“Obama the Conservative” is an ongoing posting done by Ilari Kaila and Tim Page. It may be accessed at http://www.obamatheconservatice.com/. What the posting does is compare what Bush did, what Obama said and what Obama did on a wide range of issues. On almost every issue covered in the posting, Obama has adopted the Bush position in his actions; furthermore, it is stunning to read of the extent to which Obama’s actions have contradicted his words.
There is a cautionary tale for the future: Obama’s soaring rhetoric has been interpreted as promising a bold, liberal agenda for the future, but if past is prologue for the future, liberals are very likely to be sorely disappointed — post-2012 election, Obama has already agreed to the indefinite extension of most of the Bush tax cuts.
The blog on this subject will be done in several parts and will follow a Bush did, Obama said and Obama did format.
1. HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES – 1.1 Habeas corpus – Bush did: He suspended terrorism suspects’ rights to habeas corpus. By naming them “enemy combatants,” they were not protected by the Constitution nor by the Geneva Conventions. Omama said: “By giving suspects a chance — even one chance — to challenge the terms of thsir confinement in court, to have a judge confirm that the government has detained the right person for the right suspicions we could solve this problem without harming our efforts in the war on terror one bit.” (Senate, September 2006) – Obama did: He appealed a district court ruling that granted prisoners in Afghanistan the right to challenge the legality of their detention, adopting the legal argument straight from the Bush DOJ, Standing in front of the National Achives in May 2009, Obama introduced a staggering new expansion of executive power: in addition to using military tribunals, he would retain the right to indefinitely hold detainees deemed dangerous. In December 2011, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, codifying the right to arrest anyone, anywhere on suspicion of terrorism-related crimes, including U.S. citizens.
1.2 Closing Guantanamo Bay – Bush did: He wanted to close the facility but never backtracked on the legality of what was practiced there. – Obama said: “The first step is reclaiming America’s standing in the world has to be closing the facility.” “As president, Barack Obama will close the detention facility at Guantanamo.” – Obama did: One of Obama’s first executive orders was to shut down Guantanamo; however, he quickly changed strategy to move detainees elsewhere. He was denied funding by the Senate. The small print in the executive order also kept open such secret CIA facilities as were deemed “for temporary use.” On March 8, 2011, Obama issued a new executive order, codifying the permanent role of Guantanamo Bay in the policy of indefinte detention and as the location for military tribunals.
1.3 Military tribunals – Bush did: He permitted testimony extracted through torture and hearsay to be used as evidence and permitted withholding evidence from defendents. Bush tried some suspects in civilian courts. – Omama said: In a press conference on June 18, 2008, Obama said: “I have confidence that our system of justice is strong enough to deal with terrorists. (Obama) “will reject the Military Commissions Act, which allowed the U.S. to circumvent the Geneva Convention (sic) in the handling of detainees.” (Organizing for America website) – Obama did: He signed the Military Commissions Act of 2009. Attorney General Eric Holder elaborated that if a terrorism suspect is found not guilty by a civilian court, the administration will imprison him anyway, citing “post-acquittal detension powers.” The administration retains the right of who will be detained without any type of legal process.
The first use of a military tribunal came against Omar Khad, age 15 when captured. His coerced confession was used as evidence in the tribunal. He was the first child since World War II prosecuted for a war crime. In April 2011 the administration reversed its position by trying five alleged 9/11 plotters in a civilian court.
1.4 Extraordinary rendition – Bush did: He held the position that the U.S. can imprison people any citizenship from anywhere in the world, as prisoners of war, as the entire world is a “battlefield in the War on Terror.” Obama said: “We must end the practice of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands. without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of law.” (Foreign Affairs, summer 2007). – Obama did: With an executive order in early 2009, Obama explicitly authorized the CIA to continue extraordinary rendition. Raymond Ozar was seiuzed by eight FBI agents in April 2009 and tortured at Bagram Airbase.
Obama also endorsed the view that the entire world is a “battlefield.”