Obama’s Looking Forward Not Backwards: A Torturous Nightmare of the Present

By Jill McLaughlin 
 
What do you suppose it means when Obama asks us to look forward, not backwards? I don’t know about you but looking long and hard at the present I see a notorious war criminal traveling the country and the globe promoting his new book, in which he claims that he authorized water boarding because his lawyers told him it was legal.
 
And in a recent interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer he proudly exclaims that he would do it again.
 
In actuality,anyone who has taken care to pay attention knows that Bush’s lawyers engaged in legal gymnastics to contort the law and came up with what are known as the “Torture Memos”. Looking at the present I see that, even after these admissions in a book and on T.V., the man and the lawyers responsible for the systematic torture of hundreds if not thousands remains free. If we look back we can in the present thank Obama for allowing this war criminal to distort the truth and evade justice. As Kevin Gosztola wrote in What is Water Boarding? It's A War Crime, Former President Bush
 
“The Obama Administration has effectively decriminalized water boarding, torture, or war crimes by refusing to have the Department of Justice investigate or prosecute former Bush Administration officials who now boast openly about their involvement in committing war crimes. Advocacy groups have tried to have the lawyers involved in creating legal justification for torture disbarred but, given the lack of interest in following the country’s obligation to investigate and prosecute war crimes, the groups have been unsuccessful (perhaps, having their attempt to defend the rule of law labeled "left wing" by publications like the New York Times has something to do with their lack of success).”
 
Perhaps you think I’m being too hard on Obama. Maybe you think that looking forward and not backward is a noble or honorable thing or gives the air of someone who is focused, with sleeves rolled up, ready to make the changes needed to make sure these crimes are never repeated. You’ll ask me that if this change is to happen we can’t spend time investigating or prosecuting those responsible for the crimes right? It’s all about the hope can change, Jill, you’ll tell me.
 
But foolish me I can’t let it go.
 
I can’t stop asking what does it really mean when Obama says look forward not backward. Perhaps I repeat the question because of what I am actually looking at in the present. Guantanamo remains open. And, as Andy Worthington, author of the Guantanamo Files, points out in a recent article, Obama has abandoned his campaign promise to close it, much less hold anyone accountable.
 
Maybe I keep coming back to this question because what I see in the present is that under Obama, Bagram detention center in Afghanistan has been expanded, with reports of a secret prison with in it. This year the BBC reported detainees being tortured there.
Perhaps when we get right down to it there is one point that can be avoided. Every thinking adult knows that to even begin contemplating change one needs to look at the past, no matter how ugly that past, in order to see clearly the things that need to be amended. Here is the hard truth e and that is that Obama and those in the ruling class have no interest in amending anything. This is brought into sharp focus in the article, U.S. Torture-Depraved and Systemic that appeared in the September 6th issue of Revolution newspaper. In it Alan Goodman writes of the 2004 report from the CIA’s Office of Inspector General (IG)
 
One thing that emerges from this report is a more clearly defined picture of how the definition of legal torture has been continuously extended through the “war on terror”—now being rebranded (and extended) by the Obama administration. Historically, torture has been deeply embedded in U.S. war fighting and repression (for a history of the use of torture by the U.S., see “Torture Techniques at Guantánamo: ‘Communist Inspired’ ...or Developed, Refined, and Exported by the USA?,” Part 2. by Li Onesto, Revolution #138, August 3, 2009). But it has been carried out under wraps, in the form of secret “refuse to confirm or deny” actions of the CIA. Or by proxy, through puppet foreign dictators serving U.S. interests. The CIA report explicitly notes the change from public denunciations of opposition to torture, to overt legalization of torture.
 
Goodman goes on to write,
 
In short, what emerges is that those at the head of the CIA were identifying explicitly, for the White House, for Congress, and for the ruling class as a whole, that major doctrinal changes were taking place through institutionalizing legalized torture. And documenting that the White House Office of Legal Counsel, and the Justice Department were approving these changes.
While an exploration of the strategic role of torture in U.S. military doctrine, in particular vis-à-vis the “war on terror” is beyond the scope of this article, it can be noted that torture and terror—massacres of innocent civilians as a conscious military tactic—are integral to the U.S. war fighting doctrine, and this is true in very extreme ways in the “war on terror.” And within the ruling class, there is a view—widespread at least—that old legal norms that have been considered foundational to the United States, like taking “public” positions in opposition to torture, have to be torn up and rewritten.
 
So this what it really means when Obama says look forward not backwards. It is not some lofty ideal of looking forward and not backwards in order to bring an end to these crimes against humanity that Obama refuses to prosecute those responsible for torture under the Bush Regime. It is because he has embraced and legitimized what Bush put into place for the sake of expanding the U.S. Empire through the “war on terror”

The majority of humanity is living in a torturous present because of U.S. Empire with even a worse nightmare of a future ahead. If people of conscience who really grasp this reality and understand fully the horrendous immorality of U.S. torture they must come to grips with the fact that any true change will need to be initiated by the people of this country. This will not happen through relying on the politics of the possible, but through mass visible opposition and resistance to the U.S. torture and wars/occupations. World Can't Wait has been out front boldly resisting and opposing U.S. torture in these wars/occupations, but millions are needed to actually end torture. Support, Donate, Join...the world can't wait. 

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.