Is Bush Still President?
On January 20 of this year, George W. Bush left Washington and headed back to Texas after the inauguration of Barrack Obama. Or are those memories merely figments of our collective imagination? A quick perusal of government policy has to make one wonder, is Bush still in the White House? According to a May 1, 2009 New York Times article entitled, “U.S. May Revive Guantanamo Military Courts,” by William Glaberson, the Obama administration is considering resuming the use of military tribunals to prosecute Guantanamo detainees.
Candidate Obama claimed to “reject the Military Commissions Act.” Now as president, his administration makes the case for maintaining it. It is important to remember that prior to the Bush administration, terror suspects were tried in open court where they had the right to counsel and to jury verdicts.
It seems that the Obama administration is afraid that some of the defendants might actually be acquitted. Judges might ban evidence discovered under torture or the hearsay evidence of intelligence reports. Defendants would have the right to question their accusers, in this case the intelligence operatives who may have participated in their torture.
Reports of the resumption of military tribunals are not the only bad news on Guantanamo and Bush era justice. In congressional testimony, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that Guantanamo detainees may be held on American soil. The Obama administration is going where even the Bush administration dared not. The Guantanamo apparatus was set up precisely to avoid any Constitutional inconveniences and to keep prisoners out of sight and out of mind. They didn’t want to risk waking Americans from their slumber and possibly encourage them to oppose this clear abuse of law and morality. Apparently Barrack Obama has less concern for American public opinion than did George W. Bush.
The reasons for Obama’s nonchalance are obvious. He was never called to account by self-described progressives during his presidential campaign. The same individuals who chose to silence themselves throughout 2008 have continued to act like doormats for president Obama, who as a result has the best, cushiest catbird seat of any president in recent memory.
The acquiescence to the old regime is outrageous in part because it is politically unnecessary. Only 21 percent of Americans are willing to claim an affiliation with the Republican Party. The only good news for Republicans is that their brand can’t fare any worse than it is now. Conversely, according to a Bloomberg.com article entitled, “Obama Approval Rating is 68 Percent, New Nationwide poll Shows,” that appeared on Yahoo! News, April 28, 2009, Obama has a 68 percent approval rating that bests all of his predecessors at the 100-day mark. The fear of public opposition to doing the right thing is completely unwarranted.
There is no rational political reason for the embrace of Bush policy. Most Americans do not trust the official explanations given for the September 11 attacks. Obama could not only close Guantanamo as he promised, but he could free even those accused of planning 9/11 without fear of public disapproval outside of the Republican dead-ender crowd.
Barrack Obama is in a position to do almost anything he wants. If he keeps the military tribunal system or moves Guantanamo prisoners to the United States it is because he wants to. He believes in the rule of the ruling classes more than he believes in true democracy. Challenging that belief would have made him unacceptable as a presidential candidate.
Dismantling the Bush regime would mean dismantling the prerogatives and assumptions of entitlement carried by the people who run the country. The ruling classes like to know that no one, especially not the president, will get any big ideas about disrupting their rule. Obama is the perfect president for them.
The names change but the system doesn’t. Perhaps the president’s name should be changed to Bushama. There would no longer be any excuse for confusion. We would all know where we truly stand.
Margaret Kimberley is Black Agenda Report (BAR) editor and senior columnist. Her Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR.
—Black Agenda Report, May 6, 2009