Hope, Change, Progress? Not Yet


Author: Nick Nam

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009 was a monumental day for Obamaites. Despite the celebratory atmosphere, in the back of the minds of many Obama supporters there were questions as to whether President Barack Obama would finally end the nightmare of constant human rights violations perpetrated under the Bush administration.

In a nutshell, the answer is no. The current administration must take an aggressive stance to end human rights violations and prosecute those who have partaken in employing torture tactics.

US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has stated that most methods employed by the government to extract information from prisoners of war is illegal. So far, the Obama administration has taken a passive stance on the issue. Many voted for Barack Obama hoping for change. So far, there has only been a meaningless transition from one administration to another. Obama stated specifically in his speech on Jan. 22 that “the United States will not torture.” In reality, this statement isn’t entirely true. Though the United States won’t directly torture, they still have other ally nations to do the dirty work.

The Department of Justice released Obama’s Interrogation and Transfer Policy Task Force on Aug. 24, which gives the U.S. the right to send terrorists suspects to foreign countries for detention and interrogation. According to a file presented on the American Civil Liberties Union Web site about the Inspector General’s review of current interrogation techniques, threats, smoke, pressure points, stress positions, mock executions, shackles and water boarding techniques continue to be used in foreign detention centers.

Obama’s Task Force merely touches the surface of a deep wound left by the Bush administration. The document bans only a small percentage of U.S. officials from implementing torture tactics under direct American control and says nothing about banning the numerous U.S. sponsored torture sites overseas in Thailand, Jordan, Indonesia, Colombia and Ethiopia – to name just a few.

Amrit Singh, a civil rights lawyer who followed rendition cases during the Bush administration, stated, “It is extremely disappointing that the Obama administration is continuing the Bush administration practice of relying on diplomatic assurances, which have been proven completely ineffective in preventing torture.”

So how does one go about cleaning the preceding administration’s mess? First, the Obama administration must retrieve the detainees who have been shipped off to foreign torture sites. That is the least the government can do for those detained.

Also, legal actions must be made to prosecute those who have helped carry out the torture of detained individuals. Towards the end of the second world war, the U.S. had no problem prosecuting Nazi officials by using legal policy to prosecute war criminals. The same action needs to take place to clean up the bad blood left by the Bush administration. For war crimes, there are no pardons in international law.

After prosecuting the war crimes, there is one more thing for the administration to do: officially shut down every detention center. President Barack Obama must throw away his passive stance on these issues and address them head on.

Obama had promised change. But for the time being, we can only hope that this promise will turn into a reality.

Nick Nam is an Undeclared first-year. He can be reached at nam@oxy.edu.

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