Mark Levine writes:
President Obama has essentially continued almost every major Bush security policy, either by default or design. State secrets, targeted killings, renditions and indefinite detention, opposing the right of habeas corpus, preventing victims of admitted torture from seeking judicial redress, expanding the Afghan war while moving – however gingerly – to secure a long-term presence in Iraq; all these must surely be making Bush, and especially Cheney, happy and wealthier men.
As Michael Hayden, Bush’s last CIA Director, put it in a recent interview, “Obama has been as aggressive as Bush” in defending executive prerogatives and powers that have enabled and sustained the ‘war on terror.’
But just how close to the dark side Obama has moved became evident in the last couple of weeks, specifically from two angles.
In the first, a federal appeals court overturned a lower court decision allowing former CIA prisoners to sue companies that participated in their rendition and torture in overseas prisons. In deciding that the plaintiffs could not sue despite an ample public (rather than classified) record supporting their claims, Judge Raymond C. Fisher supported the Obama Administration’s contention that, in his words, sometimes there is a “painful conflict between human rights and national security” in which the former must be sacrificed to preserve the latter.
But this is an utterly ludicrous concept, since a core reason for so much of the frustration, nihilistic anger, radicalisation and ultimately violence involved in Islamist terrorism and insurgencies lies precisely in the long term, structural denial of the most basic human rights by governments in the region, the lion’s share of whom continue to be supported by the United States despite their behaviour on the grounds of ‘national security’.
What neither Attorney General Eric Holder nor the President seems to understand is that there can be no contradiction between human rights and national security, since the absence of human rights can never but lead to a lack of security.
What’s more, the very idea in the globalised era that one country’s “national” security (especially that of the global “hyper-power,” the United States) can be defined apart from and in contrast to the security of other nations is so ridiculous. One wonders how supposedly intelligent people, like former law school professors – turned presidents, can in good faith imagine and declare it.