After eight years as president, Barack Obama gave an emotional farewell address to the nation in Chicago this week.
“So just as we as citizens must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are,” he said.
“And that’s why for the past eight years I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firmer legal footing. That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties.”
Obama ended the speech with a reference to his famous 2008 campaign slogan as he told the crowd: “Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can.”
It was moving – but, obviously, like all victory and celebratory speeches, overlooked massive truths.
Obama worked to close Gitmo, but he wasn’t able to close it.
He ended torture, but failed to hold accountable those who initiated and carried out the torture program.
A lot of attention is being paid to President-elect Donald Trump’s diabolical immigration plans. However, little to no media coverage is being given to the fact that millions of immigrants were deported under Obama’s watch.
Let’s revisit the parts of Obama’s troubled legacy that he is leaving behind for his successor, a dangerous demagogue, who could make it even worse.
A lot of people are dreading the kind of immigration policies Donald Trump is planning to bring to the White House.
The president-elect has, on multiple occasions, called for more stringent plans for immigration contrary to Obama’s alleged soft policies.
But was the Obama administration really as lenient with immigrants as people believe?
Of the many programs Obama used to deport people, the Guardian notes, “Secure Communities (now known as the Priority Enforcement Program) made local arrests the key entry point to a deportation pipeline that removed 2.5 million from the country.”
Obama finally curbed the measures, but only after administering mass deportations.
Massive outrage sparked across the world in 2013 following the revelation of the “top secret” court orders by Verizon Wireless which confirmed all speculations regarding the Obama administration collecting phone records of U.S. citizens.
Later, after NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, released documents revealing more widespread spying programs,
The New York Times even published a scathing editorial following the scandal citing the Obama administration had lost all credibility.
Obama defended his government’s actions by saying the measures had long been a part of America’s counterterrorism efforts. However, the fact that Obama continued to use and expand those measures during his tenure raised questions on his credibility.
Also, these mass surveillance programs under a leader like Trump, who once invited foreign governments to hack a U.S. national, could spell (a national) disaster.
Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre:
Closing down the detention prison in Guantanamo Bay was one of Obama’s early campaign promises. It was a significant and much-needed break with the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney era.
But despite Obama’s promises to close down the facility, he failed to deliver.
Although hundreds of prisoners taken in the detention centre during the war on terror, many of them have been either been released or transferred to other countries. As of Jan. 5, 2017, only 55 prisoners remain with no signs of the centre being shut down.
And it’s scary because the incoming president is someone who told the media that he would be “fine” with U.S. citizens accused of terrorism to be tried in Gitmo. He is also looking forward to restocking it.
In October, HBO host John Oliver made a poignant statement about Gitmo. If Obama can’t close the prison, he should move it to the U.S. because, Oliver noted, “If we don’t shut it down, future President Trump will throw whoever he wants in Guantanamo.”
Sure, Obama had banned the CIA's controversial detention and torture techniques via executive order in 2009. However, a future president could easily overturn that, as California Democratic Dianne Feinstein noted in 2015.
(And here’s a reminder, Obama is about to be succeeded by someone who wants to bring waterboarding back.)
The American military police personnel committed mass human rights violations against the detainees that included physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape and even murder during the war on terror in the name of counterterrorism.
The disturbing details of the torture program were revealed in 500-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program.
Despite the report and tangible repercussions of the U.S. torture program (in the Middle East in the form of insurgency), Obama failed to hold accountable those who enforced it, including high-profile figures like former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Granted, it was difficult to prosecute some of these people, but Obama failed to even condemn them.
Obama may be a Nobel Peace Prize winner but his tenure is fraught with war with the highlight being his controversial drone program.
Human rights organizations have said that the United States carried out unlawful killings in countries like Pakistan and Yemen through drone attacks, some of which could even be equal to war crimes.
In July 2016, he claimed U.S. drones strikes killed up to 116 civilians between January 2009 and the end of 2015 in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya
But it was just “a fraction of the 380 to 801 civilian casualty range,” recorded by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Just in 2016, the U.S. dropped 26,171 bombs in seven majority-Muslim countries, namely Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, according to an analysis by the Council of Foreign Relations.
That’s equal to an average of 72 bombs every day or three an hour.
Imagine what Trump would do to this number.
Banner / Thumbnail Credit : Reuters