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
Of course this approach to policy was all meant to end as of noon on January 20th, 2009 with the arrival of the Obama Administration. Yet whilst the overriding sentiments of anti-Americanism have clearly subsided, this has had little to do with a change in policy. Obama may well be the world’s president of choice, but Dick Cheney’s view of the world has not been expressly repudiated by Obama.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, has denounced the Obama Administration for adopting policies that “mimic the Bush Administration’s abusive approach.” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ben Wizner has lamented that Obama “has chosen to continue the Bush administration practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course.”
President Obama may have signed an executive order banning enhanced interrogation techniques, but his administration reaffirmed the rendition program, a move deemed to be ‘”extremely disappointing,” according to the ACLU. There have been more predator drone attacks in Obama’s presidency than under Bush; the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay remains open. It’s change you can believe in, just not the sort that many wanted.
When asked about Rendition at his confirmation hearing, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta noted that suspects would no longer be kidnapped, sent overseas and tortured. However, he added, ‘Renditions where we return an individual to the jurisdiction of another country, and then they exercise their right to try that individual and to prosecute him under their laws-I think that is an appropriate use of rendition.’ Clearly the Obama administration has chosen to return to a public stance on rendition that is akin to the previous model exercised by the Clinton White House.
These issues raise serious questions pertaining to the American sense of mission and of exceptionalism. It is hard to ascertain how they do anything but undermine such aspirations. Obama entered the Oval Office with great hopes and with the expectation of world opinion – how much of this remains intact on the world stage with so few major alterations from the Bush Strategy, regardless of stated intent? This is not necessarily Obama’s fault. As president, there is, paradoxically, only so much that he can do, but the world expects so much more.
There are, in addition, two great double standards at work: The double standard to which great nations are always held, of either interfering too much or not often enough; and the contradictory nature of American foreign policy, of oscillating between imperial designs and latent isolationism. Solving these dilemmas will not be rectified anytime soon.
It is an historical fact that a policy of rendition predated the presidency of George W. Bush and indeed, has continued under his successor. What changed, arguably, was the scope of the operation, not the institution itself. What changed was the public and media response to the policy, which appears to have been a backlash against the administration, as much as it was against the policy itself.
The policy, therefore, not only caused offence, but was then used as a vehicle to further justify an anti-Bush mentality. Just as there was a fascination with the President’s sex life in the 1990s, so to, it would appear, was there an obsession with all things Anti-American under George W. Bush. Some referred to this as Anti-Americanism. It is perhaps more appropriate to refer to ‘anti-adminstrationism’. The focus on all things bad under Bush and the apparent capacity to overlook similar occurrences under both Clinton and now Obama, seem to justify this perspective.
Just as Bismarck once noted that the processes involved in the preparation of laws and sausage should remain hidden from public view, so too perhaps, should the policies involved in winning a struggle against those who no longer adhere to classic models of confrontation.
With the publication of Kill or Capture, the wider public will have an opportunity to consider for themselves the distance travelled by President Obama from the policies that he campaigned against, yet now appears to have adopted as his own.
Dr. James D. Boys is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. He is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King's College London, Associate Professor of International Political Studies at Richmond University in London and a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @jamesdboys
Read more on: Obama foreign policy, Obama and Bush, How different is Obama to Bush?, george h.w. bush, george w. bush, Clinton's War on Terror, war on terror, Kill or Capture, Daniel Klaidman, Dr. James Boys, International Journal of Human Rights, Extraordinary rendition, Ronald Reagan, United States vs Alvarez Machain, 9/11, US foreign policy, US foreign policy post 9/11, Axis of Evil, osama bin laden, Samuel Berger, Talaat Fouad Qassem, Monica Lewinsky, Anwar el Saddat, Ben Winzer, and leon panetta
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