Friday, June 14, 2013

Mehdi Hasan: On Wiretaps and Drone Strikes, It's Time for Liberals to Accept That Obama Is Worse Than Bush

Huffington Post Politics (UK)
June 14, 2013.
Claiming that Obama was "nothing like his predecessor", Ken Gude, vice-president of the pro-Obama Centre for American Progress, mocked me for having "unrealistic expectations" of the US president. That has been the standard defence from Obama apologists in the past five years. It's not Barack's fault that his "fucking retarded" critics on the left (to quote the former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel), who "ought to be drugtested" (to quote the president's former press spokesman Robert Gibbs), hold him to unfairly high standards.

I guess we shouldn't have taken it seriously when Senator Obama claimed in 2005 that President Bush's Patriot Act "seriously jeopardises the rights of all Americans and the ideals America stands for". We shouldn't have listened when he pledged to end the "illegal wiretapping of American citizens" in August 2007. We should have put our hands over our ears in November that year when we heard Candidate Obama, on the campaign trail, outlining his plan to "lead by example" on human rights and civil liberties. "That's easy," he said. "Close down Guantanamo. Restore habeas corpus. Say no to renditions. Say no to wireless wiretaps."

Nor should we have expected a professor of constitutional law to respect a constitutional right to privacy (or, for that matter, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize to opt for diplomacy over drones).

These were unrealistic expectations. We should have assumed the worst. We should have predicted that Obama would not just continue where Bush left off but - astonishingly and shamelessly - go far beyond Dubya in several respects.

Consider the row over mass surveillance. "Any analyst at any time can target anyone," Snowden told the Guardian on 9 June. "I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email." On Fox News on the same day, Bush's former NSA director Michael Hayden confirmed that the agency's surveillance programme had indeed "expanded" under Obama, adding that "there is incredible continuity between the two presidents".

Second, Obama authorised six times as many drone strikes in his first term in office as Bush did over two terms. Dubya had terror suspects detained and even tortured; Barack just has them bumped off.

Third, Obama has sanctioned the extrajudicial killing - again, by drone strike - of four US citizens since 2009. Where is the liberal outcry? The Bush administration killed the Buffalo-born Kamal Derwish in 2002 - but claimed he was collateral damage and, to be fair, never claimed the legal right to assassinate Americans in the way that the Obama administration has done, with its Orwellian "kill lists" and "secret panels".

Fourth, on war powers. Senator Obama told the Boston Globe in December 2007 that "the president does not have power under the constitution to unilaterally authorise a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation". Yet President Obama took the United States into war with Libya in 2011 even though Colonel Gaddafi posed zero threat to the security of the US. Despite his imperial pretensions, Bush allowed Congress to vote on the invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan; on Libya, Obama didn't bother to ask.
Read the rest here.
Comment: Mehdi Hasan is on of my favorite political journalists.  I started following his articles at the New Statesman before he left for the Huffington Post.

But I think it is time that he accepts that most liberals cannot be trusted to understand, let alone institute, revolutionary change.

Obama is barely a liberal by traditional political measurement but you know how it goes in the US - they make up their own rules.

I grew tired of my liberals friends who kept telling me he had a tough Congress to deal with and that "change" cannot just come in one term or one lifetime, etc.

Some of my black liberal friends are quick to point out that it is racist to expect "the brother to do what a white president could not do".


So here we are now firmly into his second term and just about all the cards are on the table and just about anyone who watches politics closely will tell you this man is worse than G.W. Bush.

And I fear there is worse to come.

The morning papers carry reports that say Obama has decided to arm the rebels in Syria because he claims there is evidence that Assad's government used nerve gas.

Bush said the same about Saddam Hussein and look what came from that moralistic jingoism.

Of course we all know that Saddam was set up to fall and that the US and its allies was poking around for oil and strategic advantages when they decided to invade.

So what now of Syria?

Obama urgently needs to get out under the weight of the recent PRISM revelations.  What better way than to divert attention from his dismantling of constitutional privacy than by starting a new war for America.

This is what Israel so desires.  An escalation that will confront Hezbollah - the very military force that so effectively kicked Israel's ass in Lebanon a couple years ago.

The power balance in the region is at stake and Israel could care less about the scandal Obama faces and Obama needs a war to divert the fickle American attention span.

This may be just the 'right' time to start an American invasion into Syria.

Ain't it funny how all of this looks so familiar under a president who was supposed to overturn the Bush legacies?


No comments: