If nothing else this article should shock Obama groupies because it shows how much of the Obama policy, especially with respect to foreign policy, is simply carrying on that of Bush. However this should not come as too much of a surprise since on issues such as Afghanistan Obam made it clear that he would actually accelerate the war there as compared to Bush. Bush was actually more cautious when it came to the Af-Pak conflict. Obama is going to face real problems with his imperialist adventures in Af-Pak at a time when his reform plans for health care and other domestic policies are being attacked with the opposition seeming to have the momentum going forward. Even a portion of the right which up to now has been mostly on his side in Af-Pak is turning sour towards the mission as a recent article by George Will advocating withdrawal illustrates.
Bush's Third Term?You're Living It
by David Swanson
Originally published September 1, 2009
In following Bush, Obama was given the opportunity either to restorethe rule of law and the balance of powers or to firmly establish inplace what were otherwise aberrant abuses of power. Thus far,President Obama has, in all the areas mentioned above, chosen thelatter course.It sounds like the plot for the latest summer horror movie. Imagine,for a moment, that George W. Bush had been allowed a third term as president, had run and had won or stolen it, and that we were all nowliving (and dying) through it. With the Democrats in control ofCongress but Bush still in the Oval Office, the media would certainlybe talking endlessly about a mandate for bipartisanship and theimportance of taking into account the concerns of Republicans. Can'tyou just picture it?There's Dubya now, still rewriting laws via signing statements. Stillcreating and destroying laws with executive orders. And stillviolating laws at his whim. Imagine Bush continuing his policy ofextraordinary rendition, sending prisoners off to other countries withgrim interrogation reputations to be held and tortured. I can evenpicture him formalizing his policy of preventive detention, sprucingit up with some "due process" even as he permanently removes habeascorpus from our culture.I picture this demonic president still swearing he doesn't torture,still insisting that he wants to close Guantanamo, but assuring hissubordinates that the commander-in-chief has the power to torture "ifneeded," and maintaining a prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistanthat makes Guantanamo look like summer camp. I can imagine himcontinuing to keep secret his warrantless spying programs whileprotecting the corporations and government officials involved.If Bush were in his third term, we would already have seen himpropose, yet again, the largest military budget in the history of theworld. We might well have seen him pretend he was including warfunding in the standard budget, and then claim that one finalsupplemental war budget was still needed, immediately after which hewould surely announce that yet another war supplemental bill would beneeded down the road. And of course, he would have held onto hisSecretary of Defense from his second term, Robert Gates, to run thePentagon, keep our ongoing wars rolling along, and oversee the betterpart of our public budget.Bush would undoubtedly be following through on the agreement he signedwith Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for all U.S. troops to leaveIraq by the end of 2011 (except where he chose not to follow through).His generals would, in the meantime, be leaking word that the UnitedStates never intended to actually leave. He'd surely be maintainingcurrent levels of troops in Iraq, while sending thousands more troopsto Afghanistan and talking about a new "surge" there. He'd probablyalso be escalating the campaign he launched late in his second term touse drone aircraft to illegally and repeatedly strike into Pakistan'stribal borderlands with Afghanistan.If Bush were still "the decider" he'd be employing mercenaries likeBlackwater and propagandists like the Rendon Group and he might evenbe expanding the number of private security contractors inAfghanistan. In fact, the whole executive branch would be packed withdisreputable corporate executive types. You'd have somebody like John("May I torture this one some more, please?") Rizzo still serving, atleast for a while, as general counsel at the CIA. The White House andJustice Department would be crawling with corporate cronies, peoplelike John Brennan, Greg Craig, James Jones, and Eric Holder. Most ofthe top prosecutors hired at the Department of Justice for politicalpurposes would still be on the job. And political prisoners, likeformer Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former top Democratic donorPaul Minor would still be abandoned to their fate.In addition, the bank bailouts Bush and his economic team initiated inhis second term would still be rolling along -- with a similar crowdof people running the show. Ben Bernanke, for instance, wouldcertainly have been reappointed to run the Fed. And Bush's third termwould have guaranteed that there would be none of the monkeying aroundwith the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that theDemocrats proposed or promised in their losing presidential campaign.At this point in Bush's third term, no significant new effort wouldhave begun to restore Katrina-decimated New Orleans either.If the Democrats in Congress attempted to pass any set of neededreforms like, to take an example, new healthcare legislation, Bush,the third termer, would have held secret meetings in the White Housewith insurance and drug company executives to devise a means to turnsuch proposals to their advantage. And he would have refused torelease the visitor logs so that the American public would have no wayof knowing just whom he'd been talking to.During Bush's second term, some of the lowest ranking torturers fromAbu Ghraib were prosecuted as bad apples, while those officialsresponsible for the policies that led to Abu Ghraib remaineduntouched. If the public continued to push for justice for torturersduring the early months of Bush's third term, he would certainly havegone with another bad apple approach, perhaps targeting only low-ranking CIA interrogators and CIA contractors for prosecution. Bushwould undoubtedly have decreed that any higher-ups would not betouched, that we should now be looking forward, not backward. And hewould thereby have cemented in place the power of presidents to grantimmunity for crimes they themselves authorized.If Bush were in his third term, some of his first and second termsecrets might, by now, have been forced out into the open by lawsuits,but what Americans actually read wouldn't be significantly worse thanwhat we'd already known. What documents saw the light of day wouldsurely have had large portions of their pages redacted, and the vastbulk of documentation that might prove threatening would remain hiddenfrom the public eye. Bush's lawyers would be fighting in court, withever grander claims of executive power, to keep his wrongdoing out ofsight.Now, here's the funny part. This dark fantasy of a third Bush term isalso an accurate portrait of Obama's first term to date. In followingBush, Obama was given the opportunity either to restore the rule oflaw and the balance of powers or to firmly establish in place whatwere otherwise aberrant abuses of power. Thus far, President Obamahas, in all the areas mentioned above, chosen the latter course.Everything described, from the continuation of crimes to the effortsto hide them away, from the corruption of corporate power to theassertion of the executive power to legislate, is Obama's presidencyin its first seven months.Which doesn't mean there aren't differences in the two moments. Forone thing, Democrats have now joined Republicans in approving expandedpresidential powers and even -- in the case of wars, military strikes,lawless detention and rendition, warrantless spying, and theobstruction of justice -- presidential crimes. In addition, in the newDemocratic era of goodwill, peace and justice movements have beenstrikingly defunded and, in some cases, even shut down. Manyprogressive groups now, in fact, take their signals from the presidentand his team, rather than bringing the public's demands to hisdoorstep.If we really were in Bush's third term, people would be far moreactive and outraged. There would already be a major push to really endthe wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan. Undoubtedly, the Democratsstill wouldn't impeach Bush, especially since they'd be able to votehim out before his fourth term, and surely four more years of himwouldn't make all that much difference.David Swanson is the author of the new book Daybreak: Undoing theImperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union (Seven StoriesPress, 2009). He holds a master's degree in philosophy from theUniversity of Virginia and served as press secretary for Kucinich forPresident in 2004. Swanson is just beginning a book tour of 48 citiesand hopes to see you on the road. Check out his tour schedule byclicking here.Copyright 2009 David Swanso