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COLUMN: Obama’s Humane Error

Upon entering the Oval Office, President Barack Obama promptly promised to usher in a series of changes, one of which would be closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Under President George W. Bush, Guantanamo had become a symbol of America’s weakening commitment to human rights.

At Gitmo, suspected terrorists were tortured and held indefinitely, sometimes without ever being afforded the dignity of a trial.

Gitmo signaled an administration content to let fear be its guide. In reducing ourselves to wartime barbarism, we forfeited a moral authority we’d once been able to claim with less trepidation.

Human rights supporters hoped that Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo indicated he’d be less apt to let fear dictate policy. They hoped that under Obama, the U.S. could walk onto the world stage confident that our own house was in good order.

As the president’s first term comes to a close, it’s clear these hopes were misplaced.

Republican efforts to keep Guantanamo open stifled the president’s resolve. To this day, the prison remains in operation.

And the president’s defeat at Guantanamo is but one of his failures in the human rights arena.

Under the Bush Administration, the CIA was granted permission to run a global network of secret prisons for suspected terrorists. Prisons worked in tandem with the intelligence agency’s decades-old rendition program, which allowed suspects on foreign soil to be abducted and detained.

The Bush Administration drew harsh criticism from the international community after some accused the CIA of being complicit in the torture of detainees.

Obama shuttered the secret prison system within days of taking office, but ordered the continuation of the CIA’s rendition program.

“If done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice,” the president concluded.

On the campaign trail in 2008, then-candidate Obama vowed to bring the War on Terror back in line with American ideals. In allowing rendition to continue, he reneged on that promise.

Further soiling this president’s record on human rights has been his expansion of U.S. drone strikes in the Middle East and across the Horn of Africa.

After 18 civilians were mistakenly killed by a drone in Afghanistan this past June, American-led NATO forces in the country finally decided to discontinue targeting Afghan homes for drone strikes.

Outside of Afghanistan, strikes on homes are still permitted.

The Obama Administration has enacted a policy under which all military-aged males killed within a strike zone are labeled enemy combatants unless evidence surfaces proving otherwise.

This policy has made precise analysis of just how many civilians perish in drone strikes nearly impossible, and calls into question Obama Administration claims that civilian casualties have been minimal.

Obama’s drone strike program is divorced both from meaningful oversight and the American values the War on Terror purportedly defends.

Obama was voted into office by an electorate expecting him to follow through on promises of change.

With respect to human rights, the president has not met those expectations.

5 Comments

  1. mediacriticpa says:

    Keeping Gitmo open was one of the few things Obama did right. The prisoners at Club Gitmo are dangerous terrorists who would like to blow-up the United States. We haven’t had any 9-11′s since Club Gitmo has opened. The prisoners live in a resort-style setting with sporting events, good food and prayer time.; What more could you ask for. Americans pay top dollar to visit Carribean resorts for vacation. The terrorists are getting it free of charge.

  2. Barack Hussein Obama knew soon after taking office and being briefed on the Global War on Terror and the nature of our insidious enemy, that it was imperative to keep the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, open. There is still today no safer or more secure appropriate location in which to hold unlawful combatant Islamist extremists who want to kill us, and who may have valuable information that may save many lives. During WWII we held over 400,000 lawful Prisoners of War from Germany and Italy in the U.S. without one call for extra legal privileges for them. According to the Geneva Conventions, even lawful combatant POW’s can be legally held, without charge or trial, “until the end of hostilities.” Unlawful combatants (those who flaunt the Geneva Conventions) have even fewer rights, and by law could be executed on the battlefield for being spies, as was the case in previous conflicts. Al Qaeda train how to disrupt detention operations, lie about their treatment, and then try to take advantage of the legal system of the United States, which tends to reward the best lawyer, rather than be an objective search for the truth. People like you simply give them aid and comfort by regurgitating liberal propaganda on their behalf. Stop arguing for an enemy who, as they have demonstrated many times before, would publicly cut your head off and then parade your corpse through the streets of an Islamist extremist country you were trying to save. Al Qaeda don’t take prisoners and keep them alive for very long, so there is actually no comparison. However, International Committee of the Red Cross physicians I worked with, both at Gitmo in 2002, and in iraq in 2004-2005 told me that “nobody does [detention operations] better than the United States.”

    • I_Was_A_Teenage_McCarthyist says:

      What a wonderfully poignant pile of crap argument.
      Basically your rational is that they don’t matter because they hate us.

      But why is it that ‘they’ hate us?
      Maybe it is all the terrible crap we did to their country since the 1954.
      If you don’t know what I’m referring to, look it up.

      How can ‘they’ continue to fight?
      Probably because the US trained over 100,000 of them in the 80s.

      Who are ‘they’ anyway?
      This hatred for the other is completely present in this “war”.
      I put that in quotations because it isn’t one. This is the Hegemony of the United States in full swing. We have no objective and therefore no way to judge victory. This war will never have an end. The Military Industrial Complex will continue to kill people all over the world so out fake economy doesn’t go out the window.

      The only thing the US is good is killing brown people without probable cause (after disrespecting the sovereignty of multiple nations for half a century, building an army of people who hate our way of life, then killing all their children and women on a whim)

      This war will never end. What is “win” suppose to mean in this situation?

  3. The congress left Obama no choice, he was forced to keep the instillation open. God it is long past time to throw this incompetent ass out of office.

  4. I_Was_A_Teenage_McCarthyist says:

    You know they one of the dangerous terrorist who would like to blow-up the United States was 13 upon release after being detained for four years.
    Another was 94.

    Fear is useless, except to control loud mouth tools like yourself.

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