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About Us |
Torture and War, Obama Sounds Increasingly, and
Disturbingly, Like Bush
22 May 2009
By Dave Lindorff
himself and declaring that the US government will not
release further photos in its possession of torture
being practiced on captives held by the US military
and the CIA, President Obama is sounding increasingly
like the Bush/Cheney administration before him.
It may well be that, as Obama says, release of
those photos could lead to anger in the Islamic world
and perhaps to recruitment gains among groups like Al
Qaeda that are attacking American troops in Iraq,
Afghanistan and elsewhere, but this is only true
because at the same time, the Obama administration is
opposing taking any legal action against the people
who authorized and promoted that torture.
If the Obama administration were to open a
full-scale legal investigation into torture, with an
independent prosecutor assigned to go after anyone who
violated the Geneva Conventions and the US Criminal
Code outlawing torture and the authorization,
condoning or covering-up of torture, quite the
opposite would happen: people in the Islamic world
would see that this nation was coming to terms with
those who abused the law. The horrifying and sickening
pictures would be seen as part of the process of
exposing and punishing the crime of torture.
As things stand, we have a only few people at the
very bottom of the chain of command who are doing jail
time or suffering administrative punishments for
committing acts of torture and abuse which they
believed had been ordered and authorized by leaders in
the military, the Secretary of Defense's office, and
the White House, but not one of those in authority who
set the torture of captives in motion has been called
to justice. Obama has endorsed that situation by again
referring to the torture as just the actions of "a few
It was hardly that, however, and he knows it.
Torture was a major part of the Bush/Cheney so-called
"War" on Terror, and was being conducted on an
industrial scale, with White House lawyers providing
legal cover, the Secretary of Defense sending memos
urging every more aggressive techniques, and
government doctors and psychologists working
assiduously to make them more "effective."
The illogic of Obama's position on these photos is
stunning. Since we know the photos exist, the refusal
to make them public can only feed a sense that they
must be worse than the horrific photos of torture at
Abu Ghraib Prison which were already released. Nobody
is going to assume that the photos in the White
House's possession are less offensive than
what has already been discovered and made public--for
why would the administration be worried about that?
The truth is always better than a cover-up, and
what we now have the president advocating is a
cover-up of American torture.
But that's only part of the president's slide into
Cheneyism. We have the president now calling for the
possible indefinite detention of terror suspects--an
idea that only insures that there will always be an
incentive for recruiting more terrorists (to avenge
those in captivity)--and that makes a joke of our own
Constitution, which guarantees everyone--not just
citizens--the right to a trial, the right to a
presumption of innocence, and protection from "cruel
and unusual punishment," which indefinite detention
The war in Afghanistan, which now must be called
Obama's War, thanks to his policy of escalation, is
also becoming Cheneyesque, with the firing of Gen.
David McKiernan, and his replacement as head of the
Afghanistan War by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Gen.
McChrystal hails from the Special Forces, and played a
role in the torture that was integral to the US war
and occupation in Iraq. Far from being put in charge
of operations in Afghanistan, where public backing for
the US military is virtually non-existent at this
point, McChrystal should be facing investigation and
possible prosecution here at home for his role in
torture of captives.
It has never made sense to initiate a war in
Afghanistan in order to go after a band of criminal
terrorists hidiing out in the mountains. Bush and
Cheney turned what should have been a focused hunt for
Al Qaeda terrorists into a war on the Taliban
government and ultimately the people of Afghanistan.
Obama has continued that error, and now blithely
hyphenates the terms Al Qaeda and Taliban in defining
the "enemy" of American forces in that country.
Such a war can never be won, and can only lead to
tragedy, not just for the people of Afghanistan, for
whom it is already that, but for American troops and
ultimately for America itself.
It is a war that never should have been fought, and
which now should be ended as rapidly as possible.
Obama at this point, by covering up for official
torture, and by signing on to and expanding the war in
Afghanistan, is dooming his presidency, further
staining the reputation of the United States, and
ultimately furthering the decline of the country that
was set in motion by his predecessors.