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ANOTHER BIG DISAPPOINTMENT:
Protection Racket: Obama Gets Tough to Shield Bush Torturers
Thursday, 5 February 2009
The Obama intervention in the UK case [to strong-arm the British government to quash evidence of the torture of a UK resident] is just one of several moves his administration is making to protect Bush and his torturers -- and to preserve the presidential "prerogatives" that Bush asserted to justify torture, eavesdropping and aggression in the first place.How many times do you have to see it? How many times must it be shoved in your face, crammed down your throat, brought down on your head like a ton of bricks, before you get the picture? When it comes to the lineaments and methods of empire -- war, murder, torture, extortion, and deceit -- there is no difference, none whatsoever, between the hip, cool "progressives" in Team Obama and the gaggle of militarist goons who preceded them.
The comely mask of the new regime was torn away -- once again -- in a scandal that exploded in Britain on Wednesday. With unprecedented harsh language, two of Britain's high court judges revealed that both Bush and Obama officials have strong-armed the British government to quash evidence of the torture of a UK resident held captive in the American concentration camp on Guantanamo Bay. The judges said that the Bush-Obama officials threatened to stop sharing intelligence about terrorist threats against Britain unless the Brits played ball and stopped court hearings in the case of Binyam Mohamed.
Given this grave threat to British lives, the clearly angry judges said they had no choice but to stop the proceedings after the extraordinary intervention of UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who delivered the U.S. ultimatum. Once the story broke, the unctuous Miliband denied that his American masters had issued a direct threat. But the judges -- stalwart even stodgy Establishment figures both -- were clear about what had happened. As the Guardian and the BBC report:
Ah yes, but our poor stalwarts are laboring under a tragic delusion: that they are dealing with democracies "governed by the rule of law." What they are really confronted with is an arrogant imperial power looking to protect its elites from prosecution for capital crimes, with the craven, sniveling collusion of bootlicking errand boys across the sea. If I were a British citizen -- as two of my children are -- I would be deeply ashamed of this display of subservience.
But of course, the Brit bigwigs are trying to protect their own skins as well, for it is clear that British intelligence has been deeply enmeshed in the truly nightmarish treatment of Mohamed -- a man who has gone a tormenting progress through the very guts of the American gulag: renditioned to Morocco for months of torture, dropped into the horrific "Dark Prison" in Bagram (an integral part of the "good war" in Afghanistan) and finally dragged to Guantanamo Bay, where he has been abused and driven to the limits of desperation.
What was his crime? Nothing. American authorities have dropped even the hoked-up charges they once hung around Mohamed to justify their years of brutal treatment. The human rights group Reprieve tells the story:
This tortured and tormented man is now close to death as he continues to languish in the American concentration camp. Ironically, his broken condition may hasten his release, as Washington tries to wash their hands of their dirty work and get him out of Gitmo before he dies in U.S. custody -- which would be bad PR for the cool progressives now in charge of the camp, the gulag, and the entire Terror War apparatus. The Telegraph reports:
Obviously, the Obama Administration could care less if Mohamed lives or dies -- but they are vitally, frantically concerned that the tortures inflicted on him by the Bush Administration and its proxies remain forever buried. Thus, we have the hip, cool progressive praise that the Obama team offered yesterday for Miliband's toadying acquiescence to the American threat. The BBC reports:
As noted above, the high court judges have made clear that there was indeed a direct threat. Any weasel-word statements to the contrary by Miliband -- or the State Department of Hillary Clinton -- are, to put it bluntly, lies. If they are not, then let us see Miliband and Clinton and Obama sue the judges for libel.
The Obama intervention in the UK case is just one of several moves his administration is making to protect Bush and his torturers -- and to preserve the presidential "prerogatives" that Bush asserted to justify torture, eavesdropping and aggression in the first place. Since taking office little more than two weeks ago, Team Obama has already gone to court to protect and preserve Bush's blatantly illegal program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. citizens -- and, incredibly, to uphold the nefarious torture memos of John Yoo and quash court cases stemming from the illegal and unconstitutional incarceration without charges and subsequent torture of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla. [For more, see Arthur Silber's devastating analysis of these court moves, and their deeper implications, in "The System. Baby."]
Let's be very clear about all this. The Obama Administration is going to court to uphold -- to uphold -- the president's "prerogative" to arbitrarily declare any U.S. citizen an "enemy combatant" -- even if the citizen is arrested on U.S. soil -- and have that citizen held for years on end, without charges, in federal brigs where he can be isolated, broken and subjected to "harsh interrogation techniques." The Obama Administration is going to court to uphold -- to uphold -- the "prerogative" of government lawyers to proffer blatantly illegal memos concocted solely to justify an already existing system of crimes that are punishable by death under American law. The Obama Administration is continuing the Bush Administration's blatant blackmail against the nation's closest ally in order to keep evidence of torture -- evidence which involves no "sensitive" national security information whatsoever -- from being made public.
Is this clear enough for you? Is this what you voted for? And more importantly for all you savvy progressives out there who never want to commit the heinous sin of "making the perfect the enemy of the good" -- is this what you are willing to countenance and defend, with increasingly strained and painful moral contortions (like the ones that have greeted Obama's rendition policy), for the next four to eight years? Did you oppose the depredations of the Bush Regime out of principle -- or out of partisanship?
Do you really believe that an administration that goes to such lengths to protect torturers will ever actually prosecute any of the perpetrators of this abhorrent system? Do you really believe that an administration that sees torture and torture memos as "prerogatives" to be preserved will not itself commit tortures -- even if it confines itself to the various torture techniques laid out in the Army Field Manual (a Pentagon product that has suddenly become as sacrosanct as the Constitution in some progressive quarters)?
And here's one more question for you, from a long, long time ago: "How many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn't see?"
Chris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
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This story was published on February 5, 2009.
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