The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the torture and rendition programs sponsored by the Bush administration has caused an uproar not only in the U.S., but internationally as well.
The report has informed us that not only was the treatment of prisoners cruel but the sadism went far beyond anything we imagined. We have all heard of waterboarding but has anyone become familiar with the technique called rectal hydration feeding? Yes, you heard me correctly, rectal hydration, a technique where a tube is shoved into a person’s rectum and fluid, including pureed foodstuff is pumped in until the intestines feel as if they will burst.
What has been President Obama’s response to the revelation that the U.S. was heavily involved in the execution of torture techniques during most of the years we were under the leadership of the Bushmen? He said, “Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong . . . in the past.” Mr. Obama also relied on his favorite mantra, “We are better than that, that’s not who we are.”
To further emphasize that “that’s not who we” are, U.S. officials do not admit that we tortured prisoners but, instead, label these activities as enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT’s).
From the very beginning, when he took office, Obama has demonstrated an unwillingness to pursue this criminal behavior, choosing instead to ignore what happened during the Bush administration and rallied us to look forward.
Yet, when it comes to obeying the law in Ferguson, Missouri, Mr. Obama has stated that we are a nation of laws and that despite our dissatisfaction with the way these laws are applied, accept the rule of law and express our discontent peacefully and non-violently. Expressing our anger and rage violently, “that’s not who we are.”
When black men and women are arbitrarily murdered by police who are there to protect the public, someone will claim, “We can do better, that’s not who we are.”
If we are, indeed, a nation of laws, does it not stand to reason that we all are obligated to obey these laws? Or, does it really mean that the laws of this country apply only to us commoners and not to the rich and powerful? Were we a “nation of laws” when the financial institutions, through fraudulent activities almost brought this country to economic collapse? Were there any banksters indicted or convicted of criminal behavior? As he did with the crimes of the Bushmen, Obama chose to look the other way and point us to the future where better things will happen.
Maybe, if we hold all of us to the rule of law, regardless of economic class, race, and gender, we will find ourselves doing better and will be able to honestly say, “That’s not who we are.”
The Bush administration is not the only administration that has broken both domestic and international laws. Today, our president sponsors drone strikes in which he sends drones across the borders of sovereign nations to launch missiles targeting so-called terrorists.
However, the US’s drone strike campaign in the Middle East has killed an unprecedented number of civilians. Terrorists only comprise 3.5% of the people who have died from “targeted killings,” the data, from human rights group Reprieve, reveals. Out of 1,147 people killed in targeted airstrikes, just 41 were targets.
In Pakistan, for example, the US targeted 24 men over the past three years—and it has resulted in the death of 874 people. Numerous strikes were aimed at each target, the data shows—but despite the endless attempts, just six of the targets actually died in the drone strikes. Among the dead were 142 children.
Then we have Mr. Obama’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which allows the president, any president, to determine who is an imminent threat to the U.S. and should be assassinated. Mr. Obama, it is reported, meets with his advisors every Tuesday to determine who should be on that list. The targets can and have been American citizens. There need not be any charges brought, any indictments, any trials to determine guilt or innocence. All that is handled by the executive.
This act is clearly unconstitutional and Mr. Obama, a constitutional lawyer, knows this. Therefore, obeying this law and assassinating American citizens is a criminal act. Yet, once again, Mr. Obama has agreed to overlook the law and constitution.
It becomes clearer why elected presidents do not want to hold previous administrations accountable for their crimes. Clearly, they do not want future administrations to hold them accountable.
So, when Mr. Obama claims that we are a nation of laws, I cannot take him seriously. And, when Mr. Obama claims, after we lower access to food stamps, jail more black folks than those attending colleges, fill our prisons with more people than all other nations combined, allow millions of our fellow Americans to go without health insurance, limit unemployment insurance benefits, remove the safety net for hundreds of thousands of single mothers who are then forced to leave their children and go to work after 2 years because public assistance is no longer available, pay workers subsistence salaries, after we examine our history of genocide against Native Americans, after we enslave African-Americans, after we allow Jim Crow laws to ruin many thousands of lives, etc., that “we are better than that,” I say no, we are not better than that . . . that’s exactly who we are and have been for hundreds of years.
We live in a cruel, violent, racist and greedy society, driven by material acquisitions. Thanks to capitalism, the above list is a normal way of life erroneously accepted by most as the inherent nature of man. It’s every man and woman for himself, you’re on your own. This is not our nature, it’s what we are taught and learn from the time we’re born . . . success is equated with financial gain, poverty is the fault of the impoverished; work hard and follow the rules and you will be successful and if you’re not successful, it’s your own fault.
If we are better than what our history tells of us, we had better start acting accordingly. So far, our history demonstrates quite clearly that we are not better than that and that’s exactly who we are.
Isn’t it time we demand something better?
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.