Wednesday, May 13, 2009

what happened to the guy I voted for?

Obama is losing me. It's been building for a while, and today I think might have been the last straw.

As a candidate, Obama said most of the right things about most of the right issues. In his candidacy there was the promise of something different. Different from most politicians. Different from all recent presidential candidates. Different, in any event, from Bush and Cheney.

But it is becoming increasingly obvious that, at least in the ways that matter most to me, Obama is just another office-seeker. Just another slick politician who knows how to speak to his audience. I can't say I'm particularly surprised. Just very disappointed.

President Obama has made it clear that certain of his "aspirational goals" (i.e., things he purported to consider important during the campaign) must take a backseat to other priorities. These things, we are told, would impede his "agenda" by removing "focus" from it and going "off message". This, of course, is political double-speak for "I never really cared that much about Issue X in the first place, and, in fact, come to think of it, I'm not sure I really agree with you on Issue X after all."

First case in point: Teh Gay. Most if not all gays in America voted for Obama. Not that many of them would have otherwise voted for McCain, but Obama did reach out to teh gays in a few different ways. He claimed to support repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, even if they are duly sanctioned by a state), he promised to lift the HIV travel ban (the U.S. is one of a handful of countries that has an official policy of discriminating against persons with HIV in customs and immigration matters), and he promised to do away with the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. Needless to say, he has done none of these things, and in fact just this week he fired a West Point grad stationed in Iraq (a fluent speaker of Arabic), for being gay. Implementing any "change" in DADT policy would be a "distraction" from Obama's other important agenda items.

Second Case in Point: Iraq. Candidate Obama ran on a clear policy of withdrawing our military from Iraq. Our military has not been withdrawn from Iraq, and -- as far as I have been able to tell -- no steps whatsoever have been taken toward a withdrawal from Iraq. I mean seriously, WTF? I know it has only been 4 months, but this was a major, huge issue in the campaign. Has there been one single action taken by this administration that might remotely be seen as evidence of a withdrawal? An imminent withdrawal? A pending, conditional, gradual, future withdrawal? Anything? Other than pretty words, I mean.

Third Case in Point: Transparency. And torture. Candidate Obama railed strongly and eloquently against Bushism, which I define here as cruelty, secrecy, and lack of accountability. And yet President Obama has estabished, in just a few short months, a clear pattern of obfuscation and shielding from any accountability the multifold abuses of law, civil rights, and human rights perpetrated by Bush and Cheney. To the point where he can now be said to be complicit in their misdeeds by virtue of covering them up. I don't have the energy to catalogue the extensive examples of this, but you can read this Greenwald post (and follow the links) if you don't want to take my word for it.) This, in particular, is Obama's most recent effort in this category. And it is disgusting.

Despite an explicit agreement by the Obama DOJ to comply with a court order (granted in response to a years-old ACLU FOIA lawsuit) to release pictures showing graphic images of Bush era torture, Obama today decided to rescind this agreement and appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. To explain this reversal, Obama (and his inept spokesman, Robert Gibbs), used the tried and true, one-excuse-fits-all, trademark Bush bullshit reason of "The Troops!".

Yes, releasing pictures of Our Troops cruelly abusing random Arabs kidnapped off of streetcorners will endanger Our Troops. You know this line of reasoning has merit, after all, because Liz Cheney made this very same argument this morning, prior to Obama's reversal (maybe they saw her Fox News appearance!), when she said:
I have not seen the pictures, I don't know what is in them. But clearly what they are doing is releasing images that show American military men and women in a very negative light. And I have heard from families of service members, from families of 9/11 victims, this question: When did it become so fashionable for us to side, really, with the terrorists? For us to put information out that hurts American soldiers.
Got that? These images "show American military men and women in a very negative light." Gee, ya think? A picture of an American soldier sodomizing some poor Afghani tribesman with a golf club or shitting on his koran? That shows our military in a negative light? No shit, you stupid fucking bitch. Maybe they should have thought of that before they decided to take pictures of themselves gleefully and sadistically torturing helpless Arabs. And guess what, you shit-for-brains fucktard? It isn't the fucking pictures that show us in a negative light, it is the fact that WE DID THE THINGS IN THE PICTURES. Oh, yeah, and the fact that we are covering it up and refusing to take any responsibity for it or to hold anyone accountable for it.

Which brings us back to Obama. His spokesperson spewed a bunch of doublethink in an A.M. press briefing (read the transcript here, and see if you can make heads or tails of it). This convinced no one, so the President came out later and had this to say:
[T]his is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action. Rather, it has gone through the appropriate and regular processes. And the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.
"Appropriate actions have been taken." We're not going to tell you what actions have been taken, or what, exactly, those actions were in response to. We'll leave all those pesky details a mystery. But rest assured, folks, everything was appropriate, so don't you worry. You can trust us. We're the good guys.

He continues:
It's therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.
A "small number of individuals". No need to get them involved, or let you know who they are or what exactly they did. But they've been dealt with. And knowing any more than that, what I just told you, is DANGEROUS. We are keeping it a secret for your protection. And, of course, to protect The Troops.
Moreover, I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse. And obviously the thing that is most important in my mind is making sure that we are abiding by the Army Manual and that we are swiftly investigating any instances in which individuals have not acted appropriately, and that they are appropriately sanctioned. That's my aim and I do not believe that the release of these photos at this time would further that goal.

Again with all the "appropriateness" of everything. I'm sure it's all very appropriate, i.e., what the Bush DOD did to "punish" this "small number of individuals" who "have not acted appropriately" (i.e., engaged in criminal abuse and torture).
Now, let me be clear: I am concerned about how the release of these photos would be -- would impact on the safety of our troops. I have made it very clear to all who are within the chain of command, however, of the United States Armed Forces that the abuse of detainees in our custody is prohibited and will not be tolerated. I have repeated that since I've been in office, Secretary Gates understands that, Admiral Mullen understands that, and that has been communicated across the chain of command.
Oh sure, sure. You've made very clear, blah blah blah. Fine. I guess the point here is that if we have graphic evidence of sick, sadistic behavior on the part of The Troops against helpless, bound, and gagged Afghan poppy farmers, then certain people in the part of the world where The Troops happen to be right now might be offended, or pissed off, even, and might attempt to take some kind of revenge. Ok. Let's try that one out: (1) it has been my understanding that The Terrorists hate us and try to kill and maim us (including The Troops) at every possible opportunity, whether or not there happen to be any incriminating photographs being broadcast on CNN at any given time, (2) Arabs other than The Terrorists are well aware that we, as a country, have routinely engaged in kidnapping and torturing random Arabs, and the Arabs who might be, uh, dissatisfied with this state of affairs don't need any more incriminating evidence to spur them into action, but (3) what might actually prevent them from being spurred into action is an actual demonstration of how we, as a country, don't tolerate this type of behavior by Our Troops, and when we become aware of it, we expose it and make damn sure that it is punished harshly and in a very public way, and furthermore (4) if you are that fucking concerned about the safety of the troops vis-a-vis a bunch of angry Arab natives in the Middle East, then here's a novel suggestion for you: GET THEM THE FUCK OUT OF THERE.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering when HHL was going to post again since it seems it has been a while; man, he came back with a vengeance!!

bgirl said...

While I won't go so far as to admit Disappointment...I do have some Concerns, most of them centering around these very issues. What happened to my candidate?

HHL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HHL said...

yeah... Obama is a down-the-middle guy on this stuff, which understood from the beginning, and so I didn't complain too harshly against some of his previous decisions in this area, but refusing to comply with a court order to release information regarding government malfeasance that we, as citizens, are clearly entitled to... that's just complete bullshit. and it's only compounded by insulting our intelligence with this horseshit Bush-like excuse-making. The Trooops!!! dude, bring the troops home, like you said you would, and then you won't have any reason to keep secrets from us. except that the troops aren't the real reason in the first place -- the real reason is to tamp down the clamor for torture investigations and/or prosecutions, because if the clamor gets much louder he'll be forced to do something, and that, in turn, will take "focus" away from the all-important Domestic Agenda. which I never cared much about in the first place. bleah.

Gleemonex said...

Well but then there's this:

And though I share your Concerns, I am nowhere near Disappointment -- mostly because A)he's doing a fuckton of things exactly right, and B)I feel like I gotta give him some breathing room; the domestic stuff won't happen if he doesn't do it NOW (while he's in the honeymoon phase), and the man's got a good enough read on people to know there's got to be a lot -- a LOT -- of outrage backing the other stuff, and not just from the likes of us. I trust him to figure it out, to move deliberately and methodically, and to ensure that his stuff won't be immediately undone by opponents. I mean, I want everything right now this minute too, but I'm not realistically disappointed that the things the candidate promised didn't magick themselves up in the first 100 days. He's still the same guy we voted for -- a human being, who's now doing his best to deliver on those promises. I'm inclined to give him time.

Gleemonex said...

That link was to an article on automotive fuel standards -- he's adopting CA's rules for the rest of the country.

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