Sunday, October 19, 2014

Obama's Legacy: Appeaser & apologist for Cheney/Bush; persecutor of whistleblowers & the press; & his continuation of the psychopathic War on a noun

The White House Press Office - Transparency and Open Government website accessed 10/15/2014

terror: [ter-er] noun
1.  intense, sharp, overmastering fear:  
2.  an instance or cause of intense fear or anxiety; quality of causing terror:  
3.  any period of frightful violence or bloodshed likened to the Reign of Terror in France.
4.  violence or threats of violence used for intimidation or coercion; terrorism.
5.  Informal. a person or thing that is especially annoying or unpleasant.
Origin :
1325-1375;Latin, equivalent to terr(─ôre) to frighten + -or -or1; replacing Middle English terrour; Anglo-French; Latin, as above
to be frantic with terror.
to be a terror to evildoers.
terror. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: October 15, 2014).

"The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit."
~ Wade Davis, anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and photographer

In 2008, Barack Obama used the criminal acts of the Bush administration as fodder for his campaign, promising "Change We Can Believe In" .... An end to torture, closing Guantanamo, respect for the rights of people everywhere; a government based on transparency and accountability, and a protection of whistleblowers.

He won by a "landslide" against old school Republican, John McCain, and inspired over 1 million people to show up at his inauguration.  Code Pink danced a Can-Can at the front of the crowd....

CodePink: First Day of Obama Presidency "Yes We Can End War" Action at the White House ("Yes We Can-Can")

...a crowd that broke out in mass song as GW Bush flew away in a helicopter....

A nation moved into a real hope for change; into a real belief the nation was, finally, turning away from the horrendous policies of the Bush Administration - the lies into war; the destruction of the budget; the torture, the illegal detention; the arrests of protesters; the spying on the people; the prosecution of whistleblowers and journalists.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.
Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expediency's sake.
And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.
They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

Here we are, 6 years into the "Change."   The Obama Administration - one that promised peace and an end to "perpetual war"; transparency and accountability; and protection of whistleblowers - has generated another war on the heels of the last two; extended covert operations, continued the "kill list;" expanded mass surveillance; and has prosecuted or threatened to prosecute more whistleblowers than any other president in history (to include threats of prosecution of journalists).

Over the past 6 years, we have been hearing the whining and kvetching of the old guard Neo-Cons from Cheney to Kristol. They seem lost without a puppet to manipulate, or, maybe they are just jealous that the new guard Neo-Cons have taken over and stolen their shtick?

Each presidential administration has a tiny bit of reality from which to spin a web of deceit to build a believable "Noble Lie" - the truth is much different.

Barack Obama is a slick, well spoken and well educated politician - His rise to power was nothing short of meteoric but his presidency deserves "mixed" reviews - more on the negative than the positive side.

He has instituted a single minimally decent social policy - a milk-toast health care plan (far from the Universal Health Care plan on which he campaigned to beat Hillary Clinton...It's actually Bob Dole's response to Hillary's attempt at health care reform of the 90's) that gives $ billions in new business to insurance companies and Big Pharma while ignoring the fact that even with "insurance" many still can't afford to pay the co-pay for health care (let's not blame it all on the states that refused to expand Medicaid..  In a universal system, that would be moot since all would be covered without any interference by state officials).

There has been a lot of rhetoric about voters' rights and human rights and a DOJ that promised to "look into" the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown murders but, to date, has done little more than "look into" them; and he did, ever so slowly, begin a turn around in an economy that is still sluggish with jobs trickling back up to pre-2008 levels but refused any attempt at broad programs (a la FDR) that would assure work for millions immediately while continuing to ignore and even protect the criminality of those who brought the Middle Class and the poor to their knees - appointing the same profiteers and sycophants to government posts from Bernanke to Yellen, Geitner to Summers.

But, some of the most glaring issues with the current Administration are in its foreign policy and refusal to actually be the transparent and accountable president that he claims to be.

Obama's foreign policy has been a travesty - from multiple resets on troop withdrawal from Iraq and financial as well as weapons support of the al-Maliki government (a government that systematically committed genocide against the Sunnis of Iraq using those American weapons and money) to the surge in Afghanistan and continued support of Karsai and his druglord brother, use of black sites (Bagram and the Salt Mines) and the continuation of the policy that denied rights of habeas corpus to those accused of "terrorism" (another campaign promise and talking point widely used in 2008, Obama castigated Bush for his denial of basic habeas corpus rights to the men at Guantanamo and accused of "terrorism"..He would never do such a thing and promised to restore habeas corpus rights to all) as well as the continued torture, abuse and denial of basic human rights of the men imprisoned at Guantanamo -  most of whom have been declared innocent by 2, if not 3, commissions charged with case review); appointment of Bushites and war criminals to posts like the head of the CIA, and FBI; drone murder and covert ops in sovereign nations without approval by their governments (illegal acts of war); expanding mass surveillance to include everyone on the planet;  and, now, placing the CIA and Blackwater in Syria and Libya well before the latest declaration of war that continues the exceptionalist hubris of imperialism as established by his predecessor.

Obama's most concrete failure (not the biggest but the most obvious)  - Guantanamo Bay Detention Center remains open .  Barack Obama has made little attempt to resolve the matter.  In fact, he ignored it until the corporate media took up the story of the on-going hunger strike and the blatant abuse by the command there.  He, finally, decided to pay attention...for a minute; decided to set up another commission to review another series of ideas for the potential closing of Guantanamo.  That was last year.

Then there is the issue of torture - his cover up, his use and his perpetuation of the paradigm regardless of his 2009 Executive Order against it - well, to be fair, only a slice of it.  Force-feeding and drugging, denial of basic civil rights, human rights violations, the use of isolation as "punishment," constant raids on detainees, and genital searches, are just a few of the on-going abuses at Guantanamo under the less than concerned Barack Obama.  It doesn't stop at Guantanamo - there is the matter of the abuse and torture of Chelsea Manning which the president blew off with:
"With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well."
From here, we can move to the president's perpetuation of the PTSD that grips entire nations (e.g., Pakistan, Yemen) along with a growing fear and loathing of everything American (I guess one way to perpetuate a war on something as ridiculous as "terror"... to terrorize) incited by his continued use of drones against anyone the US paints as "terrorist." So much for improving our standing in the world.

Obama's failures in social policy and foreign policy as well as his failure to close Guantanamo cannot be entirely blamed on an ineffective and blatantly dysfunctional Congress, though Congress has been filled with obstruction, whining and temper tantrums in order to block many reforms and legislation since 2010. Obama didn't use the momentum, of the 2008 call for change for major reforms, nor did he attempt any dramatic change of course in a foreign policy gone mad.

Leading us to the matter of whistleblowers and journalists who report on matters of national interest.

In 2007 and 2008, then candidate Obama promised to protect whistleblowers - especially naming federal employees as a group he would protect.  From the website:

Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

Since his election, Barack Obama decided he was going to war against leaks...but it wasn't just side comments and leaks by members of his inner circle, it was against anyone perceived as making the White House, the military, the NSA, the CIA, TSA or the FBI - past or present - look less than stellar regardless if they were US citizens,citizens of other nations, journalists, former employees or contractors of the NSA, the military...

In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records. An “Insider Threat Program” being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues.

Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way. Reporters’ phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being “an aider, abettor and/or conspirator” of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail.
Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.

“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

The Obama administration is expected to hasten the program’s implementation as the government grapples with the fallout from the leaks of top secret documents by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the agency’s secret telephone data collection program. The case is only the latest in a series of what the government condemns as betrayals by “trusted insiders” who have harmed national security.

Prior to the Obama Administration's war on whistleblowers, only 3 other people have ever been indicted under the "Espionage Act" (enacted in 1917).  So much for protecting government workers as whistleblowers; So much for transparency and accountability.

As far as harassment of the Press, there are the cases of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald (now the Intercept), Laura Poitras (now the Intercept) and Ewen MacAskil; the previously mentioned James Risen; FOX New's James Rosen, the Justice Department demand for telephone records of AP Reporters from Verizon....And then there is Barrett Brown.  The US government under the Obama Administration is harassing reporters with impunity - So much for "Freedom of the Press."

Barack Obama still has a little time to turn his D grade as a president around - a few make-up tests and some extra credit would help - but, here is a limit to what can be accomplished in the last 2 years of an 8 year stay especially when we have seen no "epiphany," no attempts to turn around a poor foreign policy, no attempts towards that promised transparency and accountability, and a continued movement towards his own chapter in the perpetual war plan against the planet and against the US citizenry's rights to privacy, free press, and protections under the constitution.

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