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Let there be change!

November 5, 2008

After 8 long years of Bush and the Republicans, the US and the world finally have a fresh start.

Time will show whether George W. Bush will be remembered as the worst president ever, or just one of the really horrible ones. However, seen from the Eastern shore of the Atlantic, Bush has been a disaster. 8 years of Bush has not only done great internal damage to the USA, but also dealt a devastating blow to American interests abroad and the relationship between the US and the rest of the world, and made the world in general a worse place to live.

I cannot speak for the African and Asian communities, let alone the American voters, but it is a well known fact that Europe has been desperate for a real change in the White House ever since Bush was elected. Norwegians, at least, believe – or want to believe – that Obama can be that change.

Can we believe in change?

Change, and the need for it,  has been the cornerstone of Obama’s campaign since the very beginning. With taglines like “Change we can believe in” and “Stand for change”, Obama has focused as much on what he is not as on what he is. He is not Republican, he is not George Bush, he is not Four More Years. If we are to believe Obama and his supporters, he is Change.

Alas, politicians have a tendency to forget their taglines and campaign promises once victory is secured. Of course I am relieved that Obama won the election, and that the Republican siege of the White House is finally over. However, I cannot get rid of this nagging suspicion that Mr. Change might pretty soon turn out to be more like Mr. Same, same, but different.

I really, really hope that Obama will make good on his promises to sign a strong global treaty on climate change, close Guantanamo, end torture and fight poverty. However, I cannot quite bring myself to believe that he really will. I guess it cannot hurt to remind him that the world expects him to stand by his campaign commitments to

  • Reduce the US’s carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and play a strong positive role in negotiating a binding global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol
  • Establish a clear goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons across the globe
  • Close the Guantanamo Bay detention center
  • Double US aid to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015 and accelerate the fight against HIV/AIDS and Malaria
  • Open diplomatic talks with Iran and Syria, to pursue peaceful resolution of tensions
  • Launch a major diplomatic effort to stop the killings in Darfur
  • Invest $150 billion over ten years to support renewable energy and get 1 million plug-in electric cars on the road by 2015.

Update: Three steps in 100 days

On Wednesday November 12, Amnesty International launched their 100 days campaign. Since 9/11, the U.S. government has committed grave human rights violations in the name of countering terrorism.

Amnesty International claims that Obama must take important steps to end this assault on human rights immediately after taking office. There is much to be done, but for the 100 days campaign, Amnesty is focusing on three crucial actions Obama needs to take within 100 days after taking office:

  • announce a plan and date to close Guantánamo;
  • issue an executive order to ban torture and other ill-treatment, as defined under international law;
  • setup an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the US government in its “war on terror”.

Do not doubt the power of your action.The same grassroots energy that propelled Barack Obama to victory can now be the driving force behind America’s renewed commitment to human rights. On his campaign website, Obama asks us to believe, not just in his ability to bring about real change in Washington, but in our own ability to do so.

If you believe, in Obama and/or yourself, please remind him of his promises and sign the petition urging President-elect Barack Obama to demonstrate a commitment to human rights in his first 100 days in office.  Let there be change!

Photo: United States Senate / Wikimedia Commons
3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2008 7:05 pm

    Thank you for the link, I went and “reminded” him. As an American, I am thrilled that Obama was elected last night as he embodies at least the possibility for change. I cannot help but be skeptical of politicians in general and the things they will all say to become elected–but for now I hold on to the hope and the possibility and the understanding that at the very least it HAS to be better than the last eight years!


  2. November 5, 2008 9:50 pm

    You are right to hold on to the hope, Kelly. I guess the best thing we can do right now is hoping, believing if we can, while keeping a watchful eye on the new administration.

    Luckily, there are many organizations, both in the US and worldwide, that will be watching Obama’s every move and keep on reminding him that the world expects him to turn the page on the policies of torture and the blatant disregard for both national and international law that have deprived the US of its ability to lead on human rights ever since the tragic events in 2001.

    Avaaz, which I linked to in the above post, is one of these organizations. While their campaign might seem a little naive, a little faith, hope and naivety might be exactly what is needed for a fresh start.

    Human Rights Watch has chosen a less naive approach. The human rights organization has issued two so-called blueprints for change, entitled How to Close Guantanamo and How to End Torture and Other Cruelty, the first in a planned series, which will also take on issues such as private security contractors and Iraqi refugees.

    – Vice President Cheney once attempted to justify the Bush administration’s blatant disregard for the rule of law as ‘the new normal.’ The Obama administration must act decisively to prove that prognosis wrong, Elisa Massimino, Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First wrote in a newsletter.

    – The world will be watching what we do, she concluded.

    I sure will.



  1. 100 days « Sungame

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