Friday, June 28, 2013

Obama, a President who has seriously failed the rule of law

"It is not ... war crimes and torture that upsets the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the White House, but rather those that manage to make these crimes public," writes Ralph Sina in George W. Obama: Das Ende einer Hoffnung Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 7/2013 (July 2013) ("Es sind somit nicht Kriegsverbrechen und Folter, die den Friedensnobelpreisträger im Weißen Haus empören, sondern jene, die es wagen, diese Verbrechen publik zu machen.")

Sina's article focuses on Obama's massive domestic and international spying programs and his harsh war on whistleblowers including Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. The article could have used some closer editing. In the first paragraph, for instance he says that George W. Bush retired to his "farm", apparently unaware that Bush dumped his famous ranch for a place in Dallas as soon as he no longer saw the need for the ranch as a showplace where he could imitate Ronald Reagan playing a cowboy.

But he does make some important points. One that I don't see made often enough about Obama treatment of Bradley Manning was his openly declaring that Manning was guilty of a crime. As Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, this creates tremendous and illegitimate pressure on the military court martial to find him guilty and hand out the most severe sentence. Some of the "torture-like" conditions to which Manning was subjected were modified when a reporter finally confronted Obama with a question about it in public. But it went on unconscionably for a long time. And there was no indication that Obama ordered any disciplinary measures for those who ordered Manning's disgraceful treatment.

Obama, after all, had already publicly declared Manning a criminal and (effectively) a traitor. And he adopted an indefensible Look Forward Not Backward policy toward prosecuting torture crimes and war crimes under the Cheney-Bush Administration.

He points also to the shameless situation, which Obama as President owns, that at least 56 inmates at the Guantánamo torture gulag that even the authoritarian Obama Administration acknowledge to be innocent of any crime are still indefinitely imprisoned there. Obama, who has no scruples launched drone "signature strike" assassination against completely unknown persons, has the power to have fixed that situation for those innocent men. He also has the power and the solemn obligation to prosecute those who falsely imprisoned men like that them and tortured so many, brutally murdering some of them in the process. But he won't prosecute the torturers. And I fully expect he will leave office with those innocent prisoners at Guantánamo still there with no foreseeable prospect of resolving their situation.

Obama's most important Constitutional responsibility as President was and still is restoring the rule of law after the Cheney-Bush Administration's tortures and war crimes. He has completely rejected that responsibility.

Toward the end of the piece, Sina points out that Obama's extreme policies on electronic surveillance mean that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the neoliberal trade treaty now being negotiated between the US and the EU, would carry real dangers for EU laws and constitutional principles of privacy and individual rights. These treaties are a favorite instrument in the neoliberal framework of economic policy to undermine protections for workers and consumers and, in the case of telecommunications, individual rights for the financial benefit of the corporations involved and for the governments dominated by them.

Sina concludes of Obama, "Nicht nur Amerika hat einen großen Hoffnungsträger verloren, sondern auch Europa." ("Not only America but also Europe has lost a great focus for hope.")

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