Home > Law, Politics > Change We Can Believe In, XXVI

Change We Can Believe In, XXVI

December 31, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Change We Can Believe In: Indefinite Detention

It’s almost two weeks since I promised a Change You Can Believe In post in which Obama “trample[s] on civil rights by signing into law the right to detain US citizens indefinitely.” The only problem is, he waited until today to sign the military spending bill, so I had to delay my post.

As I have said in many posts, and others have said better, through his eager and unexpected continuation of Bush administration civil rights violations and his further willingness to enshrine them in law, Obama has succeeded in turning what once appeared to be the mad acts of a group of zealots into bipartisan procedure. From an ACLU press release:

President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law today. The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations. The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.

“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield. … Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today.”

See also a lengthy post today by Glenn Greenwald that, some ways down, gives an overview of Obama’s policies. Here’s an excerpt. (The original has many embedded links that I have not taken the time to reproduce.)

The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

Would I rather have seen McCain elected? No, of course not. But that’s not the point. The point is, Obama has been a surprise and a disappointment in so many policy areas, areas where it seems we are powerless to effect change. I don’t doubt for a moment that Hillary Clinton would have supported or implemented essentially the same policies. The only candidate daring to suggest alternative ways of thinking — and he has his own problems — is Ron Paul. What to make of Paul’s candidacy? (This is the starting point of Greenwald’s post.) I sure don’t see myself voting for him, and I find many of his positions disturbing. But I am thankful that at least one candidate is questioning the bipartisan consensus laid out in the passage above.

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Categories: Law, Politics
  1. December 31, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Thanks for reposting this. Disturbing, indeed. One must bear in mind that the President could not have signed NDAA into law, had it not psssed Congress. And it passed with overwhelming support.

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