Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Torture in Era Obama...?

Being an American abroad in era Obama is glorious. No more talk about Iraq, about Bush ruining the world. No more jokes about his second term (ya know, that we let him have one). Now it's sunshine and roses. The student council at my school Oku JHS even chose "change" as this year's slogan. Despite the health care chaos and lingering recession Obama is still a rock star and as an American I am officially off the hook.

But as I read the news from back home (admittedly sparingly), it's becoming clear his rock star status in the States is decidedly in question. And the questions are getting harder.

On Christmas Day a Dutch man saved 278 passengers and crew of a Northwest flight. A man was preparing to detonate an explosive that would take down the aircraft when he was stopped by several fellow passengers.

Like our assessment of the 9/11, we've decided it's not an intelligence failure but--as Obama said--a failure to "connect the dots." I'm not sure there is a difference.

It's certainly a failure of the National Counterterrorism Center, the organization put in place after 9/11 to ensure intelligence sharing occurs. Or perhaps we ought to create another organization that will be in charge of "connecting the dots" so our intelligence agencies don't have to think just gather, then one organization will make sure this gathered information is shared between the intelligence community and yet another organization will make sure that the gathered and shared intelligence is analyzed. Effective?

But what's more alarming than this near miss or even the fact that we're continuing the Bush-era reference to "enemies" and the Bush-era standard "something has gone terribly wrong and it was a failure but none of us are to blame" is Obama's new stance on Guantanamo Bay captives. The release of all captives from Yemen is being postponed. A group from Yemen is apparently responsible for the failed attempt on Christmas Day. Obama once represented a strong stand against this detention facility. Now, however, much like a plot line from Fox's 24 Obama seems to be saying that miscarriages of justice are OK if it means saving American lives.

Guantanamo Bay is wrong. It needs to be closed. It was wrong on December 24th and is just as wrong in the aftermath of this botched terror attempt.

Obama now is in the precarious position of reassuring a public that's already been failed by it's intelligence community that we're safe and our government is doing a good job while also trying to explain his new position on Guantanamo. I realize it's complicated and that we need to be careful after such an event. However Obama must justify his new--and seemingly contradictory--position regarding Guantanamo.

Is torture permissible in in era Obama, or not? Can he, as president, make the difficult decisions to give America the change it needs?