Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hitting the Ground Sauntering

In one of his first acts as president, Obama signed several executive orders. I caught a clip of the press conference on the radio.



He first says the United States "will not torture". I'll get to that in a moment. My attention was really captured by, "we will close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and determine how to deal with those who have been held there". At this point, I began to wonder what the hell the transition team was spending their time on if not determining what they were going to do Day 1. Then I wondered, "close Gitmo first, figure out what to do with them later?"

So I've got this initial bad taste in my mouth as I read some more details of things in the following days. The Truth On Gitmo brought to my attention What the President’s Executive Order really means:
. . . Contrary to reports, Obama did not shut down Gitmo. Rather, he issued an order saying he will (or, to be precise, he intends to and is willing to commit in advance to) shut down Gitmo in a year’s time. This, to mix a metaphor, is kicking the can as far down the road as he possibly can without being penalized for delay of game. Or, to mix yet another metaphor, Obama is promising to write a popular book in a year’s time and is happy to pocket a sizable advance of good will and commentary now; book to be written later. Until then, however, other actions, like the shuttering of other detention centers, will have an immediate impact.
About that Presidential Executive Order on Interrogations…, notes that far from being something new and different, Obama may have just rescinded and reissued Bush policy:
It’s not. It IS the Bush Administration’s 2007 Executive Order 13440.
About this point I'm thinking, "Great. Obama's big deal on torture is merely a regurgitation of existing US policy under Bush; but of course the press goes wild. Still we're going to close Gitmo and then figure out what to do." At this point I'm more or less speechless and shaking my head, rolling my eyes.

Then it turns out (and I'm shocked -- shocked!) that there is recidivism from Gitmo:
Return to Jihad

Two former Guantánamo detainees appear in a newly released al Qaeda propaganda video, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that monitors terrorist media. The former Guantánamo inmates have been identified as Said Ali al Shihri and Abu Hareth Muhammad al Awfi. Al Awfi is also known as Mohamed Atiq Awayd al Harbi, a kunya (or nickname) meaning that he is from the al Harbi tribe on the Arabian peninsula.

According to a report that first appeared in The New York Times last week, al Shihri was recently identified as the deputy of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen and may have played a direct role in al Qaeda’s attack on the American embassy in Sana'a, Yemen's capital, in September of 2008. That attack killed ten civilians, along with six terrorists. Al Awfi has been identified as an al Qaeda field commander.
So what do we have here? Reissuing of bad old Bush interrogation policy under an Obama letterhead to placate the press, but effectively changing nothing? Kicking decision-making further down the road with regard to enemy combatants? What other big decisions will Obama put on the back burner? Maybe a Clear and Present Danger?
Before issuing such a "bold initiative" and "outreach" toward the theocrats ruling in Tehran, Mr. Obama's advisers should have shown their boss the report provided late last month to French President Nicolas Sarkozy from a nonpartisan parliamentary commission on Iran's nuclear program. The report details Tehran's success in circumventing U.N. sanctions and concludes that Iranian scientists already have the know-how to build a nuclear weapon and that unless action is taken to prevent it, they will possess all necessary technology, equipment and fissile material to deploy nuclear weapons no later than the end of next year, "perhaps sooner."
All of this reminds me of one of the things I really hated about the Clinton era: the opinion-poll presidency. I like to think of it as "the long-term goal of the month". There really wasn't much of an executive branch under Clinton. Maybe Obama will usher in a new Republican Revolution, but I'm not holding my breath. I think the stakes or more serious now than 15 years ago, and I don't feel that Obama is up to the task.

1 comment:

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