Entrance to Camp 1 in Gitmo’s Camp Delta
Photo by U.S. Government Employee
From Wikipedia, Public Domain
“Fool me once…”, George Bush once began a speech, before he famously proceeded to mangle this attempt at wit. I’m quoting the happy bungler because, at this point in Obama’s presidency, Bush’s transparent incompetence is beginning to look refreshing–certainly preferable to his successor’s crafty dissembling. Last week Obama blamed Congress for the continued detention of men at Guantanamo Bay. What the President failed to say was this: if his hands are tied, it’s because he supplied the rope and secured the knot.
Not once, but twice, Obama signed into law provisions which prohibited transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U. S. mainland. And, by the way, when did Gitmo become Guantanamo? Morphed nomenclature implies a rupture between the Bush and Obama policies. This is a lie. Gitmo incarceration has continued seamlessly through the Bush and Obama administrations.
If I sound bitter, I am. Because I was fooled. Although I do comfort myself that I was not the only one taken in by the current president. In 2008, lawyers for the Gitmo prisoners endorsed then-candidate Obama because they thought he offered the best chance to secure their clients’ release. Five years later, in 2013, nothing has changed. The prisoners remain desperate, without hope, many choosing the possibility of death over indefinite confinement.
But even this final release is denied them. In defiance of basic rights and every international standard of humane treatment, Gitmo prisoners are being force fed.
There are so many ways Obama has failed to live up to expectations. I used to think this was because he is not a skilled politician. We put him in office, after all, when he’d served less than one term in the Senate. I also thought he might be falling short because he imagines himself Lincoln, compromising on one thing to accomplish another.
But now I know, he’s not burdened with a flawed sense of history or a lack of political deftness; he’s cynical. Was he a cynic when we elected him in 2008–or did governing make him so? Is Obama a neocon or an oligarch? Does he have an ideology? I don’t know. I just know who’s in there now.
Every now and then Obama throws erstwhile supporters a bone, like the watered-down healthcare reform act. Just enough, he believes, to persuade us that he is better than the alternative: Clinton, McCain, Romney.
Meanwhile, as we are distracted with crumbs, he gives us Gitmo. Warrantless wiretaps. Drone warfare. Neutered bank reform. Eviscerated Social Security.
At least, when Bush promoted one of his monstrous policies, he did so with a full court press. There was marketing, but little subtlety. Even the notorious disinformation campaign before the Iraq War was so crudely executed that most of the world saw through it.
Obama, on the other hand, has mastered the art of the feint. We think he’s going in one direction; we think he wants one thing to happen. And then the truth comes out and we see that we’ve been duped. But it’s done with such skill that it’s hard to blame the perpetrator. Someone else must be at fault. It’s Congress, the Chamber of Commerce, Republicans. Not that innocent guy at the center.
I’ll say it again; I was fooled. Bought the game once from this guy; not going to happen again.
I’m stuck with Obama. Hurts me to say that. Electing him was like realizing a dream. Hard to give up on a dream–but I have. Any policy that comes out of his administration from now on is suspect. And Gitmo pronouncements are on top of the list of things to suspect.
I helped to elect Obama–voted for him, donated to his campaign. I am responsible for those men at Gitmo. So I’m going to work as hard to get those prisoners out of Gitmo as I did to get their jailer elected.