Stick or twist, "Kill or Capture": Obama's continuation of Bush policy
It is an historical fact that a policy of rendition predated the presidency of George W. Bush. What's more, it has outlasted him too
In a new book, Kill or Capture, Daniel Klaidman reveals the distinction between the foreign policy initiatives that Barack Obama campaigned on and his record in office. It is significant that such a publication has finally made its way to the main stream media.
Since his election I have been researching the Obama administration and its variance from the Bush years. In 2011 I produced a paper entitled “What’s So Extraordinary about Rendition,” published in the International Journal of Human Rights, and was subsequently presented in a wider form at an international conference in Europe. My efforts to suggest a pattern of behaviour that extended from Clinton to Bush to Obama caused me to be labelled as a ‘neo-fascist.’ It is apparent that many, especially in Europe, simply do not wish to accept the possibility that Obama has continued Bush era policies.
In this increasingly media-driven age it is widely believed and reported that new administrations bring about new policies and signify a break from the past. Such was the reaction to the election of Barack Obama. The election of the first non-white president of the United States was presented as a form of cathartic ablution; an attempt to dismiss the previous eight years as an aberration and to signify a change from the past.
Covered in Nobel garlands and the adulation of the globe, Obama apparently signified a return to ‘traditional American principles,’ upon which the republic was founded: liberty, justice and freedom. It was believed that with his election, had come the end of neo-conservative rule, dominated by a policy of pre-emption and the implementation of Extraordinary Rendition.
However, to believe this to be the case is to misread history and to misjudge the United States of America and its political philosophy. Far from being a City on a Hill, the United States has often acted in a manner that appears to undermine its high-minded ideals. From Lincoln to Lyndon and from Wilson to W, what differentiates presidents is their language rather than their actions; their tone rather than their tools. Whether they were domestically focused Democrats or internationally focused Republicans, the inhabitants of the Oval Office have often placed human rights a distant second to the priority of National Interest. It is how this concept has been defined that differentiates administrations, rather than any great concern about the global good.
Far from being radical, the Bush Administration was continuing and expanding upon a policy that had been formalised by Bill Clinton, and adhered to by George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, none of which was reported on, nor seemingly cared about by the American public.
Indeed, rendition, long before it was considered to be extraordinary, was a policy that was devised, developed and initiated by Bush’s Democratic predecessor in a war on terror, long before his election, in a contradiction between the values the United States claimed to be defending and the methods utilised in the process. Since the 1800s in fact, the United States has “rendered” criminal suspects from overseas to be tried in the United States, and the U.S. Supreme Court twice endorsed criminal prosecutions after such ‘renditions to justice.’
In 1986 President Reagan authorized a rendition operation to deal with the terrorist suspects who might have been responsible for the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut. Government officials acknowledged on the record the “rendition to justice” program that delivered those suspects to U.S. jurisdiction, and afforded detainees the due process crime suspects normally receive in that country.’ The Supreme Court upheld the government's power to prosecute people who were seized in these abductions and kidnappings irrespective of their legality under international law in the 1992 case of United States v. Alvarez-Machain.
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