Obama embraces Soviet Communism

If Republicans want t0 compare Obama to Soviet Communists, this is their opportunity:

The Obama administration has decided not to seek new legislation from Congress authorizing the indefinite detention of about 50 terrorism suspects being held without charges at at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, officials said Wednesday.

Instead, the administration will continue to hold the detainees without bringing them to trial based on the power it says it has under the Congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the president to use force against forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Guantánamo and Bagram are our modern day Soviet Gulags where we disappear (and torture) undesirables without a trial or hope of release. Despite campaign promises to the contrary, Obama is now expressing full-fledged support of this terrible system which strips accused (not proven) terrorists of their right to challenge their detention. Many civil libertarians, including yours truly, were convinced by Obama’s own words that our overseas dungeons would be closed with him in the White House. Clearly we’ve been betrayed.

In concluding that it does not need specific permission from Congress to hold detainees without charges, the Obama administration is adopting one of the arguments advanced by the Bush administration in years of debates about detention policies.

The only difference, and one it seems the Obama administration is touting, is that Bush claimed the power of pre-20th century monarchs and modern despots was written in the Constitution, while Obama says Congress gave him that power in 2001:

But President Obama’s advisers are not embracing the more disputed Bush contention that the president has inherent power under the Constitution to detain terrorism suspects indefinitely regardless of Congress.

The Justice Department said in a statement Wednesday night that “the administration would rely on authority already provided by Congress” under the use of force resolution. “The administration is not currently seeking additional authorization,” the statement said.

That’s just bullsh*t because the results are 100% the same: People are in prison forever without proof that they are in fact dangerous. This might be different if there was any hope Congress might rescind the 2001 authorization of force, and thus end the rationale for Guantanamo and Bagram. But that aint gonna happen.

Our endless need for wars and the curtailing of basic human rights is one of the areas of unholy bipartisan consensus. That’s why civil libertarians now spurned by the Democratic leadership won’t actually get help on this issue from Republicans like I suggested way back at the beginning of this post. It’s a simple fact that Republican leaders don’t want Guantanamo closed, and Republican voters cheer on its expansion. Being tough on terrorists – even if we can’t prove they are in fact terrorists – is a political winner, the Bill of Rights be damned.

20 Comments

  1. Ian

    A few thoughts:

    1. Didn’t you just post the same thing a few days ago?

    2. I wish Obama would be a little more communist, but I guess I would prefer socialist.

    3. “Many civil libertarians, including yours truly” <- Haha!

  2. Ian

    “the Bill of Rights be damned”

    Oh and while I disagree with indefinite detentions without trial, the Bill of Rights is meant to protect American citizens, not everyone in the world.

  3. Chris

    Ian,
    I don’t think I made the same post a few days… I did post about how Obama is just moving the detainees to Bagram and not actually ending the offending practice of indefinite detention. This is a new wrinkle that explicitly states indefinite detention is official Obama policy.

    Also, if you can’t challenge your detention, how can you prove you are or aren’t an American citizen? And we have detained Americans in Guantanamo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_captives_in_Guantanamo

  4. Ian

    “Also, if you can’t challenge your detention, how can you prove you are or aren’t an American citizen?”

    Huh?

    “And we have detained Americans in Guantanamo”

    That should be singular. It was a mistake, and he isn’t there now.

  5. Chris

    The Bill of Rights applies if you’re an American citizen. Obama and Bush have kept some detainees from even proving that much. That’s what Habeas Corpus is all about. It’s forcing the government to prove you should be detained and you are who they say you are.

  6. Ian

    I know what habeas corpus is. I agree that it should be extended to prisoners in the War on Terror. I am simply stating the Bill of Rights isn’t extended to non-US citizens. Maybe it should be, but right now it isn’t.

    At least from the wiki article you quote, you seem to be greatly exaggerating this phenomenon of Americans being detained. A total of three Americans (that we know of) have been held in the War on Terror. Two of them were transferred to the American court system and given a trial. The third was involved in a Supreme Court case that said the US government could not hold him indefinitely. Cerainly these men were not properly treated by our justice system, but they were eventually given trials and in the case of one, released to Saudi Arabia.

  7. Chris

    I never meant to imply that this is happening on an industrial scale, but it doesn’t really make a difference one way or the other. This is official policy rather than a mistake, and it’s a tragedy if it happens to 1 person or 10,000.

  8. Ian

    Then welcome to the tragedy that is our justice system. Look no further than the ridiculous courthouse I wrote about here on this site. How many people have been locked up when they were innocent? How many people have been abused by police? How many people have been racially profiled by police?

  9. Chris

    Of course bad things happen in our justice system, but usually they are the result of incompetence or malice on the part of a few “bad apples.” Then there are the completely unjust outcomes guaranteed by our laws. Think Jim Crow, think the marijuana laws, think the bans on gay marriage versus racist jurors, people killed in drug disputes and gay kids getting beat up at school.

  10. Ian

    “Then there are the completely unjust outcomes guaranteed by our laws.”

    “Unjust” is a completely arbitrary distinction. The general rule of life is don’t piss off the group of people who can take away your freedom. Our “justice system” is simply institutionalized mob-rule. All “justice systems” are.

  11. Chris

    Well that’s a more cynical viewpoint than I’m willing to adopt. For one thing, our justice system (and worse systems like that in China) are not a reflection of mob rule, but rather elite rule.

    And I don’t think “justice” is merely a subjective notion. Despite the varied cultures around the world, most share the same basic ideas.

  12. Jordan

    Maybe not the Bill of Rights but what about the Geneva Convention?

  13. Ian

    “Justice” is purely subjective, unless you believe there is some unerring moral compass like religion. If that is the case, then you could define some moral absolutes from which to base your notion of “justice”. Even then, religion seems widely up to interpretation.

    As an example of subjective justice, you site the banning of gay marriage. To some, this is just and right. This is what God wants and intends. The same goes for racism. You don’t have to go very far back in history to see that people have agreed to institutionalize and enforce racism. At the time, that was considered just by many in society. Generally speaking, a law doesn’t get written unless someone out there isn’t trying to enforce some notion of “justice” or “fairness”.

    You can’t simply brand a law that doesn’t align with your worldview unjust. The fact that two people can disagree over whether something is right or wrong should be enough proof in itself that there is no objective justice.

    “For one thing, our justice system (and worse systems like that in China) are not a reflection of mob rule, but rather elite rule.”

    We the people elect those elite. We the people give those elite our money, in one manner or another. China’s government didn’t come to power by some fluke. There was a big revolution and a lot of people fighting to make it come to reality. Some of our political leaders are elected on platforms promoting the kind of injustice you decry, such as discrimination against gays and expanding of Guantanamo.

    “Despite the varied cultures around the world, most share the same basic ideas.”

    Three things:
    1. I don’t know how you could measure this in a meaningful way.
    2. It is still a creation of mankind. Humans are inherently flawed, thus a justice system made by them is inherently flawed.
    3. You are adhering to a bad (my opinion) notion of “Well the majority of people think this way, thus it must be right.”

  14. Ian

    “Maybe not the Bill of Rights but what about the Geneva Convention?”

    Sure if you could find some way to enforce it.

  15. Chris

    “You don’t have to go very far back in history to see that people have agreed to institutionalize and enforce racism. “

    And yet now it’s pretty much banned around the world. How and why did that happen?

    “You can’t simply brand a law that doesn’t align with your worldview unjust.”

    I certainly can. Laws that punish women for the “crime” of being raped are unjust. Under what moral logic can you argue otherwise?

    “China’s government didn’t come to power by some fluke. There was a big revolution and a lot of people fighting to make it come to reality.”

    That was 60 years ago. Perhaps back then you could say the government was representative, but that claim becomes tougher and tougher to defend as the years go by.

    “You are adhering to a bad (my opinion) notion of “Well the majority of people think this way, thus it must be right.”

    Not at all. I think that because there is broad agreement on what justice means, there must be more than a subjective notion of justice.

  16. Ian

    “And yet now it’s pretty much banned around the world.”

    Hardly. Easy example: Look at how Israel treats Palestinians. We support that. Another example: Ethnic cleansing in Africa. If by “the world” you mean, “the west” then maybe. In this country? How about affirmative action? Necessary perhaps, but is it not institutionalized racism of a sort?

    “Under what moral logic can you argue otherwise?”

    What a softball example. A better example would be the issue of abortion. Find me an easy consensus of “justice” there.

    “Perhaps back then you could say the government was representative, but that claim becomes tougher and tougher to defend as the years go by.”

    The majority of mainland Chinese are pretty happy and proud of their government and country. You are simply viewing their situation through the lens of your philosophy.

    “Perhaps back then you could say the government was representative, but that claim becomes tougher and tougher to defend as the years go by.”

    Then you have to define objective justice. Good luck.

  17. Ian

    Oops, the last quote was meant to be: “Not at all. I think that because there is broad agreement on what justice means, there must be more than a subjective notion of justice.”

    And I should’ve said, you have to define objective justice and define where it comes from.

  18. Jordan

    Enforceability of UN resolutions is a problem (as you’ll see from my new post) but the Geneva Conventions are something that everyone has agreed upon and, in principle, has been used in the Rwanda and Yugoslavia Tribunals. The problem comes when a country like the US does it and there are no real ways to force them to abide by them (other than public shaming, which really hasn’t gotten us very far).

  19. Ian

    Right, the only way have the US and its leaders held accountable is to make an organization that we as a country are willing to submit ourselves to. I just don’t see that happening any time soon.

  20. Jordan

    Yep. Which is part of my problem (and many developing countries’) with the UN.