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No I Can't: A Dissident to U.S. Empire But A Fighter For Humanity

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Author’s note: This essay was written to give those who truly care about humanity an understanding of why we cannot, even under this new President, accept the crimes of our government. While President Obama is changing the methods and means of which to conduct the “war on terror” these means and methods only serve the interest of the U.S. empire and its expansion and not the interests of humanity. Many of you hated everything the Bush regime did under the rubric of the “war on terror” I want to remind you there is no such thing as a good “war on terror”, especially under an empire. This is a “war of terror” no matter who the president is.

If you hated what was done in your name under Bush in this war for empire do not accept it under any terms now. My hope is that this essay will give people the basis, courage, and moral clarity upon which to continue the fight to stop the crimes of our government, to reject empire, and be fighters for humanity. Join World Can’t Wait in Washington D.C. on March 21st to protest the 6th anniversary of illegal war and occupation of Iraq, the escalation of the illegal war in Afghanistan, attacks on Pakistan, and demand the prosecution of Bush officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The World Still Can Not Wait. 

Just because Barack Hussein Obama is the 44th President of the United States doesn’t make the U.S. any less of an empire. And it doesn’t mean that this empire has any intentions of ending its control and expansion. Under the Bush Regime many people began to see the methods and means in which the U.S. maintains its super power status, while for years before it was easy to ignore.  The methods and means under the Bush Regime were so escalated that people in the U.S. took notice and were horrified. People wanted it to end. And it seemed the only way to end it was to vote in someone who was nothing like Bush.

Bush was a public relations nightmare for the empire, so the ruling class of the empire put Barack Obama in front of the people. He promised hope and change, and while many good people who care about humanity thought this meant an end to the wars for empire and torture what he really promised was a change in methods and means in maintaining an empire. So even while he promised an escalation in Afghanistan, people accepted this because after all that was appropriate since "they" are responsible for 9/11. Afghanistan is the good war. Right? We need to go after the terrorists. And now that he has signed executive orders ending torture and closing Guantanamo the people want to celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief. We can all dance around and chant “Yes We Can”. 

No I can’t. I realize that this may be a bit jarring to those of you who so hated the Bush regime and are celebrating and “waiting and seeing” what hope and change Obama is going to bring. I want to talk about what the Afghanistan war is really about. I want to tell you that even with the executive orders signed by Obama to end torture and shut down Guantanamo that torture and indefinite detention will continue as long as the empire continues the so called “war on terror”. And if you care anything about humanity like you said you did during the Bush regime and during the longest presidential race campaign you’ll listen.

The Afghanistan war is just as illegitimate and unjust as the one waged in Iraq. It is not, as people believe, an appropriate response to the attacks of 9/11. Long before 9/11 the neocons and the Bush regime were drafting designs and plans to expand U.S. domination in the Middle-East. Afghanistan was and still is -- even under Obama -- a part of this plan. Anyone who believes that the Afghanistan war and occupation is legal needs to refer to Francis Boyle’s September 17, 2002 article in Counterpunch on the illegality of the Afghanistan war. Boyle points out that Bush failed twice to get the U.N. Council to give him a resolution to authorize military force in Afghanistan. Bush insisted that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were an act of war. But for there to be an act of war there needs to be an attack of one state against another.  There was not, which is why the U.N. Council would not give Bush what he wanted. The U.S. attacked anyway.  Read More Here. Marjorie Cohn also reminds us of the illegality of the Afghanistan war even as most of the Americans are lining up behind it. Read Here. 

This war on terror is not about protecting America or even the rest of the world from terrorism. And it is not about removing theocratic rulers and bringing democracy to the Middle East. It is about removing key obstacles to the expansion of U.S. global dominance in other words U.S. empire. In fact the “war on terror” has done more to push people in the Middle East regions toward theocratic rulers and created new generations to carry out terrorist attacks. It has done more to worsen the treatment of women in those regions, especially in Afghanistan. For in-depth analysis on the real history of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and what the “war on terror” has brought to the people of Afghanistan I encourage you to read Larry Everest’s three part series called The U.S. In Afghanistan: A War for Empire, Not A Good War Gone Bad. Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

Let's talk about what Obama’s executive orders of closing Guantanamo and banning torture really mean in terms of the kind of hope and change you were wanting to see. First off, no one who cares about humanity would say that closing Guantanamo is a bad thing. But we have to look at the true motivations behind it. Guantanamo and stories about the abusive treatment of the detainees there was a public relations nightmare for the empire. It is, in this country and around the globe, a symbol of U.S. torture and indefinite detention. And those of us who truly care about humanity need to treat Guantanamo’s closing in much the same way- a symbol and nothing more. The executive orders signed by Obama leave much room for torture and indefinite detention to continue.

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The reason Obama is reluctant to pursue prosecutions of Bush officials for the war crime of torture has little to do with his comment that we should only be “looking forward”. This reluctance has more to do with being able to give the empire in the future flexibility in the way it handles those captured in the “war on terror.” Take, for example, this quote from an interview Obama had with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week when asked if he would pursue prosecutions of Bush officials, “And part of my job is to make sure that, for example, at the C.I.A., you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got spend their all their time looking over their shoulders.” So my question is this: If the U.S. will not torture like Obama has said, why would he be worried about the C.I.A guy having to look over his shoulder if he decided to prosecute Bush officials for torture? This statement by Obama indicates that he is just fine with some of the “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

Now let’s look at why torture and indefinite detention are likely to continue. First of all according to Allan Nairn, the executive order that Obama signed only covers those detained by any officer, employee, and agent of the U.S. in facilities operated or owned by the U.S. in an armed conflict. This leaves room for the U.S. interrogator to do as he/she pleases in places not in armed conflict as Nairn points out. Nairn also points out the U.S. history of torture by proxy. When one thinks of Abu Ghraib now reopened and under control of the Iraqi security forces one can only think of all kinds of torture by proxy taking place there. Read More from Allan Nairn Then there is also the prison outside of Kabul, Afghanistan called Pul-i-charki which expanded in 2006 and is run by U.S. allies in Afghanistan. There is little known about this prison since the detainees there are denied legal counsel, and the International Red Cross has been denied access there.. There are also possible loopholes in this ban on torture. Obama may decide to employ some interrogation techniques not outlined in the Army Field Manual. More. 

Then there is the issue of continuing to detain those captured in this so called “war on terror”. The U.S. is in a quandary about just what to do with them. Charges and prosecutions of any of these detainees at Guantanamo have been largely unsuccessful, mostly because the evidence and confessions were tainted by torture. The Bush regime in large part stopped sending detainees to Guantanamo in September 2004. Many Americans do not know how these people were captured in the “war on terror."  Most were captured and detained under the most flimsy reports of terrorist involvement. Andy Worthington, author of Guantanamo Files, outlines six cases of detention that speak to this sham in a recent article. Andy Worthington. Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantanamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights, has concerns that a recent ruling holding that the evidence obtained from his client was obtained through the use of torture will serve as an excuse to detain people indefinitely. In other words, even if detainees were tortured into confessing, they’re still “just too dangerous to release”. More here. It’s easy for a ruler of an empire to say he’ll do away with CIA black sites when he knows he still has these prisons. 

Bagram Air Force detention center is still open and has 600 men detained there. The issue here, as with the closing of Guantanamo, is what to do with the detainees. This poses a problem for Obama as he tries to rehaul the detention policy, especially if he intends to escalate the war in Afghanistan. We will see spikes in the number of people detained in this “war on terror” Read Here. 

If you care about humanity and don’t want to see the continuation of crimes by your government in your name, then take heed as you celebrate the new Obama Presidency. Ask yourself what you are saying “Yes We Can” to? When Obama speaks of sacrifice and service ask yourself what is this sacrifice and service for. It is for this empire at the expense of the lives of millions around the globe. And if this touches you and you know it to be true than join with me to resist and protest the crimes of your government.

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Those of you who want to have it both ways and say that you are pro-peace and at the same time line up behind Obama as he takes over the execution of the “war on terror” (really a war of terror) will feel tempted to disparage or discount me. I say go ahead. This so called “war on terror” will bring neither peace nor justice. Some of you will call me unpatriotic. Go ahead. I do not support the U.S. being an empire, but I am A Fighter for Humanity. Humanity is the only thing that I want to sacrifice for or be in the service of. 


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Jill McLaughlin is an activist/organizer with the World Can't Wait. She currently sits on the national steering committee of World Can't Wait and has been an active activist/organizer with the Chicago Chapter of World Can't Wait. She has written (more...)

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