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.

Advertisements

4 Comments »

  1. Obama signed immediately after taking office the order to close Guantanamo Bay and declared that the U.S. does not torture. He has given it one year to get Gitmo closed.

    I’ve done quite a lot of reading on who authorized the torture and it wasn’t Secretary of Defense Gates. Keeping him on does not indicate an interest in keeping torture.

    Things are definitely different under President Obama. The heat should be kept on to ensure that those who broke U.S. laws and Geneva Conventions should be held accountable.

    Comment by AustinTXGal — April 9, 2009 @ 5:29 am | Reply

  2. Obama signed immediately after taking office the order to close Guantanamo Bay and declared that the U.S. does not torture. He has given it one year to get Gitmo closed.

    So what? Bush made verbal declarations that the US does not torture. It is actions, not rhetoric, that will tell us if Obama is against torture – and so far, Obama’s actions amount to nothing. Obama’s intentions to close Guantanamo Bay are not relevant while he also intends to move prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Bagram Airbase – and the prison at Bagram Airbase is being expanded, not closed. Stopping the torture at Guantanamo Bay should have been a January 21st task, not something left for months.

    I’ve done quite a lot of reading on who authorized the torture and it wasn’t Secretary of Defense Gates.

    Not relevant. If Gates was aware that the US military was torturing prisoners, and did nothing, he is implicated in Bush’s authorization of torture. If he can show sufficient evidence to create reasonable doubt that he knew about the torture, he proves himself an inefficient, ineffective Secretary – but thati s not a crime.

    Things are definitely different under President Obama.

    I certainly hope we will eventually see a significant change – which I had no hope of under Bush.

    The heat should be kept on to ensure that those who broke U.S. laws and Geneva Conventions should be held accountable.

    If Obama does not act – if he permits Clifford Smith to go to jail for the crime of telling him that the Pentagon doesn’t want him to know about torture – then Obama himself will be implicated. Indeed, given Obama’s stated intention to keep Bagram Airbase open and expand it, Obama is already guilty of breaking the Geneva Convention.

    It would be ironic if the next Republican President sees Obama’s failure to act, Obama’s continuance of Bush’s policies, as a valid enough reason to open an investigation for the purpose of prosecuting Obama.

    Comment by jesurgislac — April 9, 2009 @ 6:44 am | Reply

  3. Yes, well – we see how far he’s gotten with closing Gitmo working on 7 months past his deadline.

    It amazes me how the liberals want to wail on about torture, but never touch the topic of rendition. Obama has continued and embraces rendition – as he is too afraid not to – for fear that information will not be obtained to thwart a terrorist attack that would cost him his precious TV time and ratings.

    I think it will be more than ironic if the next President decides to prosecute Obama – I think it will be poetic justice and we can only hope and pray that it will come to pass.

    Nothing of any substance has changed under Obama. Things are NOT different – only worse. Bush was bad, but Obama is worse.

    Obama continues all of the bad Bush policies and enacts more of his own bad policies – all laced with deceit, corruption, and obscureness (quite the opposite of transparency).

    Why anyone in their right mind ever thought Obama (the man with no administrative experience – simply a community organizer) would be any better, is beyond me.

    Actually, I think Hillary would have been the better choice of the three (Obama, McCain, Hillary) – and I absolutely can’t stand her.

    Comment by Sally Hill — June 15, 2010 @ 6:54 am | Reply

    • Bush was bad, but Obama is worse.

      Ah. I think you’re commenting on the wrong thread. Here’s one that might suit you better. This comment is a classic case of “so many things wrong, where to START?”

      I’m not sure you’ve written one sentence without multiple errors: quite a feat!

      Comment by jesurgislac — June 15, 2010 @ 8:22 am | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: