To be brutally honest, those of us concerned with “national security” issues (indefinite detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo and elsewhere, trials by Military Commission and accountability for the Bush administration’s torturers) and foreign policy (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) could tell by May 2009 that “hope” and “change” were dead in the water.
Whereas Barack Obama had never disguised his desire to step up the military occupation of Afghanistan, while scaling down operations in Iraq, he had promised — or had seemed to promise — a thorough repudiation of the detention policies at Guantánamo and Bagram, and the coercive interrogations and torture that had stalked their cells and interrogation rooms.
However, although he promised to close Guantánamo within a year and to uphold the absolute ban on torture in a series of executive orders issued on his second day in office, fine words were followed by months of inactivity, as a cautious Task Force of career officials from government departments and the intelligence agencies was convened to review the Guantánamo cases.
By May 2009, with Republicans seizing on the President’s court-ordered release of a notorious series of “torture memos,” issued by Justice Department lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 and 2005, as a demonstration of his untrustworthiness on national security issues, a fundamental change occurred.
The reviled Military Commission trial system for Guantánamo prisoners, which Obama had suspended on his first day in office, was reintroduced, as was indefinite detention without charge or trial as an official policy, even though this was the heart of the Bush administration’s program, and even though progressive supporters of the President had presumed that there were only two options for the remaining prisoners: federal court trials, or release.
This was followed by another deeply unsavory official policy — resisting any more embarrassing disclosures about the Bush administration’s torture program by inappropriately invoking sweeping “state secrets” privileges, as, for example, in the case of five men subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture, who sought to sue Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing subsidiary that had operated as the CIA’s torture travel agent.
There were also several other disgraces: fighting a court order providing new homes on the US mainland to Guantánamo prisoners (the Uighurs) who had won their habeas corpus petitions but who could not be repatriated (to China) because of the risk of torture in their home countries; fighting a court order extending habeas corpus rights to a handful of foreign prisoners rendered to Bagram from other countries; preventing the release of any cleared prisoners to Yemen after a hysterical overreaction to the news that the failed Christmas Day plane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was recruited in Yemen; replacing the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation policies with drone attacks on Pakistan; and approving the assassination of US citizens anywhere in the world.
Although Republicans in Congress — and cowardly members of Obama’s own party — bear considerable blame for the descent into paralysis of those few parts of the President’s bold promises that he had not already undermined voluntarily, the end result of the last 21 months of cowardice and compromise is that, on foreign policy and national security issues, there was little positive momentum that a shift of political power in the mid-term elections could actually erode.
That said, losing control of the House of Representatives guarantees that anything the administration might have still contemplated doing — standing up to critics and insisting that, as announced a year ago, the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks will take place in federal court, or moving any of the Guantánamo prisoners to a prison on the US mainland — has no chance of happening at all, making the United States a slightly gloomier place than it was before the mid-term elections.
Moreover, given the deepening of Obama’s paralysis that this signifies, it also makes it seem less, rather than more likely that the President and his party will be able to do anything meaningful to lure back the progressive base that helped secure victory in 2008, in time for the 2012 Presidential election, unless, by some miracle, someone decides to try to rein in the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex as an economic necessity (if for no other reason).
That, however, sounds too much like “hope” and “change,” which, to reiterate, are dead in the water in America today.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
People love(d) Barack Obama, because he inspired them, to hope in their time of desperation. It is sad that he lost his own sense of hope and enthusiasm to create change. When he got into office, maybe he discover that the President does not have so much power after all. (No wonder there is such a thing as a ‘dictator’.)
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On Facebook, Thomas Philip Davis wrote:
Thanks Andy. I agree wholehearted but I’m still holding some hope for the potential of President Obama to rally the progressives. We’ll see.
Daniel Vazquez Paluch wrote:
I agree with Andy. The realities of American politics had killed any chance of “hope” and “change” long before the mid-term elections. Capitulation over Gitmo and core aspects of the health reform had already made that clear.
The irony of course is that all the American voters want is a showing of backbone and principles– even if they nominally “disagree” with them; had Obama adhered to his own stated campaign promises and principles on these issues (or anything else!), his party would be expanding their hold on power, instead of conceding it.
Of course, corporate America wants the single-minded pursuit of greenbacks, and having a pliable government with the ability to lock up anti-corporate miscreants at will, without any irritating need for “due process” is just far too important to the overall program… and the program cannot be bucked by a mere middle-manager such as the President (note that none other than George W. Bush tells us he was “a dissenting vote” viz going to war with Iraq [ http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/11/bush_i_was_a_dissenting_voice_on_iraq_war.php ] … telling, is it not?)
“Hope and change” were, it seems, dead on arrival; my college classmate Barack can no longer disappoint me… because I no longer expect anything of him. For any kind of “justice” or even “sanity”… we’ll have to wait either for a popular groundswell (good luck there!), or more likely, the collapse of the American empire… which, given how it’s being managed, isn’t likely to be all too long.
On the Huffington Post, Annoula wrote:
THANK YOU, Andy! Nobody could have said it better! Like you, I feel deceived and betrayed by Obama’s inaction and timidity regarding human rights. While I am willing to cut him some slack on many other issues like unemployment, the economy and even DADT etc., because they are not entirely in his hands, he alone [together with AG Eric Holder] could have delivered on the promises of his inaugural speech and that alone would have earned him respect and credibility.
I hate to say this but at least with Bush and Cheney, we all knew what to expect [worse] but Obama has been a big disappointment in that area and, like you say, there’s no reason to expect anything different for the rest of his term.
Here are some comments from Common Dreams:
Well worth reading are the set of essays that make up Chalmers Johnson’s new book: Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope. Johnson makes clear that the global empire of military bases numbering more than 5500 worldwide according to Pentagon 2009 data (4,863 in US and territories, 716 in 130 plus other nations) and costing more than a trillion $$$ a year is unsustainable for a financially bankrupt country. The base figure does NOT include the numerous bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Johnson makes the case that continuing this global militarism is in fact a “suicide option” for the US. It is now clear that the ruling elites are ready and willing to impoverish most of the US population, let education, healthcare and infrastructure decay, and suppress civil liberties with an iron fist in a vain attempt to continue financing and extending the military machine. It all makes one ponder if they are using Orwell’s nightmare vision of society in 1984 as their guiding textbook on social organization for the endless wars and surviellance police state being imposed on us all.
Yes, the Empire of (domestic and foreign) military bases and the industrial and military interests that live off it, are bringing ruin to the majority of the inhabitants of this country, as certainly as the sun will rise tomorrow.
We are a society in collapse mode, and the results of the recent elections regrettably only confirm that.
It seems exceedingly difficult for the battered minds of this nation to snap out of a number of fixes, beliefs, and conceptual schemes (such as the alleged two party system). This does happen to societies, as Jared Diamond and Joseph Tainter have shown.
The key sentence is here:
“Moreover… it also makes it seem less… likely that the President and his party will be able to do anything meaningful… unless, by some miracle, someone decides to try to rein in the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex as an economic necessity…”
That “someone” will be Mr. Economic Collapse. I know that I repeat myself, but it is worth pondering the upsides of Depression II. There are a few.
I respectfully disagree. I don’t believe anything can stop Obama & these people at this point. They’ve full command of the planet’s resources including those at home: the printing presses/one-stop-one-click manufacturing of currency, the Press and a fearful American populace.
They are unstoppable.
Check out Robert Reich’s article just posted: http://robertreich.org/post/1474949428
“They” may have full command of the planet’s resources and finances, but they don’t have full command of the Republican party, which is about to engage in economic vandalism for political gain. Reich predicts an “anemic” economy as a result. I’ll do him one better and predict a full-on collapse. I just happen to be more pessimistic (or optimistic, depending on how you see things).
The idiots on Wall Street are quite stoppable. Just de-regulate them and watch as they choke to death on their own greed.
And here are more comments from Facebook:
Tony Gosling wrote:
And with Western troops in Yemen (after recent false flag terror scares) stopping arabs attacking Western ships going through the Suez canal all will be ready for an attack on Iran.
John H Kennedy wrote:
Obama has thrown away the best opportunity since FDR to change America for the betterment of its middle and lower classes. PRIMARY OBAMA!
Mui J. Steph wrote:
Andy, I now think that Obama had no intentions of closing Gitmo or changing Bush policy. (It was PR exercise as one Republican blurted out) The result of the midterm elections merely means Obama won’t have to do anything that he promised and didn’t want to do anyway. If you look at has strange “inertia” on climate change, immigration, finance, DADT etc., reducing Global aids prveention to zero, and then blaming the so-called “left” for putting up a fuss & the republicans for “obstructionism”, there’s a pattern. And that pattern says that Obama is so conservtive he might as well be republican, or his major concern is job security, to the point where he doesn’t care how many people lose their jobs.
Imran Chaudhry wrote:
Globalist agenda is to invade Yemen, The modus operandi of the US to find a pretext to invade a country is to manufacture Al Qaida involvement biggest example of that was Iraq , there was no Al Qaida , the US went into a anti Saddam enclave and found a guy called Zakawi and made him into the head of Al Qaida in Iraq and thus used that to destroy and oppress a country , the same is going on in Afghanistan and to an extent Pakistan and elsewhere in the world
Just look at the map where Yemen is situated its at the bottom of Saudi Arabia and you have the Yemeni port Aden if you have a navel base in Aden you would be in a good position to control the exit of the Red Sea in other words all the traffic from the Suez canal is going into the India ocean and has to go right by Yemen plus all the oil tankers going from Sudan which by the way is a country that is target by the US which wants it to split it in half and have a civil war, the oil goes from Sudan to China and guess where it has to go by yes you guest it Yemen. Now look at the situation in Yemen , the government of Yemen is supported by Saudi Arabia and there are rebels in the north part of the country that are supported by Iran so its a beautiful opportunity to play Saudi Arabia against Iran. Remember in order to be a player you need a chess piece on the board so check this out this is how there doing it , they freed a couple of detainees from Guantanamo and freed them into Yemen obviously with clear idea that they would declare themselves Al Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula , there’s the pretext for you and then you have Awlaki who comes along , if you have a dupe a pasty someone they want to validate that’s in touch with Al Qaida and want to sheep dip him they just make him exchange a few emails with Awlaki and low and behold you have another would be extremist, But this game is getting very old , its a very transparent and discredited game , the problem is there no large political force , there’s nobody whose willing to say the obvious thing that this stuff is manufactured that its fake that its tremendously dangerous. there’s an ominous pattern that’s on going here i don’t know where its going to lead but it doesn’t look pretty so far
Mui J. Steph wrote:
The “girls” could use your input on Yemen.
Imran Chaudhry wrote:
Recently there was the bullets in the Washington area, the scare of attempted bombings at subway stops that were allegedly being studied and then you have this drama of this air incident with packages from Yemen it would seem to point to something else happening im not exactly certain what that is but these incidences are perhaps harbingers of something bigger to come
Mui J. Steph wrote:
Add in Mainland China & its serious need for fuel, then Russia, Pakistan, India, it’s all very sick and dangerous & reckless. Already saw Israel bragging of threatening China on Iran. I don’t know what M. China said to the U.S. but it resulted in toothless sanctions.(and that doesn’t bother me because Israel is reckless and dangerous, but what other deals are being cut?
Karen Martin wrote:
I agree, “Yemen here we come”. I am still about as depressed as one can be over our elections. To cap it off Andy, on CNN I heard that some big honcho at the CIA has determined that Exrtraordinary Renditions are perfectly legal. I’m towards the end of Jane Mayer’s THE DARK SIDE, so am very attuned to such announcements. America lost it’s soul and I fear won’t retrieve it for decades to come.
I also fear we will never understand, as a nation what General Smedley Butler conveyed almost a hundred years ago. U.S. military is used for corporate interests. I’m so damn sick of U.S. Imperialism words cannot express.
Imran Chaudhry wrote:
The US is in the prep stages of developing and opening a new front on its war on terror , all these small incidences and dramas are its way to manufacture a pretext in invading Yemen the writings on the wall. plus Under his deceptive left cover, Obama is more of a dictator than Bush ever was. He openly claims the right to assassinate American citizens if they are outside the country. Under Obama, renditions (kidnappings), black sites, torture, and the Guantánamo concentration camp are still going strong.
Mui J. Steph wrote:
Which supports our theories that Obama is hiding behind republicans on domestic issues as well: climate change, immigration issues, health care, the economy, Global Aids funding, Gitmo, illegal assinations, stomping on habeas corpus etc.
Mui J. Steph also wrote:
Ah Karen, we haven’t lost our soul. We have had our government hijacked by right wing loons, whether they’re posing as Dems or Pukes. See polls, progressives do pretty well.
Imran Chaudhry wrote:
Republicans and Democrats are in bed with each other, in reality there’s only one globalist doctrine the two sides are just manufactured to make people believe there’s a democracy creating the illusion that each side pits its self against the other to give the electorate something to get its teeth stuck into but in reality its just classic hoodwinking in order to gain the main objective , presidents are front men they are replaced constantly determined by the circumstances of the era regardless of being democrat or republican that’s irrelevant its about how to further the global hegemony for the few elite at all costs
Imran Chaudhry also wrote:
As you rightfully say Mui J. Steph, we haven’t lost our souls, that’s one thing they can never control
Mui J. Steph wrote:
Imran, there’s an enormous amount of dissatisfaction that is reaching boiling level because of the economy. Our politicians have been deftly ignoring that in a way Mainland Chinese governemnt doesn’t (they get more oppressive.)
Daniel Vazquez Paluch wrote:
Come on Imran, do you really think AQ aren’t in Yemen? I don’t think you’ll find any Yemeni that would agree with you on that. The Huthis and southern secessionists are a bigger problem, and even they take a back seat to corruption and dying water and oil reserves. But AQ are there nevertheless.
I doubt the US will be stupid enough to go into Yemen. For starters, the Yemeni gov’t has a good relationship with the US, the EU, the IMF and all other international bodies. And the Saudis, who back the Yemeni government, know that US intervention in Yemen would affect their own domestic legitimacy.
A much more likely scenario is far bigger military aid to Yemen (a $1b dollar military aid package is rumoured to be likely) and leave the Yemenis to try and take out AQ.
Willy Bach wrote:
Thanks Andy, good article. Re-posted. Funny, I live with North Americans all around me here in Monteverde and a year ago I heard this word ‘hope’ on many lips, and when Obama showed himself to be no different to any other Rep/Dem President/Commander-in-Chief they came up with a lot of excuses like, “he’s turning around a big ship”, “give him a chance”, “wait and see” and ‘hope’ bobbing up all the time.
I hear much less of this today. People are worried, paralyzed into inaction – hope is gone. I will personally never forget that Obama had Aziz Abdul Naji forcibly deported to Algeria at risk of his life (though, remarkably, he is still alive for the time being). That event really shook some peoples’ hope.
Hope is actually an unhealthy and dis-empowering emotion based on delusional thinking. Thanks Andy, the death of hope might actually be the unfortunately long-deferred birth of realism, but there will be some anger and it will be ‘messy’ (as Donald Rumsfeld put it) but we will need to see a USA that is willing to admit its crimes, pay compensation, war reparations and exemplary damages and start to behave a bit more like Norway (on a good day).
The acolyte nations will have to do their bit too, especially Britain and Australia, others too.
I am afraid the Guantanamo Bay abductees have still a long way to go to get justice.
Christine Casner wrote:
Hi Andy, you are right, but money drowns out our voices here now, at this point we would not even be able to hear the rants & tyrades of tea-partiers & non-thinkers at town hall meetings! Money talks…….. chris
Wow, so I step out for a few hours to visit the Islam Channel for “Ummah Talk,” discussing — funnily enough — the mid-term elections and drone strikes in Pakistan, and on my return I find a full-on debate raging. Thanks, everyone.
And what “hope” and “change” really were? A mirage, a media invention of a media bot, a pleasently looking, articulate man they’ve chosen to be yet another puppet president and play his role. Manipulation into believing that a back-stabbing politician for the Chicago’s low-level burlesque theatre was unbereable. It took them full two years of “preliminaries” and gazillion covers and TV hours to familiarize the rascist nation with a black face into accepting him as a president. But all was a charade, like everything had been since forever.
In 1929 the Goldman Sachs Trading Company had ALL of its investment invested in its own stock. In 2010 the Goldman Sachs is openly raping and pillaging the country. The president then, today, in between? Who cares if you’re a part of The Financial Crime Cartel, their private FED and as long as the puppet serves you.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that the US has been dominating the planet with corrupt and militaristic methods at least since Truman. Attempts from within government to change course are quashed. Review what happened to the members of the Church Commission who voted for the report. The preferred method is throwing money at elections, but assassinations are approved when necessary. While the CIA only responds to direct Presidential order, laid-off covert operatives are dangerous enemies, as demonstrated in the cases of Carter & Kennedy.
Derailing a power this big will take informed, dedicated people working with everything we’ve got to establish and maintain local communities that support people who live intentionally without giving their power away. The struggle will last longer than our lifetimes, so let’s get started right away.
Thanks, Vernon. An excellent analysis, and I think it’s why the focus on torture — and accountability for torture — as the heart of what I refer to as nothing less than the battle for America’s soul, is so important, as it stands at the heart of this unaccountable death machine that dominates government, and has done, as you rightly say, since Truman.
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