Obama's Assault on Civil Liberties

Saturday, October 08, 2011

I voted for Obama and think that he has done some significant things. I also think that he has failed in some regards and as time goes by, he is reminding me more and more of Jimmy Carter, in that he is a decent person and not a great president.

This op-ed is a week old, but I still think it makes some great points. First of all, I agree that he portrayed himself as someone that would correct some of the Bush era infringements on liberty. While I understand that for many voters, this isn't a top priority and with the economy struggling, he has his work cut out for him. That being said, I don't understand why he has expanded many o Bush's worst programs. The author doesn't pull any punches:

It's almost a classic case of the Stockholm syndrome, in which a hostage bonds with his captor despite the obvious threat to his existence. Even though many Democrats admit in private that they are shocked by Obama's position on civil liberties, they are incapable of opposing him. Some insist that they are simply motivated by realism: A Republican would be worse. However, realism alone cannot explain the utter absence of a push for an alternative Democratic candidate or organized opposition to Obama's policies on civil liberties in Congress during his term. It looks more like a cult of personality. Obama's policies have become secondary to his persona.

What will happen? The GOP certainly doesn't have any better alternatives. Will Democrats that care about these things call him to task? What about moderate voters? The author feels that civil libertarians may have had enough:

This calculation may be wrong. Obama may have flown by the fail-safe line, especially when it comes to waterboarding. For many civil libertarians, it will be virtually impossible to vote for someone who has flagrantly ignored the Convention Against Torture or its underlying Nuremberg Principles. As Obama and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. have admitted, waterboarding is clearly torture and has been long defined as such by both international and U.S. courts. It is not only a crime but a war crime. By blocking the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for torture, Obama violated international law and reinforced other countries in refusing investigation of their own alleged war crimes. The administration magnified the damage by blocking efforts of other countries like Spain from investigating our alleged war crimes. In this process, his administration shredded principles on the accountability of government officials and lawyers facilitating war crimes and further destroyed the credibility of the U.S. in objecting to civil liberties abuses abroad.


Smitty 12:50 PM  

We and plenty of others have talked about Obama's pragmatism. On this topic, though, I have to agree with your and your links' assessment: this has nothing to do with pragmatism and instead undermines our credibility as the "bastion of freedom."

It's one thing to not hold past administrations accountable for idiot public policy or horrible decisions on foreign policy. But it's quite a different thing - and a terrifying thing at that - for the current administration to apply the same 'let's not look to the past' principle to crimes against humanity. Not only do I dislike the Obama Administration's turning of their collective cheek on this issue, I find it deplorable.

Sure, it may mean we have to criminally indict a former President, Vice President, SecDef and Justice Dept director, but so what? If the evidence is there, and it's strong enough, we owe it to our rhetoric and credibility to pursue the charges. If we don't, then the current administration is complicit, plain and simple (just as the articles you link imply).

So ya, I agree!

This really drives me nuts for 2012. On one hand, this issue makes it nigh impossible to vote for Obama. OTOH, how the heck can I vote for the anti-science, anti-intellectual, bible-thumping pro-corporate-at-all-costs lunatics on the other side?? What the fuck is left for a voter like me?

steves 1:23 PM  

You are right Smitty. I think that some on the right felt the same way after Bush's first term. They didn't like him all that much, but they weren't going to vote for Kerry. As for the next election, it is hard to say. I don't want these policies to continue, but I also don't want someone that is going to suck up to the uber-wealthy and cut critical programs.

I have a couple of other posts I am going to do that look at some other aspects of this administration.

Bob 11:01 AM  

I agree with your stance on this issue, but take exception to one part of the article you posted:

"The administration magnified the damage by blocking efforts of other countries like Spain from investigating our alleged war crimes."

This administration should be doing its own investigation and potentially its own prosecution, but I do not think it is wise to start participating in another country’s investigation of our actions in war or otherwise. Let’s not let our belief in the guilt of Americans in this case, overcome the precedent this would set. We do not let others prosecute our own. It would allow countless investigations of the conduct of soldiers in the time of war, both legitimate and illegitimate. It is important to take this position, BUT to do so means we must hold our own accountable.

It's not surprising that the administration did not attempt prosecute the highest up in the previous administration. To do so might be right, but opens a huge can of worms. I have no doubt that the second administration investigated would be Obama’s own by the next Republican administration. I am not saying it this position is right, but retaliation is the likely result.

Let us also remember the precedent set by Gerald Ford when he pardoned Nixon. Remember the message sent by historians who said it was the right thing to do to “heal the country” and all that B.S? Didn’t Ford receive a “profile in courage” award or something for that?

Does the Obama Administration use similar “techniques” for interrogation as the Bush Administration? I hope the answer is no.

The other troublesome area is Guantanamo. I know many people were released when Obama came to office. I think the difficult part now is what to do with those who we know are dangerous, but because the Bush Administration rounded everyone up under weak or false pretenses, we cannot prove their guilt. Still no politician wants to release a person, whose legal status is in debate and they are likely guilty. (This will sound really bad from the standpoint of a person who values our rights as Americans. It sounds so - UnAmerican.) Cleaning up this mess is far more difficult than what candidate Obama claimed. BTW – aren’t there trials taking place right now for some of these individuals? I know the MSM has not been covering much.

Monk-in-Training 6:03 AM  

I find this part of Obama's term as just one more capitulation to the 'Empire'.

I am extremely unhappy about it, and felt a better path would have been to accuse the previous admin of war crimes, and then pardon them if you must but be CLEAR that what they did was wrong.

I would much prefer a prosecution, but if that was politically impossible, let Spain do it, or pardon them and have a truth commission. But whatever, clear out the excrement we have placed in our own nest.

This is a terrible stain on Obama's Presidency, and I just can't justify it.

Jay 9:31 AM  


I agree with just about everything you said. However, I have a problem with your initial point:

I think there is a middle ground between "blocking efforts" and "participating in" efforts of other countries to prosecute. Admittedly, I know nothing of the specifics of the "blocking" that took place in this case. But in the abstract it seems to me that doing nothing to impede the investigations is different than (and, in my opinion, preferable to) active participation.

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