Friday, January 1, 2010

Guantánamo, Illinois

Guantánamo, Illinois

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President Barack Obama’s first year in office has many elements of déjà vu and feels much the same as a year of George Bush. Wars metastasize, bankers get richer and prisons migrate from Cuba to Illinois ... changing venues as policies remain in place.

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The nearly-empty prison facility in Thomson, Illinois, has been selected as the site to house Guantánamo detainees.

“Barack Obama has firmly established the continuation of Bush regime domestic, foreign and economic policy.”

It is hard to keep track of all the Obama abominations taking place as he nears his first anniversary as president of the United States. Just as the Nobel Peace Prize winner announces more war, true health care reform bites the dust. The Copenhagen climate change summit ended with the United States, the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, making no commitment to change its ways and offering almost no help to the poor nations of the world who are serious about climate change.

Lost in the shuffle of ever more outrageous decisions and statements, was the administration’s announcement that some detainees held at the Guantánamo prison would be moved onto American soil in the state of Illinois. Obama’s campaign promise to close that facility was enough for easily impressed Obamaites to engage in more wishful thinking about their idol. Obama said absolutely nothing about maintaining the constitutional protections that prevailed in the American legal system before Bush took office.

“People would not have been silent had George W. Bush made the same decision.”

Bush declared that the president had the power to designate anyone, American citizen or not, an enemy combatant. Such persons would have no right to expect a trial by jury, no right to question accusers or to see evidence used against them. They also had no right to expect that they wouldn’t be tortured. Candidate Obama promised to close down the prison at Guantánamo Bay, but he said nothing about how he would treat this most terrible aspect of the Bush doctrine. It was one of many reasons to withhold support from his campaign. The Obama enablers are now complicit in the most horrific aspects of the Bush era.

The announcement of Guantánamo north was yet another example of awful policy going unnoticed by people who would not have been silent had George W. Bush made the same decision. The Bush administration chose Guantanamo precisely because they could not guarantee acceptance of their policy if prisoners were held within the borders of the United States. Having the prison under American jurisdiction but not on its soil was a way to accomplish back door legality for this process.

“Obama has gone to court to fight any effort to return the country to the rule of law.”

Obama has now gone where Bush feared to tread. Not only has he announced that the Bush doctrine is acceptable, but he has gone to court to fight any effort to return the country to the rule of law that existed before it was torn asunder in the war on terror.

The Obama administration argued that the Supreme Court should let stand a lower court ruling which among other things stated that “. . . torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants.” The Supreme Court did let the ruling stand and the constitutional law professor president succeeded in eviscerating the bill of rights.

President Barack Obama has not only asked courts to let stand pro-Bush decisions, but he has also asked an appeals court to dismiss Jose Padilla’s lawsuit against John Yoo. Yoo was the very architect of the war on terror legal decisions, and the Obama justice department has determined he did nothing wrong in arguing that detainees can be held indefinitely or tried by military tribunal without access to the legal protections that have governed American law. According to professor president, the suit poses “...the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military’s detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict.”

“Democrats in Illinois love the idea and lobbied hard for the new prison.”

A nearly empty prison facility in Thomson, Illinois has been selected as the site to house Guantánamo detainees. Republicans fume and fuss about security threats but never question the premise upon which detainees are still held. Democrats in Illinois love the idea and lobbied hard for the new prison. Governor Pat Quinn had this to say: “This is an opportunity to dramatically reduce unemployment, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and breathe new economic life into this part of downstate Illinois.”

Democratic Illinois Senator Richard Durbin is also in favor of the facility being opened in his state. In 2005 Durbin compared interrogation tactics at Guantánamo to those used by the Nazi regime and the Soviets in the gulags. He was later forced to make a tearful apology on the senate floor, but he was right the first time. Durbin was punished for his truth telling and as a result he now makes the case for the American prison industrial complex to devour foreign prisoners, too.

In less than one year in office, Barack Obama has firmly established the continuation of Bush regime domestic, foreign and economic policy. While Guantánamo is unseen, Illinois is right in the middle of the United States. None of us can now claim absolution from our government sin. Obama and his supporters have made us all accomplices. The ongoing Guantánamo crime now belongs to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and to every American citizen.

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