The issue of torture and Guantanamo Bay has simmered for weeks due to the failure of American leaders. From released memos to the denied release of photos neither was met with forthright conversation on the Bush years and torture and Guantanamo.
Now, with Obama’s speech---after funding for the closing of Guantanamo was stripped from a supplemental bill because the Obama Administration didn’t deliver a plan to Congress---did he provide the kind of speech that will transform the hearts and minds of Americans whose minds have been eroded by the overuse of terms like “terrorists” and “enemy” and “9/11” in the past ten years?
What about Dick Cheney’s speech? What does it mean for the framework with which we discuss this issue?
How we consider both speeches depends on the context with which we read them. The context which the media placed these speeches in would probably lead many to think one side of the debate was what Obama thinks and the other side of the debate was what Cheney thinks. But, is this simply a created dichotomy which served media objectivity more than the morals and values which we Americans seek to uphold and live our lives by?
Quite frankly, Obama’s and Cheney’s speeches were a media event---a showdown or proverbial boxing match (which The Daily Show picked up on last night).
When hosts end segments asking their guests who was the winner, nothing good can come out of the conversation; deep reflection and introspection among the American people falls by the wayside. A chance for America to fix its moral compass was squandered as pundits trivialized an issue that demands blunt, candid, and thorough conversation.
What our nation needs is education not fear when confronting the problem of Guantanamo Bay and the 250-plus detainees. We do not need media engineered duels between political leaders which will only lead Americans to continue to ignore the fact that too many of us have been silent for too long on the issue of torture and Guantanamo.
Obama recognizes this---that education and a need for us to end our silence is vital yet his speech was still predicated on the two things that Cheney predicated his speech on and that the previous administration predicated the scope of their policies on when they were in power.
Although it was a bit more subdued, both speeches were predicated on 9/11 and the perceived threat from al-Qaeda.
There is nothing wrong with considering the potential threat a group of Islamic extremists may pose to our nation, but it is terribly wrong to constantly cite a disastrous event as reason to continue a policy or plan. For the same reason that America does not still cite the Gulf of Tonkin or Pearl Harbor when developing strategies for foreign policy, America should not base all policies and actions on the attacks on 9/11.
We saw what happened under the Bush Administration when 9/11 was the excuse for everything. Civil liberties, freedoms, transparency, accountability, democracy, human rights, and more were all discarded and replaced with forms of repression, suppression, detention, violations of the rule of law, and tyranny.
Cheney made a good point in his speech yesterday when he said:
“You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy has worked, and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a one-off event – coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained war effort.”
When considering that our military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and other parts of the world are utterly destroying families and communities, costing American taxpayers trillions of dollars, and creating opposition to American empire, why not examine whether 9/11 was a “one-off event” (maybe something that happened because somebody ignored the memo titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”)?
Almost eight years after 9/11, is anything really getting past our nation’s security-industrial-complex? What exactly is the “al-Qaeda threat” and how substantial is it?
Unfortunately, Obama’s talk about “taking the fight to the extremists” was like a repackaging of the Bushism, “We’re fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here.”