'
where we now have more czars than ever: Border Czar, Energy Czar, Cyber
Security Czar...Car Czar...maybe even a Bicycle Czar!. Or...But for now I'll
stick with the major promises that were 'Central' to him getting
elected, all of which he has flipped on in less than 150 days in
office, a track record indeed.
What I want the readers to do is
to read the extremely important cases above, step back in time to those
un-ending campaign trail days, and answer the following questions:
would Senator McCain have acted on these same issues if he had been
elected? How would Senator Hilary Clinton? Do you believe there would
have been any major differences? Weren't their records almost identical
to Senator Obama's on these issues? If you are like me, and answer
'same,' 'same,' 'no,' and 'yes,' then, why do you think we ended up
with these exact same candidates, those deemed 'viable' and sold to us
With too much at stake, too many unfinished agendas for
the course of our nation, and too many skeletons in the closet in need
of hiding for self-preservation, the 'permanent establishment' made
certain that they took no risk by giving the public, via their MSM
tentacles, a coin that no matter how many times flipped would come up
the same - Heads, Heads.
will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too
happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much
more powerful than he could ever be." -- Marshall Mcluhan
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