President Obama promised to close Guantanamo and he kept that promise within days of taking office, signing an order that the facility be closed within one year. Given the policies that he has pronounced regarding the people held in that facility in the months since that announcement, I am having difficulty coming up with a label for the nature of his duplicity.
It’s not really a broken promise, because he is still closing the facility, but he talked about “restoring America’s honor” and things like “the rule of law” in making that promise. If he continues to hold the people of Guantanamo in a different facility using the same lack of accountability that was keeping them in Guantanamo, then how is he keeping the spirit of that promise?
According to the Wall Street Journal today, military tribunals are still on the table despite his promise to restore these detainees to the American justice system. These tribunals will be allowed to consider evidence obtained by torture (or as the government calls it “coerced evidence”), provided that the tribunal “deems it credible.” Even if found not guilty by the tribunal, the detainee’s release is a “policy decision” to be made by the executive.
I’m not going to make hyperbolic charges of “that sounds like Bush” or “that’s what the Soviet Union used to do.” Well, actually I am; it sounds very close to both of those things. I do know that it is a travesty. I do know that it is not something that I want my country doing. I do know that it is not what I cast my vote for.
We get an “economic stimulus” in which only 10% of jobs creation funding gets delivered in the first six months of the crisis and fully 50% is in the “planning stage” for late in the second year. We get financial reform that devotes $700 billion to taxpayers and $3 trillion to Wall Street. We get “health care reform” that consists of making every person in America purchase health insurance; merely an extension of our existing, broken system to those not presently covered by it. We get the closing of a symbolic gulag and the continuance of those policies in another location.
I voted for change, I voted for action, and I'm getting window dressing.
Update: Wednesday, 6:00pm
For an in-depth, really excellent and expert discussion of just how appalling the Obama position on "indefinite detention" really is, read today's post by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com today.