Obama takes after “Slick Willie”

While addressing Barack Obama's recent National Security speech, Marjorie Cohn rightly asserts:

The pressure [produced mostly by the Reactionary Noise Machine] has caused Obama to buckle [on his decision to close Guantanamo Bay prison]. Timed to coincide with a Cheney speech to the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, Obama announced an appeasement plan to deal with the 240 remaining Guantánamo detainees. Parts of his plan would threaten the very foundation of our legal system — that no one should be held in custody if he has committed no crime.

"Unsurprisingly, Republicans are jubilant" with the new Obama, according to Joanne Mariner. They are elated, in Mariner's reckoning, because they can now plausibly represent "…Obama's reversal as a belated embrace of the Bush administration's war on terror, their tone is unabashedly triumphant." Obama's stance has been called "Cheneyism-without-Cheney," an apt depiction of a president who has done little more than to provide a bit of whitewash to America's empire and its criminal actions.

By applying the term appeasement in this instance Cohn thereby invokes the Munich Pact of 1938 which sealed the Sudetenland's fate and has come to represent a cynical and foolish real politics in action, a display of cowardice in the face of a mortal threat and the willingness of the powerful to betray the weak in order to gain meager advantages. Her use of the term also indirectly calls to mind Bill Clinton's infamous triangulation strategy, the net effect of which was to move the Democratic Party rightward without, however, slaking the crude desires of the reactionaries. Briefly put, it can be argued that Bill Clinton prepared the country for the militarism and authoritarianism of the George W. Bush regime with his triangulation strategy. He managed this feat by making a Republican program appear normal and inevitable. Appeasement is thus a powerfully critical symbol in this case. By relying upon this power Cohn suggests that Obama's new prisoner detention policy amounts to his capitulation to America's neoconservatives, militarists and imperialists, which is to say, to an evil within our midst.

Finally, it can be said that Obama's latest position not only advocates illegal and unconstitutional actions and institutions, as must be the case given America's treaty commitments and its constitutional safeguards against this kind of behavior, it also effects his greatest betrayal of the Americans who voted for him in the last election, a political outcome that clearly reflected a deep popular dissatisfaction with the kind of policies Obama now promotes. It is clear today that America's electoral mechanism and party system lack the power needed to restrain America's criminal state. More is needed if the country wishes to effectively refuse to become a massive gulag.

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