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Alan Hague



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NYT: Obama's War on Terror May Resemble Bush's in Some Areas  Reply with quote  

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/us/politics/18policy.html?th&emc=th

Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
Published: February 17, 2009

WASHINGTON — Even as it pulls back from harsh interrogations and other sharply debated aspects of George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.

Last month, protesters called for the closing of the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.

The administration has also embraced the Bush legal team’s arguments that a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down based on the “state secrets” doctrine. It has also left the door open to resuming military commission trials.

And earlier this month, after a British court cited pressure by the United States in declining to release information about the alleged torture of a detainee in American custody, the Obama administration issued a statement thanking the British government “for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information.”

These and other signs suggest that the administration’s changes may turn out to be less sweeping than many had hoped or feared — prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies.

In an interview, the White House counsel, Gregory B. Craig, asserted that the administration was not embracing Mr. Bush’s approach to the world. But Mr. Craig also said President Obama intended to avoid any “shoot from the hip” and “bumper sticker slogans” approaches to deciding what to do with the counterterrorism policies he inherited.

“We are charting a new way forward, taking into account both the security of the American people and the need to obey the rule of law,” Mr. Craig said. “That is a message we would give to the civil liberties people as well as to the Bush people.”

Within days of his inauguration, Mr. Obama thrilled civil liberties groups when he issued executive orders promising less secrecy, restricting C.I.A. interrogators to Army Field Manual techniques, shuttering the agency’s secret prisons, ordering the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year and halting military commission trials.

But in more recent weeks, things have become murkier.

During her confirmation hearing last week, Elena Kagan, the nominee for solicitor general, said that someone suspected of helping finance Al Qaeda should be subject to battlefield law — indefinite detention without a trial — even if he were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than in a physical battle zone.

Ms. Kagan’s support for an elastic interpretation of the “battlefield” amplified remarks that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made at his own confirmation hearing. And it dovetailed with a core Bush position. Civil liberties groups argue that people captured away from combat zones should go to prison only after trials.

Moreover, the nominee for C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, opened a loophole in Mr. Obama’s interrogation restrictions. At his hearing, Mr. Panetta said that if the approved techniques were “not sufficient” to get a detainee to divulge details he was suspected of knowing about an imminent attack, he would ask for “additional authority.”

To be sure, Mr. Panetta emphasized that the president could not bypass antitorture statutes, as Bush lawyers claimed. And he said that waterboarding — a technique that induces the sensation of drowning, and that the Bush administration said was lawful — is torture.

But Mr. Panetta also said the C.I.A. might continue its “extraordinary rendition” program, under which agents seize terrorism suspects and take them to other countries without extradition proceedings, in a more sweeping form than anticipated.

Before the Bush administration, the program primarily involved taking indicted suspects to their native countries for legal proceedings. While some detainees in the 1990s were allegedly abused after transfer, under Mr. Bush the program expanded and included transfers to third countries — some of which allegedly used torture — for interrogation, not trials.

Mr. Panetta said the agency is likely to continue to transfer detainees to third countries and would rely on diplomatic assurances of good treatment — the same safeguard the Bush administration used, and that critics say is ineffective.

Mr. Craig noted that while Mr. Obama decided “not to change the status quo immediately,” he created a task force to study “rendition policy and what makes sense consistent with our obligation to protect the country.”

He urged patience as the administration reviewed the programs it inherited from Mr. Bush. That process began after the election, Mr. Craig said, when military and C.I.A. leaders flew to Chicago for a lengthy briefing of Mr. Obama and his national security advisers. Mr. Obama then sent his advisers to C.I.A. headquarters to “find out the best case for continuing the practices that had been employed during the Bush administration.”

Civil liberties groups praise Mr. Obama’s early executive orders on national security, but say other signs are discouraging. [url][/url]
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:57 pm
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shambhala



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the whole question at hand here is whether we're fighting a "war," and whether that's the appropriate state of mind with which to approach people suspected of planning attacks. the answer to that question is, no.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:05 pm
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futuristxen



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At least they've stopped saying War on Terrorism.

I don't really agree with us being in any of the two wars we are in. But the Afghanistan one seems more justifiable. But about a hundred times more intractable. He's going to have to come out with what the goals are there, or we're going to be over there for 50 years.

I do know that the notion of just ceding that region to the taliban makes me kind of sick. They are pretty shit with women's rights. And on the whole seem to be a regressive bunch, as most religious led government groups tend to be.

But what can you do? The people there want that. You can't force civil liberties down the throats of another populace. They have to want them, fight for them, die for them.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:50 pm
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crash



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a majority of people in afghanistan might want religious government, they might hate the US, they for sure don't want our version of civil liberties, but they do not want the taliban.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:01 pm
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futuristxen



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crash wrote:
a majority of people in afghanistan might want religious government, they might hate the US, they for sure don't want our version of civil liberties, but they do not want the taliban.


That's what I'm saying. I don't agree with what they want, but I don't think you can just impose that on another country and expect it to work. You can't force your values on someone else. They have to arrive at that place on their own. We've got plenty of failed nation building attempts to back this up all over the world.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:04 pm
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shambhala



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the majority of people in afghanistan want dinner.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:07 pm
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crash



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futuristxen wrote:
crash wrote:
a majority of people in afghanistan might want religious government, they might hate the US, they for sure don't want our version of civil liberties, but they do not want the taliban.


That's what I'm saying. I don't agree with what they want, but I don't think you can just impose that on another country and expect it to work. You can't force your values on someone else. They have to arrive at that place on their own. We've got plenty of failed nation building attempts to back this up all over the world.

apologies for the misread... but isn't the current afghani government pretty islamic? they have a law on the books where the punishment for converting from islam is death. like sham said, i think most afghans are more concerned with getting food, but also shelter, protection from bandits, and not having their wedding parties bombed. they're probably also not so happy about having fields of poppies destroyed.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:16 pm
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futuristxen



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crash wrote:
futuristxen wrote:
crash wrote:
a majority of people in afghanistan might want religious government, they might hate the US, they for sure don't want our version of civil liberties, but they do not want the taliban.


That's what I'm saying. I don't agree with what they want, but I don't think you can just impose that on another country and expect it to work. You can't force your values on someone else. They have to arrive at that place on their own. We've got plenty of failed nation building attempts to back this up all over the world.

apologies for the misread... but isn't the current afghani government pretty islamic? they have a law on the books where the punishment for converting from islam is death. like sham said, i think most afghans are more concerned with getting food, but also shelter, protection from bandits, and not having their wedding parties bombed. they're probably also not so happy about having fields of poppies destroyed.


Yeah but are those things that we as an invading power can give to them? I think it's a bit much to ask. But by the same token, if we want to accomplish our security goals in the region, those are the things that have to be done. We either have to be there 50 years as an occupying force. Or we have to leave now, and just intermittently bomb al-queda camps there and in pakistan when we see them. Which is a whole other mess.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:34 pm
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shambhala



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we basically are the UN though. that's sort of the subtext. it is stretched so thin though.... jesus. our concept of "the UN" versus what it actually is, is crazy.

ah fast edit there...
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:35 pm
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futuristxen



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Yeah. I edited it out, to avoid the exact response you gave. ha.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 7:01 pm
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Jascha



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futuristxen wrote:
Or we have to leave now, and just intermittently bomb al-queda camps there and in pakistan when we see them. Which is a whole other mess.


That's what the brits did in Iraq after ww1. Distanced air war.

It taught them that while those nifty newfashioned 'aeroplanes' were all fine and dandy, they couldn't regulate a country without some forces on the ground.

Then the US / NATO did the same thing all over again in both pakistafghanistan and to a lesser extant iraq...

I agree that it's not really right to stay in afghanistan, unless we make a commitment for the long haul and adjust the goal of the operation, but by retreating, you might as well just write of afghanistani democracy, or even a semi-stable afghanistani nation state.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 8:51 pm
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futuristxen



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Jascha wrote:
futuristxen wrote:
Or we have to leave now, and just intermittently bomb al-queda camps there and in pakistan when we see them. Which is a whole other mess.


That's what the brits did in Iraq after ww1. Distanced air war.

It taught them that while those nifty newfashioned 'aeroplanes' were all fine and dandy, they couldn't regulate a country without some forces on the ground.

Then the US / NATO did the same thing all over again in both pakistafghanistan and to a lesser extant iraq...

I agree that it's not really right to stay in afghanistan, unless we make a commitment for the long haul and adjust the goal of the operation, but by retreating, you might as well just write of afghanistani democracy, or even a semi-stable afghanistani nation state.


But can we even afford to make that commitment the way our economy is going? We probably could have, if we hadn't gotten into Iraq so deep.
Post Wed Feb 18, 2009 8:56 pm
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shambhala



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The problem with Afghanistan is they have nothing but poppys to sell that would lift their economy out of the dark ages. There is no way to fix that without redistribution of global wealth. Period. We either commit to massive financial support for 20 + years (without condition!), or we leave them to their own devices and keep a sattelite eye on training camps.
Post Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:37 pm
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zeem



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At the moment the war isn't concerning me as much as the number of monsanto cocksuckers in obama's administration. Including clinton and the secretary of agriculture.

why is this GMO shit being allowed to happen?
Post Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:35 pm
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firefly



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Democracy in Afghanistan? Do you two actually believe that's what this war is about? hahaha come on.
Post Thu Feb 19, 2009 6:28 pm
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