OBAMA’s FAILURES NEWSLETTER #2, February 20, 2015.
Compiled by Dick Bennett for a Culture of Caring Peace, Justice, and Ecology.
(#1 Dec. 12, 2013).
163849 pageviews - 1494 posts, last published on Feb 20, 2015
What’s at stake: Ever since the beginning of US commitment to WWII in Dec. 1941, the Democrats with the Republicans have formed the War and Empire (and torture) Party. The same is true today despite the removal of the Great Satan, the Stalinist Soviet Union. It is time for the US to have a Peace Party, and the Democrats could be that Party, to the great relief of the world. And while some citizens also combine the two main Parties as the Corporate Party, and ever since the administration of Jimmy Carter the Democrats have increasingly embraced corporate interests and money, vestiges of FDR’s New Deal remain. Although the decline of the Democrats as the People’s Party is largely attributable to the ferocity and tenacity of the Republicans against New Deal values (freedom, equality, democracy), many Democratic leaders have also contributed by abandoning the struggle for the needs of the populace. Again, President Obama shares that collapse. But following the last general election and the takeover of both Senate and House by the Republicans, all of whom now vote degrees of right-wing, Tea Party values (dislike of affirmative government and abortion, dislike of equality for homosexuals and women, for examples), President Obama has noticeably championed many traditional, New Deal values, following through with the promises in his 2015 State of the Union Address.
See Obama’s Achievements Newsletters
War Department/Peace Department
War Department/Peace Department
Contents Obama’s Failures #2
Roots Action, Stop TPP Secrecy 4-23-14
Bromwich, Obama Unready to be President and Chose Wrong Advisors 3-1--14
Bacevich, Anatomy of a Failure, Obama Accomplished So Little 1-15
St. Clair and Frank, Obama and the Politics of Illusion
Obama, Drone War, Extrajudicial Killing (Google Search)
Roots Action: Support International Law, No Double Standard, No Double Talk
Tom Dispatch: Karen Greenberg, Obama’s 5 Shalt Nots Became ‘Thou Shalt’”
Solomon: Outlaw Obama vs. International Law, Denounces a Breach
Pierce: Obama’s Loss of Control of CIA
Contact the White House
Secret TPP Meetings Advance Internet Censorship
David Bromwich "How Obama Became a Publicist for His Presidency (Rather Than the President)". March 10, 2014
Worth reading..... from Moyers and co,.
Extreme caution marked all of Obama’s early actions in public life. Rare departures from this progress-without-a-trail — such as his pledge to filibuster granting immunity to the giants of the telecommunications industry in order to expose them to possible prosecution for warrantless surveillance — appear in retrospect wholly tactical. The law journal editor without a published article, the lawyer without a well-known case to his credit, the law professor whose learning was agreeably presented without a distinctive sense of his position on the large issues, the state senator with a minimal record of yes or no votes and the US senator who between 2005 and 2008 refrained from committing himself as the author of a single piece of significant legislation: this was the candidate who became president in January 2009. MORE https://twitter.com/tomdispatch/status/443026059790155776
David Bromwich has written on civil liberties and America’s wars for the New York Review of Books and the Huffington Post. A collection of his essays, Moral Imagination, will be published this spring by Princeton University Press.
Barack Obama: anatomy of a failure
The President is heir to a mistaken sense of America’s place in the world. But he has played a bad hand poorly
President George W. Bush’s place in history is already guaranteed, fixed by a series of monumental blunders that no amount of revisionism will ever be able to whitewash. By comparison, historians are likely to have a hard time drawing a bead on Barack Obama. How could such an obviously gifted President, swept into office on a wave of immense expectations, have managed to accomplish so little in his attempted management of global affairs? Over the past six years ‘Yes, we can!’ has become ‘No, he hasn’t.’ What went wrong? MORE "Barack Obama: Anatomy of a Failure"
Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.
Edited by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank
The election of Barack Obama sparked long-dormant tingles of optimism in even the most entrenched political cynics. But the promise of an Obama revolution fizzled out even before his inauguration, as the president-in-waiting stocked his cabinet with corporate hacks, cut secret deals with Wall Street titans and plotted a bloody escalation of the senseless war in
. Let this book stand as
a painful reminder to those who think anything less than social struggle will
net tangible gain. Published by AK Press
2012. 320 Pages. Afghanistan
OBAMA, DRONE WAR, EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING, Google Search, Feb. 20, 2015, page one.
www.theguardian.com › Opinion › Drones
Jun 11, 2012 - Michael Boyle: Executive privilege has seduced the president into a reckless 'kill first, ask questions later' policy that explodes the US ...
www.theguardian.com › Opinion › Drones
Feb 17, 2014 - Obama's itchy trigger finger on drone strikes: what happened to due process? .... admits to killing four Americans as part of its war on (or is it “war of”?) .... The extrajudicial killing of an American citizen seemed to him to be ...
www.cfr.org › Counterterrorism
Council on Foreign Relations
Since assuming office in 2009, President Barack Obama's administration has ... The primary focus of U.S. targeted killings, particularly through drone strikes, has ... Philip Alston, the former UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, ...
Common Dreams NewsCenter
Jun 11, 2012 - Obama's Drone Wars and the Normalization of Extrajudicial Murder. Executive privilege has seduced the president into a reckless 'kill first, ask ...
Common Dreams NewsCenter
Jun 23, 2014 - US Forced to Release Memo on Extrajudicial Drone Killing of US Citizen ... the Bush and Obama administrations to authorize ongoing war and ...
Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Drone Warfare. The evolving international use of armed drones. More ... The monthly updates from the Bureau on the covert war. ... Almost 2,500 now killed by covert US drone strikes since Obama inauguration six years ago: The Bureau's ...
Fox News ChannelApr 24, 2014 - “Extra-judicial killing” is a targeted killing of a victim by someone in the executive branch without due process. The president wanted the latter, ...
Jan 27, 2015 - A U.S. drone strike hit a vehicle in central Yemen on Monday, killing three ... of a U.S. citizen being targeted for extrajudicial killing overseas.
Jump to Obama Administration position on combat drones - While noting that a moredetailed ... of the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee, Patrick ... Obama defended the use of drones as just ... targeted killings would not be a war ...
Feb 25, 2013 - ... the US President Barack Obama has broken all the record of human rights by extrajudicial killings of the innocent ... attacks, openly admitted that 4,700 people have been killed by the raids of America's secretive drone war.
March 5, 2014
Saturday, March 1, 2014
The Five Commandments of Barack Obama
How “Thou Shalt Not” Became “Thou Shalt”
In January 2009, Barack Obama entered the Oval Office projecting idealism and proud to be the constitutional law professor devoted to turning democratic principles into action. In his first weeks in office, in a series of executive orders and public statements, the new president broadcast for all to hear the five commandments by which life in his new world of national security would be lived.
Thou shalt not torture.
Thou shalt not keep
Thou shalt not keep secrets unnecessarily.
Thou shalt not wage war without limits.
Thou shalt not live above the law.
Five years later, the question is: How have he and his administration lived up to these self-proclaimed commandments?
Let’s consider them one by one:
Here, the president has fared best at living up to his own standards and ending a shameful practice encouraged and supported by the previous administration. On his first day in office, he an end to the practice of torture, or as the Bush administration euphemistically called it, “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs), by agents of the
government. In the president’s
words, “effective immediately” individuals in U.S. custody “shall not be
subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related
to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in [the] Army Field
No questioning of future terror suspects would henceforth be done without using standard, legal forms of interrogation codified in the American criminal and military justice systems. This meant, among other things, shutting down the network of secret prison facilities, or “,” the Bush administration had established globally from to , where the CIA had infamously tortured its captives in the Global War on Terror. With that in mind, Obama ordered the CIA to “close as expeditiously as possible any detention facilities that it currently operates and... not operate any such detention facility in the future.”
The practice of officially sponsored torture, which had, in fact, begun to fall into disuse in the last years of the Bush administration, was now to come to a full stop. Admittedly, there are still some issues that warrant attention. The of detainees at
is a case in point, but state-sponsored torture, justified by law, is now, as
before the Bush years, illegal in . America
The commandment banning torture has, it seems, lasted into the sixth year of Obama’s presidency -- and so much for the good news.
On his first day in office, President Obama also to close the infamous
detention facility, home at the time
within a year. The task proved politically impossible. So today, the president
stands pledged once again to close it within a year. As he said in his last month, “this needs to be the year
Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close
the prison at Guantanamo Bay .” And it’s
possible that, this time, he might actually do so. Guantanamo
In June 2013, the president appointed former Clinton White House lawyer Cliff Sloan as special envoy in charge of closing
After a long period in which the administration seemed stymied, in part , in its
efforts to send detainees approved for release home or to a third country,
Sloan has overseen the transfer from the island prison of 11 of them. He
is now reportedly working to transfer the less than 80 remaining individuals
the Pentagon has cleared. Guantanamo
But there’s a catch. No matter how many prisoners Sloan succeeds in releasing, President Obama has made it clear that he only means to close
in the most
technical sense possible -- by emptying the current facility in one fashion or
another. He is, it turns out, quite prepared to keep the Guantanamo system of indefinite detention
itself intact and has no intention of releasing all the detainees. Those who
can’t be tried -- due, it is , to lack of
evidence -- will nonetheless be kept indefinitely somewhere. Fewer than 50
prisoners remain behind bars without charges or trial until -- as the formula
goes -- the authorities determine that they no longer pose a risk to American
national security. Although the population is indeed dwindling (Gitmo 155 detainees), the most basic aspect
of the system, the strikingly un-American claim that suspects in Guantanamo ’s war on
terror can be held forever and a day without charges or trial, will remain in
In other words, when it comes to his second commandment, the president will be able to follow it only by redefining what closure means.
The first issue that Obama as key to his presidency on his initial day in office was the necessity of establishing a sunshine administration. Early on, he tied his wagon to ending the excessive secrecy of the Bush administration and putting more information in the public arena. Bush-era policies of secrecy had been crucial to the establishment of torture practices, warrantless wiretapping, and other governmental excesses and patently illegal activities. Obama’s was to restore trust between the people and their government by pledging himself to “transparency” -- that is, the open sharing of government information and its acts with the citizenry.
Transparency, he emphasized, “promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use.” Towards that end, the president made a first gesture to seal his good intentions: he a number of previously classified documents from the Bush years on torture policy.
And there, as it happened, the sunshine ended and the shadows crept in again. In the five years that followed, little of note occurred in the name of transparency and much, including a of every sort, was pursued in the name of secrecy. In those years, in fact, the Obama administration offered secrecy (and its spread) a remarkable embrace. The president also sent a chill through the government itself by seven individuals who saw themselves as whistleblowers, far more than all other presidents combined. And it launched an to capture Edward Snowden, after he turned over to secret National Security Agency files its global surveillance methods. At one point, the administration even arranged to have the Bolivian president’s plane over
on the (mistaken) assumption that Snowden was aboard.
After the drumbeat of Snowden’s revelations had been going on for months, government officials, including the president, that the NSA’s massive, secret, warrantless surveillance techniques were crucial to American safety. (This was in no uncertain terms by a panel of five prominent national security experts Obama appointed to examine the secret documents and propose reforms for the NSA surveillance programs.) Spokespeople for the administration continued to insist as well that the exposure of these secret NSA policies represented harm to the nation’s security of the . (For this claim, too, there has still been no proof.)
Before Snowden's revelations about the gathering of the phone metadata of American citizens, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper evidently had in lying to a congressional committee on the subject. In their wake, he that they were the “most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history.” Certainly, they were the most embarrassing for officials like Clapper.
By 2014, it couldn’t have been clearer that secrecy, not transparency, had become this government’s mantra (accompanied by vague claims of national security), just as in the Bush years. One clear example of this unabashed embrace of secrecy came to light last month when that presidentially appointed panel weighed in on reforming the NSA. While constructive reforms were indeed suggested, the idea that a secret court -- the FISA court -- could be the final arbiter of who can legally be surveilled was not challenged. Instead, the reforms suggested and accepted by Obama were at strengthening the court. No one seemed to raise the question: Isn't a secret court anathema to democracy?
Nor, of course, has secrecy been limited to the NSA. It’s been a hallmark of the Obama years and, for instance, the military commissions at
. Their hands
are tied (so to speak) by the CIA’s obsessive anxieties that still-classified
material might come out in court -- either the outdated information al-Qaeda
figures detained for more than a decade once knew or evidence of how brutally
they were tortured. Perhaps the most striking example of government secrecy
today, however, is the .
There, the president continues to that the Justice Department documents
offering “legal” authorization and justification for White House-ordered drone
assassinations of suspects, including American citizens, ,
even as administration officials on the program that they think will
make them look justified. Guantanamo
On the commandment against secrecy, then, the president has decidedly and defiantly moved from a shall-not to a shall.
At the outset of Obama’s presidency, the administration called into question the notion of a borderless battlefield, aka the globe. He also into the trash heap of history the Bush administration’s term “Global War on Terror,” or GWOT as it came to be known acronymically.
This January, in his State of the Union address, the president stated his continued aversion to the notion that
should pursue an unlimited war. He was speaking by now not just about the
geography of the boundless battlefield, but of the very idea of warfare without
an endpoint. “ Washington ,”
he counseled, “must move off a permanent war footing.” Months earlier, in
speaking about the use of drone warfare, the president had his commitment to pulling back on the
use of force. "So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American
people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the [Authorization for the
Use of Military Force’s] mandate." America
Despite the president’s insistence on placing limits on war, however, his own brand of warfare has helped lay the basis for a permanent state of American global warfare via “low footprint” drone campaigns and aimed at an ever morphing enemy usually identified as some form of al-Qaeda. According to Senator Lindsey Graham, the Obama administration has already 4,700 individuals in numerous countries, including
Yemen, and .
It has four Somalia citizens in the process and is killing a fifth. The president
has successfully embedded the process of drone killings in the executive branch
in such a way that will inherit them, along with the
White House “” and its
“terror Tuesday” meetings. Unbounded global war is now part of what it
means to be president. U.S.
On the commandment against waging limitless war, then, the president has visibly failed to comply with his own mandate.
At the outset of his presidency, Obama seemed to hold the concept of accountability in high regard. Following the spirit of his intention to ban torture, his attorney general, Eric Holder, opened an into the torture policies of the Bush years. He even appointed a special prosecutor to look into CIA interrogation abuses. Two years later, though, all but two of the cases without prosecution. In 2012, the final two cases, both involving the deaths of detainees, were as well on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence “to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.” Nor was there any appetite inside the administration for prosecuting the Bush-era Justice Department lawyers who had drafted the “torture memos” providing the bogus justifications for applying torture techniques such as waterboarding in the first place.
Not punishing those who created and applied the policy was clearly a signal that no acts committed as part of the war on terror and under the rubric of national security would ever be prosecuted. This was, in its own way, an invitation to some future presidency to revive the torture program. Nor have its defenders been silenced. If torture had been considered truly illegal, and people had been held accountable, then perhaps assurances against its recurrence would be believable. Instead, each and every time they are given the chance, leading figures from the Bush administration defend the practice.
In former CIA Director Michael Hayden’s , "the fact is it did work." Marc Thiessen, former speechwriter for President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, has this message: "Dick Cheney is right. The CIA interrogation program did produce valuable intelligence that stopped attacks and saved lives."
While the case against the torturers was dropped, a potentially shocking and exhaustive analysis of CIA documents on the "enhanced interrogation program," a by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is still tangled up in administration secrecy rules and regulations (see Commandment 2), despite innumerable requests for its release. Supposedly the report claims that the torture program did work or fulfill any of the claims of its supporters.
In other words, the absence of accountability for one of the most egregious crimes committed in the name of the American people persists. And from drone killings to NSA surveillance policies, the Obama administration has continued to support those in the government who are perfectly ready to live above the law and extrajudicially.
On this commandment, then, the president has once again failed to meet his own standards.
Five years later, Obama’s commandants need a rewrite. Here’s what they should now look like and, barring surprises in the next three years, these, as written, will both be the virtual law of the land and constitute the Obama legacy.
Thou shalt not torture (but thou shalt leave the door open to the future use of torture).
Thou shalt detain forever.
Thou shalt live by limitless secrecy.
Thou shalt wage war everywhere and forever.
Thou shalt not punish those who have done bad things in the name of the national security state.
© 2014 Karen Greenberg
Karen Greenberg is the Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at the
of Law. Her latest book, (Oxford University Press), has just been published. She is also
the co-editor of , among other New York
Heard the One About Obama Denouncing a Breach of International Law?
International law is suddenly very popular in
. President Obama responded to
Russian military intervention in the Crimea by accusing Washington of a
“breach of international law.” Secretary of State John Kerry followed up by
declaring that Russia
is “in direct, overt violation of international law.” Russia
Unfortunately, during the last five years, no world leader has done more to undermine international law than Barack Obama. He treats it with rhetorical adulation and behavioral contempt, helping to further normalize a might-makes-right approach to global affairs that is the antithesis of international law.
Fifty years ago, another former law professor, Senator Wayne Morse, condemned such arrogance of power. “I don’t know why we think, just because we’re mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right,” Morse said on national TV in 1964. “And that’s the American policy in Southeast Asia—just as unsound when we do it as when
does it.” Russia
Today, Uncle Sam continues to preen as the globe’s big sheriff on the side of international law even while functioning as the world’s biggest outlaw.
Rather than striving for an evenhanded assessment of how “international law” has become so much coin of the hypocrisy realm, mainline
media are now transfixed with Kremlin villainy. U.S.
night, the top of the home page reported: “Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has pursued his strategy with subterfuge, propaganda and brazen military threat, taking aim as much at the
States and Europe as itself.” That was coverage. Ukraine
Following close behind, a appeared in print morning, headlined “
Russia’s Aggression,” condemning “Putin’s
cynical and outrageous exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of
Crimea.” The liberal newspaper’s editorial
board said that the and the European Union “must make
clear to him that he has stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior.” United
Such demands are righteous—but lack integrity and credibility when the same standards are not applied to President Obama, whose continuation of the Bush “war on terror” under revamped rhetoric has bypassed international law as well as “civilized behavior.”
In these circumstances, major
media coverage rarely extends
to delving into deviational irony or spotlighting White House hypocrisy. Yet
it’s not as if large media outlets have entirely excluded key information and
tough criticism. U.S.
For instance, last October the McClatchy news service that “the Obama administration violated international law with top-secret targeted-killing operations that claimed dozens of civilian lives in Yemen and Pakistan,” according to reports released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Last week, just before Obama leapt to high dudgeon with condemnation of Putin for his “breach of international law,” the published an op-ed that provided illuminating context for such presidential righteousness.
“Despite the president's insistence on placing limits on war, and on the defense budget, his brand of warfare has helped lay the basis for a permanent state of global warfare via ‘low footprint’ drone campaigns and special forces operations aimed at an ever-morphing enemy usually identified as some form of Al Qaeda,” wrote Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s law school.
Greenberg went on to indicate the scope of the
U.S. government’s ongoing contempt for
international law: “According to Senator Lindsey Graham(R-S.C.), the
Obama administration has killed 4,700 individuals in numerous countries,
including Pakistan, Yemen and . Obama has successfully
embedded the process of drone killings into the executive branch in such a way
that any future president will inherit it, along with the White House ‘kill
list’ and its ‘terror ’ meetings. Unbounded global war is now part of what
it means to be president.” Somalia
But especially in times of crisis, as with the current
situation, such inconvenient contradictions go out the mass-media window. What
remains is an Orwellian baseline, melding conformist ideology and nationalism
into red-white-and-blue doublethink. Ukraine
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Charles Pierce. “Obama, the CIA, and the Limits of Conciliation .” Esquire, Reader Supported News, March 14, 2014
Pierce writes: "It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that, in one very important way, the president has lost control of his own government."
Pierce writes: "It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that, in one very important way, the president has lost control of his own government."
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