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Crushing hopes

December 16, 2011

Photo: Bruce Berrien (CC-BY-2.0)

Under president Barack Obama, some of the ugliest practices of his predecessor, George W. Bush are about to be signed into law. The National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) allows for indefinite military detention of terrorism suspects without trial, and will make it all but impossible to close Guantanamo. How’s that for hope and change?

On the evening of 15. December the paper shredders at the US Congress must have been absolutely overworked. This Bill of Rights Day, the American Senate had done their very best – or worst, that is – to tear said bill to pieces by passing the NDAA.

According to the Washington Post, House and Senate negotiators have watered down some of the most extreme measures in earlier drafts of the NDAA. The bill now no longer makes military detention mandatory for U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism activities. However, the bill still authorizes the U.S. authorities to indefinitely detain pretty much anyone without charge or trial, and requires foreign terrorism suspects to be held in military custody.

In the words of Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at ACLU:

“It was an awful bill before and it is an awful bill now”

On the wrong side of history

The NDAA also forbids the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to US soil and restricts moving such prisoners to third countries. This will make it all but impossible for president Obama to keep his promise of closing down this hell hole.

Obama’s supporters in America and abroad have been hoping – possibly even believing that the president would veto a bill that effectively cancels his own promises of a better, fairer, freer America and hollows out the constitutional rights to due process and civil trial by jury. No such luck. President Barack Obama has abandoned his commitment to vetoing the bill, thereby crushing the hopes of change.

“It is a sad moment when a president who has prided himself on his knowledge of and belief in constitutional principles succumbs to the politics of the moment to sign a bill that poses so great a threat to basic constitutional rights. In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch is quoted by Raw Story.

He is right, of course. This is history in the making, and Obama and the US Congress just joined the dark side.

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