by Ted Rall
MIAMI — We expected broken promises. But the gap between the soaring expectations that accompanied Barack Obama's inauguration and his wretched performance is the broadest such chasm in recent historical memory. This guy makes Bill Clinton look like a paragon of integrity and follow-through.
From health care to torture to the economy to war, Obama has reneged on pledges real and implied. So timid and so owned is he that he trembles in fear of offending, of all things, the government of Turkey. Obama has officially reneged on his campaign promise to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. When a president doesn't have the nerve to annoy the Turks, why does he bother to show up for work in the morning?
Obama is useless. Worse than that, he's dangerous. Which is why, if he has any patriotism left after the thousands of meetings he has sat through with corporate contributors, blood-sucking lobbyists and corrupt politicians, he ought to step down now — before he drags us further into the abyss.
I refer here to Obama's plan for "preventive detentions." If a cop or other government official thinks you might want to commit a crime someday, you could be held in "prolonged detention." Reports in U.S. state-controlled media imply that Obama's shocking new policy would only apply to Islamic terrorists (or, in this case, wannabe Islamic terrorists, and also kinda-sorta-maybe-thinking-about-terrorism dudes). As if that made it OK.
In practice, Obama wants to let government goons snatch you, me and anyone else they deem annoying off the street.
Preventive detention is the classic defining characteristic of a military dictatorship. Because dictatorial regimes rely on fear rather than consensus, their priority is self-preservation rather than improving their people's lives. They worry obsessively over the one thing they can't control, what George Orwell called "thoughtcrime" — contempt for rulers that might someday translate to direct action.
Locking up people who haven't done anything wrong is worse than un-American and a violent attack on the most basic principles of Western jurisprudence. It is contrary to the most essential notion of human decency. That anyone has ever been subjected to "preventive detention" is an outrage. That the president of the United States, a man who won an election because he promised to elevate our moral and political discourse, would even entertain such a revolting idea offends the idea of civilization itself.
Obama is cute. He is charming. But there is something rotten inside him. Unlike the Republicans who backed George W. Bush, I won't follow a terrible leader just because I voted for him. Obama has revealed himself. He is a monster, and he should remove himself from power.
"Prolonged detention," reported The New York Times, would be inflicted upon "terrorism suspects who cannot be tried."
"Cannot be tried." Interesting choice of words.
Any "terrorism suspect" (can you be a suspect if you haven't been charged with a crime?) can be tried. Anyone can be tried for anything. At this writing, a Somali child is sitting in a prison in New York, charged with piracy in the Indian Ocean, where the U.S. has no jurisdiction. Anyone can be tried.
What they mean, of course, is that the hundreds of men and boys languishing at Guantánamo and the thousands of "detainees" the Obama administration anticipates kidnapping in the future cannot be convicted. As in the old Soviet Union, putting enemies of the state on trial isn't enough. The game has to be fixed. Conviction has to be a foregone conclusion.
Why is it, exactly, that some prisoners "cannot be tried"?