Jesurgislac’s Journal

April 8, 2009

Obama: for or against torture?

It would appear that President Obama has till May 11 to decide whether he does, in fact, actually oppose the US military torturing prisoners… or if he would just rather not know what the US military does to prisoners.

On May 11, Clive Stafford Smith, Binyam Mohamed’s lawyer, director of Reprieve, will appear in court to be charged with the crime of telling President Barack Obama that the Privilege Review Board had redacted the whole of a memo Smith wrote to Obama describing Binyam Mohamed’s treatment in Guantanamo Bay. (See Glenn Greenwald’s interview on Salon Radio.)

For that crime, Smith may spend up to six months in jail: that is, for the crime of telling the President of the United States that a secret committee in the Pentagon did not want him to know exactly what had been done to Binyam Mohamed.

Obama’s preference with regard to torture is clearly and explicitly to do nothing – that was unfortunately clear from November 22, when he announced he would keep George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense in the position he had held for two years. That’s an improvement on the pro-torture policies of the Bush administration, certainly – as King Log is better than King Stork.

But merely deciding to do nothing – neither to authorise torture techniques, nor take steps to prevent ongoing torture (prisoners were still being tortured at Guantanamo Bay in February this year, as Binyam Mohamed – and the doctors who examined him on his return to the UK – can testify), nor to prosecute those who committed torture with President Bush’s authorisation – is a complex balancing act, absolutely dependent on no one pushing.

Many Americans who objected to torture under Bush appear content now to not push – not to ask why Obama did not act to stop torture at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere as from January 21, not to ask why Obama is not setting in motion an investigation of torture under Bush, not to ask why the current Secretary of Defense, who may be implicated in the torture of prisoners under Bush, has been allowed to retain his position into Obama’s administration.

It’s true: Obama is so much better a President and a man than Bush that it’s actually hard to compare them: and the US and the rest of the world dodged a bullet when McCain lost so comprehensively last November. (Two bullets, in fact: President Palin.)

But because Obama is so much better than Bush, he should be pushed harder. Now it’s come down to a decision Obama has to make: is he going to take the position that people should be prosecuted and jailed for telling him about prisoners being tortured by the US – and let that happen to Clive Stafford Smith and others at Reprieve? Is he going to ask to read the unredacted memo? Is he going to begin the investigation of torture in the US military that should have begun in 2004?

May 11th. Obama has a deadline.

November 16, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 11

What’s next?

11 Establish a single-payer health service

The US health system is the most expensive and the least effective in the world. Taking health care provision away from health insurance companies is the first step towards remedying that.

Okay, break’s over!

November 15, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 10

Filed under: My Obama Wish List,Pets — jesurgislac @ 8:31 am
Tags: , , ,

What’s next?

10 Getting the First Puppy

Take more time to choose and vet the puppy for the First Daughters than McCain did when he chose Sarah Palin.

Okay, break’s over!

November 14, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 9

What’s next?

9 Repeal the global gag rule.

The Global Gag Rule was re-instated by George W. Bush on his first day office. It was a promise of symbolic support to the misogynistic Christians who are the backbone of the forced pregnancy movement, and it was a warning to people round the world who regard women as human beings and care about human life.

The global gag rule is a rule that no recipient of US aid may advise women on where they can get an abortion. They may not even talk about the need for safe legal abortion, or the damage that lack of safe legal abortion does to women.

In a world where lack of access to safe legal abortion kills over 60 000 women each year, the global gag rule is a monstrosity, justified by hypocrites who claim “each life is precious” – and who don’t care how many people die because of it.

Okay, break’s over!

November 13, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 8

What’s next?

8 Give Joseph Darby the Medal of Honor.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, when serving in Abu Ghraib.

Not only because Joseph Darby deserves to be honoured for what he did: but also to send the clear message to Americans who support torture that Darby is a hero.

He deserves more from the US military than a personal letter from Donald Rumsfeld telling him to stop talking about how Rumsfeld outed him on the news while he was still serving in Iraq.

Okay, break’s over!

November 12, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 7

What’s next?

7. Investigate the Department of Defense for all those implicated in the torture of prisoners held by the US military.

Everyone who worked there during the Bush administration who could have known about the torture of prisoners before they read about it in the papers, must be investigated to discover if they did.

If they knew about the torture of prisoners and did not speak out, the minimum penalty exacted should be to be fired from their post and banned for life from any government employment: prosecution may follow. And yes, that includes the officers whose crime was “merely” to ignore the reports of lower-ranking soldiers that US soldiers were torturing prisoners. The more senior the position held, the more strongly an investigation should push for prosecution. Neither Donald Rumsfeld nor Robert M. Gates should be exempt.

Okay, break’s over!

November 11, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 6

What’s next?

6 Withdraw all US troops from Iraq.

Well, okay, even McCain would have had to do that. Bush was supposed to set a timetable for withdrawal a year ago. The US military is overstretched, exhausted, and so near breaking point it’s not even funny.

Better Dunkirque than Thermopylae.

Okay, break’s over!

November 10, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 5

Filed under: Bad Stuff Happens,My Obama Wish List — jesurgislac @ 8:39 am
Tags: ,

What’s next?

5 Repeal the USA-PATRIOT Act.

Does anything more really need to be said?

Okay, break’s over!

November 9, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 4

What’s next?

4. Investigate the 84 Bush-appointed U.S. Attorneys who were not sacked

At least nine U.S. Attorneys were sacked because they did not comply with the Bush administration’s orders to be partisan and to make use of their powers to support their party and the Bush administration.

The U.S. Attorneys who were appointed by George W. Bush and who were not sacked must be investigated to clear them of the presumption that they escaped sacking because they were willing to use their powers as partisan tools of the Bush administration.

Especially given the Bush administration’s willingness to use the U.S. Attorneys to electioneer by falsely incriminating Democratic candidates and shielding Republican candidates for office.

Okay, break’s over!

November 8, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 3

What’s next?

3. Repeal DOMA.

The Defense of Marriage Act (PDF) is a piece of bigoted nonsense that Bill Clinton should have vetoed. (Though to be fair, if he had vetoed it, you can bet the Republicans would have brought it back after 20th January 2001.)

Once DOMA is repealed, same-sex couples who are legally married must receive all federal recognition and benefits. The states which have passed legislation or constitutional amendments declaring that they don’t have to give full faith and credit to marriages or civil unions they don’t like, will have to deal direct with Article 4 of the US Constitution, which says rather definitely (and is backed by case law) that they do.

Okay, break’s over!

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