Obama Changing a lot Less than You’d Think

Obama says he’s going to restore America’s place in the world. It doesn’t sound like his plan for Gitmo is going to do that.

Mr Obama, who is due to be inaugurated as US president on 20 January, has repeatedly promised to close the camp, where some 250 inmates remain.

Well, even Bush wanted to close it.

President Bush said today that he would like to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp on Cuba, but for the fact that some of the terror suspects held there were too “darned dangerous” to release.

Speaking at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden the day after returning from a surprise trip to Baghdad, Mr Bush said that he realised the detention centre was an “excuse” for critics to claim that American was guilty of hypocrisy over its core values.

“I’d like to close Guantanamo,” Mr Bush said. “But I also recognise that we’re holding some people that are darned dangerous, and that we’d better have a plan to deal with them in our courts.

So what is Obama going to do?

The signing of the order is unlikely to be followed by immediate closure.

On Sunday, Mr Obama indicated that closing Guantanamo was a “challenge” and would take time.

“It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realise,” Mr Obama told the ABC TV network.

“We’re going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have got a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication.”

I have no doubt that Obama will be different, but let’s not pretend that he’s just going to thrown open the gates. Remember: even Bush released many detainees, even (unfortunately) people committed to terrorism as witnessed by their returning to the fight.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said 18 former detainees are confirmed as “returning to the fight” and 43 are suspected of having done in a report issued late in December by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

But he’s going to end torture, right?

“President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners, according to two U.S. officials familiar with drafts of the plans. Still under debate is whether to include a loophole that would allow exceptions in extraordinary cases.”

How is this different from President Bush’s policy?

Answer: it’s not.

Then we have this today.

During the Presidential campaign, Obama promised to “have the Army Field Manual govern interrogation techniques for all United States government personnel and contractors.” Thus, Obama implied he would reject the more aggressive interrogation tactics like waterboarding that had been considered and, in rare cases, used by the Bush Administration.

Now that he’s President, it appears Obama will implement his campaign promise to have the military guidelines govern interrogation techniques. However, he is also considering expanding the military guidelines to permit more aggressive techniques:

“At least two more executive orders are expected in coming days, according to two Obama officials.

One official said the first will require all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army Field Manual while questioning detainees. The manual explicitly prohibits threats, coercion, physical abuse and waterboarding, which creates the sensation of drowning and has been termed a form of torture by critics.

The second order will set up a study of interrogation methods that could be added to the Army manual, including some that may be more aggressive than those currently permitted.”

So what about Iraq? Obama opposed the war, opposed the surge and wants out ASAP. That’s what he said during the election.

Seems that now that he’s got the votes, some things might have changed.

A key adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

The differences between Obama and Bush were always going to be a lot more subtle than 99% of his supporters expected.

We’re now starting to find out just how subtle.

Update: One more.

While Obama calls for transparency, Pelosi is doing the opposite.

After decades of Democrat control of the House of Representatives, gross abuses to the legislative process and several high-profile scandals contributed to an overwhelming Republican House Congressional landslide victory in 1994. Reforms to the House Rules as part of the Contract with America were designed to open up to public scrutiny what had become under this decades-long Democrat majority a dangerously secretive House legislative process. The Republican reform of the way the House did business included opening committee meetings to the public and media, making Congress actually subject to federal law, term limits for committee chairmen ending decades-long committee fiefdoms, truth in budgeting, elimination of the committee proxy vote, authorization of a House audit, specific requirements for blanket rules waivers, and guarantees to the then-Democrat minority party to offer amendments to pieces of legislation.

Pelosi’s proposed repeal of decades-long House accountability reforms exposes a tyrannical Democrat leadership poised to assemble legislation in secret, then goose-step it through Congress by the elimination of debate and amendment procedures as part of America’s governing legislative process.


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