On Thursday, President Barack Obama issued executive orders mandating the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp in a year’s time, requiring that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and military personnel follow the Army Field Manual’s prohibitions on torture, and closing secret CIA prisons overseas.
While the media is portraying these orders as a repudiation of the detention and interrogation policies of the Bush administration, they actually change little. They essentially represent a public relations effort to refurbish the image of the United States abroad after years of torture and extralegal detentions and shield high-ranking American officials from potential criminal prosecution.
In cowardly fashion, Obama staged his signing of the orders in a manner aimed at placating the political right and defenders of Guantanamo and torture and underscoring his intention to continue the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” He was flanked by 16 retired generals and admirals who have pushed for the closure of the prison camp in Cuba on the grounds that it impedes the prosecution of the global “war” and reiterated in his own remarks his determination to continue the basic political framework of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
The continuation of the ideological pretext for wars of aggression and attacks on democratic rights ensures that the police state infrastructure erected under the Bush administration will remain intact. This is further reinforced by Obama’s assurances that his administration will not investigate or prosecute those officials–including Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and others—who were responsible for the policies of torture and illegal detention.
The orders signed by Obama do not undo the Bush administration’s attacks on constitutional and international law. They do not challenge the supposed right of the president to unilaterally imprison any individual, without trial and without charges, by declaring him to be an “enemy combatant.” Nor do they end the procedure known as “extraordinary rendition,” by which the United States during the Bush years kidnapped alleged terrorists and shipped them to foreign countries or secret CIA prisons outside the US, where they were subjected to torture.
They do not affect the hundreds of prisoners–600 at the Bagram prison camp in Afghanistan alone—incarcerated beyond the barbed wire of Guantanamo. If and when Guantanamo is closed, the US government will simply ship alleged terrorists caught up its international dragnet to other American-run prison camps.
On the question of so-called “harsh interrogation techniques,” i.e., torture, Obama’s orders leave room for their continuation. White House Counsel Gregory Craig told reporters the administration was prepared to take into account demands from the CIA that such methods be allowed. Read it all