Greener Times Feb 9-15

Un-Spinning the Spin:
Obama Closes Guantanamo: End of Torture or PR Move?

by Maryrose Asher

Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes. She can be reached at

On January 22, 2009, two days after his inauguration as President of the United States, President Barack Obama issued executive orders to close Guantanamo Bay in one year. He also signed orders for the CIA and military personnel to follow the Army Field Manual and for the CIA to close their secret overseas prisons.

At the same time, Obama has also given assurances that his administration will not investigate or prosecute Bush, Cheney, and others who were responsible for the policies of torture and illegal detention that were carried out at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and in the CIA secret prisons. He also has not reversed the Bush administration’s attacks on constitutional and international law.

As to torture, Obama has set up a task force that will consider new interrogation methods not presently sanctioned by the Army Field Manual.1 Obama’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, testified at his senate confirmation hearing that potentially the Army Field Manual would itself be changed to allow new forms of interrogation and that such changes would be kept secret.2

In addition, Obama’s advisors are reportedly crafting a plan to create National Security Courts. Below is part of a transcript of a DemocracyNow! Interview with Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and author of “The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book.”:

"Preventive detention is really what we see at Guantanamo. It’s when you are put into a prison without being charged with a crime and without having a trial on that charge. It means you’re put into a prison for national security reasons, because you’re, quote, “dangerous.” And in this case, the proposals that seem to be working together, preventive detention and national security courts, are — yes, we may need to jail people because they are dangerous or national security threats, and even for that, their testing of that preventive detention can’t occur in a regular court, we don’t think they’re sufficient enough, we’re going to set up national security courts to do that.

"So what you’re really seeing is a re-wrapping of Guantanamo in a legal — in a legal new paper to make it more palatable. I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope there’s huge objections. The idea that this country would go into a preventive detention at this point and special courts, after we’ve been litigating for years to say these people have a right to get into a federal court and we shouldn’t have a preventive detention scheme, is remarkable to me. And I would just — I would really think that while it’s great that he wants to close Guantanamo and end torture, I mean, to set up an alternate scheme is really un-American."

As always, it is necessary to look beyond the spin delivered by mainstream media and realize not much has changed. The only thing that has changed is this administration’s ability to re-wrap the package so more Americans accept the loss of their civil liberties and, in fact, applaud their leaders for such benevolent acts.

1.Tom Eley, Global Research, January 23, 2009, “Obama’s orders leave torture, indefinite detention intact.”
2.Student New, “Obama pick urges some secrecy.”

Supplemental reading:
“Obama: Regime Rotation” by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, January 26, 2009.