There was a time when Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama was an outspoken critic of extraordinary rendition. In 2007, in an article he wrote for the magazine Foreign Affairs, he stated, “To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people…….This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.” Indeed, in January of 2009, as one of his first acts as president, he ordered the closing of the secret prison system that had been established by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA used these ‘secret’ prisons to imprison suspects (and others) in America's ‘Global War on Terror’. In 2007, Obama was a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, who spoke often of the need for America to “behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people.” As he prepares to enter his second term, President Obama has embraced the ideas of assassination, extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping.
In August of 2012, Ali Yasin Ahmed, 23, Mohamed Yusuf, 29 and Mahdi Hashi, 23 were arrested in Djibouti. Both Ahmed and Yusef are Swedish citizens; Mr. Hashi is a native of Somalia but a resident of Britian. The men were all imprisoned in Djibouti for months while they were interrogated by the FBI. Ultimately, they were charged with supporting al-Shabab, which is a Somalian Islamic militia group. In 2008, the U.S. Government designated al-Shabab a terrorist group. On October 18 all three men were indicted by a federal grand jury. On November 14 the FBI says it took custody of the men. The three men appeared in a Brooklyn, New York court on December 21, 2012, nearly 5 months after they were first apprehended in Djibouti.
A little history on the country of Djibouti will help shed some light on this story. Djibouti is a very small African nation located in what is known as the horn of Africa. It borders the nations of Eritrea (to the North), Ethiopia (to the West), and Somalia to the South. The country has approximately one million people. Most importantly and of great strategic value to the U.S., is the fact that the country borders the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Djibouti is home to the U.S. Naval Expeditionary Base, Camp Lemonnier. Camp Lemonnier is the headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. That makes Camp Lemonnier one of the most important locations in the American global empire. It is of great strategic importance for activities ranging from conducting drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries, to imprisoning foreign citizens for interrogation.
As with most events in America’s war on terror, the case of these three men is shrouded in secrecy. President Obama has not only endorsed the Bust tax cuts, he has also endorsed the Bush Administration’s use of drone strikes, extraordinary rendition and indefinite detention. In January, 2011, Obama signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill. Provisions within this bill restricted the transfer of prisoners from Guantanomo Bay to America for any purpose, and also makes it very difficult for the prisoners to be transferred to other countries. Currently, there are still 166 prisoners being held in Guantanomo.
When President Bush endorsed the use of torture (remember the debate regarding water boarding?) the American left was outraged. When President Bush began using drone strikes, the American left was outraged. When President Bush began to imprison suspected terrorists at Guantanomo Bay the American left was outraged. The left demanded to know how America could justify imprisoning people indefinitely without a trial. When news of the CIA’s extensive network of secret prisons first came to light, the American left was outraged. Indeed, lets revisit the words written by Obama in 2007 on the subject of secret prisons, indefinite detention and extraordinary rendition, “This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.” I would suggest that not only has America lost its way, but so has Obama.
America cannot allow the fear of terrorism to justify assassinations. We cannot allow our fear to indefinitely detain the innocent along with the guilty. We cannot allow our fear to excuse behavior that we previously condemned. Right now, the government’s behavior is excused because the suspects might be terrorists. If the government can state that terrorist suspects have no legal rights, what is to prevent the government from stating that any other group has no legal rights? The Bush Administration went to great lengths to defend their methods. The silence of those on the American Left who were critical of the exact same policies used by the Bush Administration, but who are silent regarding the Obama Administration using the same policies is tantamount to an endorsement of these policies. The Obama Administration does not discuss their methods nor even feel compelled to justify their actions. When man makes a beast of himself, he removes the pain of being a man. When we treat others as less than human, we ourselves become less than human.