Obomba: The Failure of a President

Mordecai Richler famously observed once that Torontonians (of which I myself am one) have a peculiar tendency to get hysterical “over trivial issues.” One need not ponder the truth of this for very long. During the 2008 federal election, was there any other city in the country that felt that census reform was the hottest issue on the table? Or gun registries? Indeed, Haroon Siddiqui has spent the past few weeks slobbering in print about the “fear-mongering” tactics of “Islamophobes,” and I believe once compared a three-hour wait for admittance to the G20 summit unfavourably to a Soviet gulag. Perhaps distracted by the puerile charade of money-worship that has become this year’s provincial election, it thus ought not to surprise anybody that the Toronto Star has dedicated far more attention to the apparently proto-fascist Tim Hudak and the “sell-out” snake Andrea Horwath than to anything that actually matters.

I love the rhetoric of the “left” in this country; it so neatly emblemizes doublethink. Stephen Harper and Rob Ford and Tim Hudak are more or less consistently portrayed as art-hating illiterates interested only in – what, exactly? (Admittedly, this might actually be true in the case of Mr. Ford). Yet, just to our south there is an ostensibly progressive politician who was celebrated from the pulpits just after his election, praised and fawned over by Canadian media, who has done more to destroy and undermine democracy than any of the three men listed above. That politician is Barack Hussein Obama.

Assessing the Obama presidency without the airbrushing of the “hope” and “change” twaddle is not something Canadian media likes to do, particularly. This might be because to do so would be to admit that a man so revered during and just after his election is not only far more pernicious but also far more radically right-wing than Stephen Harper. This in itself is irksome enough, but personally it is Obama’s odious hypocrisy that really sticks in my craw. Shall we review a few of the key promises on which dear Barrack was elected?

Shutting down Guantanamo Bay. Despite being declared officially unconstitutional as early as 1993 by Judge Sterling Johnson Jr., Gitmo continues to be operated and hundreds of detainees are held without trial or even charges. Obama signed an executive order to have the facility closed within a year – back in 2009. Two years later, there is no sign of Guantanamo Bay doing anything other than what it has done since 2002. Why? Because he signed another executive order earlier this year that was a direct reversal of his original policy. Is there a peep from the author of Harperland about this?

Rejecting the Military Commissions Act. According to Amnesty International, US policies as designed by the Bush administration constituted an “outright dismissal of human rights law.” The Military Commissions Act, ratified in 2006 and amended (without meaning) in 2009, obviates habeas corpus, the most precious ideal in the American justice system, gives military commissions the power to carry out death sentences, allows for “enhanced interrogation” (the euphemism of the day for torture) and inhuman treatment to detainees, subverts or ignores the standards of practice established by the Geneva Convention, and more. Despite clearly and unambiguously stating that he would reject the Act, the legislation remains on the books to this day.

Creating a cap and trade system to reduce global warming. In 2009, Obama promised to reduce US carbon emissions 14% below 2005 levels by 2020, and a ludicrous 83% below by 2050. True to our established motif, when the proposed legislation was brought before Congress, they did to it precisely what they continue to do to our planet.

This is to not even mention the promises President Obama did keep. The most salient, the killing of Osama bin Laden, I have written about already; the hit on the Abbottabad safe house was a direct violation of Pakistani sovereignty, not to say international law, and has served only to antagonize the country. Given that Pakistan is a nuclear power with an enormous pro-jihadist population with a fairly vicious attitude towards the West in general and the United States in particular, that might not be such a terrific idea. Indeed, it smacks of something rather more nauseating than simple hypocrisy that the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, while essentially operating as a proxy organization for the Taliban, is also being funded by billions of American dollars in the form of aid money.

Recent events, however, are the ones that incline me most to a bottle of scotch and a shouting match with my television. I refer, of course, to the planned and executed assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. This man, a Muslim cleric, was a high-ranking official in al-Qaeda, and has a long history of loudly preaching death, destruction, hatred, and other forms religious demagoguery. There is evidence that he advocated violent jihad, including suicide bombing, and that he had counseled and helped coordinate both Nidal Hasan’s massacre at Fort Hood and the attempted “underwear bombing” of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.


Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen. As such, he is promised due process of the law, which he was denied. This is not a question of interpretation. The drone attack in Yemen that killed al-Awlaki was nothing more or less than the President of the United States, Barack Obama, ordering the assassination of one of his own citizens purely because he was deemed an “enemy.” According to the New York Times, a lengthy document was passed around the Whitehouse that evidently detailed the ways in which such a thing could be justified legally; we don’t know what this document said because it hasn’t been declassified. I, for one, am very, very curious. Who knows what other “threats” amongst the US citizenry could be fit targets for extermination without trial? Not even George W. Bush stooped to this level of flagrant disregard for American Constitutional rights, and the silence of the so-called left in this country and in the US is nothing short of bilious.

As Slate columnist William Saletan writes, referring to the “imminent threat – enemy allegiance – feasibility of arrest” trifecta that comprises the justification for such an assassination:

If the target is a suspected terrorist, “imminence” can be redefined to justify killing him. If the weapon is a drone, feasibility of arrest has already been ruled out—that’s why the drone has been sent to do the job. So in any drone strike on a U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism, only one of the three questions we supposedly apply to such cases is really open: Has he been fighting alongside al-Qaida? If he has, we can kill him. That’s the same rule we apply to foreigners. In effect, citizenship doesn’t matter. The “due process” test is empty.

And of course, the latter point begs the question: what exactly constitutes “fighting alongside al-Qaeda”? Anwar al-Awlaki himself did no fighting, but merely provided counsel; the Whitehouse claims they have evidence of his direct involvement in terrorist plots, but none has been released. Again, these are egregious crimes for which George W. Bush would have been impeached or lynched or both. But the PR machine behind Obama appears to be impervious to the tally of anti-democratic, anti-human rights, and anti-common sense policies the President has implemented. Since almost all of the initiatives designed by the former president are still in effect and are endorsed by the Obama administration, there is only one conclusion any objective analyst can reach: Barack Obama is a worse president that George Bush. How’s that for a cold shudder?

Christopher Hitchens, also writing for Slate, states: “Those who share my alarm at the prospect of [the US government assassinating a citizen without due process], and of the ways in which it could be abused, are under a heavy obligation to say what they would do instead.”

My answer is quite simple. I believe in liberty, civilization, free society, and human rights. To violate these rights in order to protect them is a contradiction in terms. It is the essence of doublethink. I’d rather let a scumbag live than lose these principles. A man as vile, depraved, and pathetic as Anwar al-Awlaki is simply not worth it.


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