Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gulet Mohamed

[Before I even get into the main part of this post, I want to point anyone reading it to this post of mine from back in April, 2010.  In particular, these passages:
I ... made the truly startling discovery that  [...] you [...] are not a captive audience.[...] If anything I write here offends you, you are, obviously, free to opt not to come here and read my posts anymore. That may come out sounding as though I am deliberately trying to drive people away, but I'm not [....] My hope is that if you disagree with something I say, you'll stay around long enough to post a comment saying why; or, if you find something I write offensive, you'll say why. I'm pretty sure the only comments I've ever deleted from my posts have been ones that were, essentially, spam, so my view is [that] your take on things in the comments can be as different from mine as you would care to make it; and you can be just about as vehement in your expression of your view as you'd like [....]

The one thing you can't really say with any credibility is that something I write here is somehow off-topic or inappropriate for a running blog. Because I guess what I'm saying — what should already be obvious — is This Is Not A Running Blog. Or not just. I say that not to drive readers away, but merely as a pro forma Full Disclosure: If you want posts that have consistently to do with running, this is probably not the blog for you.
This is going to be one of those posts — the kind many of you really won't want to read. And I am letting you know that up front.]

As any of you with more than two brain cells to rub together have doubtless sussed out on your own by now, I was and am no fan of the Bush/Cheney regime. That should go without saying because I think I have made it more than clear on numerous occasions. To be blunt, I consider the Bush regime to be the absolute worst in the history of this country, which is saying a lot.

I think it pretty much almost necessarily follows from that that it really wouldn't have taken much for whoever became president after Bush to be, in my view, a better president than Bush. To accomplish that, the next president wouldn't have to be great, or good, or even so much as mediocre — hell, he could even be awful and still be better than Bush, just so long as he wasn't so awful that he qualified as the worst president in the history of this country.

As we all know, Obama became president after Bush. He ran explicitly, overtly on the platform of reversing the lawless Bush regime: no more sanctioning of torture; no more throwing people in jail and refusing them their right to their day in court (i.e., no more arbitrary suspension of habeas corpus); no more rendition of innocent people — or any people — to third countries where it is known they would be tortured; no more warrantless spying on the American public; etc.

But Obama has not, and has made it quite clear that he will not, reverse any of these Bush-era policies1. They are now also his policies, and he has had his justice department aggressively defend them whenever they are challenged in court, the default argument being the same as the Bush administration's: These are issues of "National Security" and nobody has a right to question them and no court has the right to declare them illegal.

Being a better president than Bush should have been, to use a now-suspect cliché, a slam-dunk. But Obama seemingly hasn't even tried to be, at least insofar as these human and civil rights issues go.

I am not ready to say that Obama is worse than Bush, but I am very close to saying he is just as bad, that he is one of the worst presidents we've ever had. Again, as with Bush, that is saying a lot. But how could I not say this and still consider myself honest? Obama has not only continued all of the Bush/Cheney policies, he's expanded them

I read Glenzilla's (Glenn Greenwald) blog all of the time. I like the fact that he stands for principles, not parties. He has given Obama no quarter on these issues, and he is right to do that because none should be given. Torture is torture; illegal detention is illegal detention. Many times, after reading a Greenwald post describing a particularly egregious injustice, I have been tempted to write a post about it myself because of the sense of unbridled outrage I felt. I have, until now, been able to ride that feeling out. But last week, when I read Glenzilla's post on Gulet Mohamed, I found myself virtually sputtering with outrage at what our government has done to this boy and has allowed another government to do to an American citizen:
Gulet Mohamed is an 18-year-old American citizen whose family is Somalian. His parents moved with him to the U.S. when he was 2 or 3 years old, and he has lived in the U.S. ever since. In March, 2009, he went to study Arabic and Islam in Yemen (in Sana'a, the nation's capital), and, after several weeks, left (at his mother's urging) and went to visit his mother's family in Somalia, staying with his uncle there for several months. Roughly one year ago, he left Somalia and traveled to Kuwait to stay with other family members who live there. [...]

At all times, Mohamed traveled on an American passport and had valid visas for all the countries he visited. He has never been arrested nor -- until two weeks ago -- was he ever involved with law enforcement in any way, including the entire time he lived in the U.S.

Approximately two weeks ago (on December 20), Mohamed went to the airport in Kuwait to have his visa renewed, as he had done every three months without incident for the last year. This time, however, he was told by the visa officer that his name had been marked in the computer, and after waiting five hours, he was taken into a room and interrogated by officials who refused to identify themselves. They then handcuffed and blindfolded him and drove him to some other locale. That was the start of a two-week-long, still ongoing nightmare during which he was imprisoned for a week in an unknown location by unknown captors, relentlessly interrogated, and severely beaten and threatened with even worse forms of torture.

Mohamed's story was first reported [...] by Mark Mazzetti in The New York Times [...]. He writes that during his 90-minute conversation, "Mr. Mohamed was agitated as he recounted his captivity, tripping over his words and breaking into tears."

[...] Mohamed says he was repeatedly beaten with a stick on the bottom of his feet and his palms, hit in the face, and hung from the ceiling. He also says his captors threatened him with both the arrest of his mother and electric shock, and told him that he should forget his family.

He still does not know why he was detained and beaten, nor does he know what is happening to him now. [...] He has been told that he will be deported back to the U.S., but is now on a no-fly list and has no idea when he will be released. American officials told Mazzetti that "Mr. Mohamed is on a no-fly list and, for now at least, cannot return to the United States." He's been charged with no crime and presented with no evidence of any wrongdoing.

[...] The questions Mohamed was repeatedly asked -- including two days ago by American embassy officials and FBI agents who visited him in the detention facility -- focused on whether he knew Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric in Yemen who has become an obsession of the Obama administration, as well as why he went to Yemen and Somalia. Kuwait is little more than a subservient American protectorate, and the idea that they would do this to an American citizen without the American government's knowledge, if not its assent and participation, is implausible in the extreme. That much of the information they sought from Mohamed is of particular interest to the U.S. Government only bolsters that likelihood.

Independent of all that, the U.S. Government has an obligation to protect its own citizens. Mohamed described to me how both embassy officials and the FBI expressed zero interest in the torture to which he had been subjected during his detention. The U.S. Government has said nothing about this matter, and refused to comment about Mohamed's treatment to The New York Times.
Think about that: The Obama administration's only interest, when they learn that an American citizen has been detained and severely tortured by a foreign government, is in finding out whether that citizen knows a man the Obama administration has declared to be a terrorist and on whom the Obama administration has essentially put out a hit. Anwar al-Awlaki is also an American citizen and even the lawless Bush administration never claimed the right to extra-judicially assassinate American citizens without offering even the semblance of due process.

And so instead of trying to help an American citizen who is being detained and tortured, Obama has essentially ordered his people to allow him to continue to be tortured to see if he has information that will aid the Obama administration in its quest to assassinate yet another American citizen whose views the Obama administration doesn't care for.

The al-Awlaki family has asked, in court, for the Obama administration to offer proof that Anwar al-Awlaki is an "enemy combatant" who has done anything to harm anyone; but the Obama administration's response has been, essentially, we say he's bad, trust us, and, yes, we will kill him if the opportunity presents itself.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden is sent out to call any "liberals" who don't fully support the president a bunch of whiners.

Because putting extra-judicial hits out on your own citizens and allowing your own citizens to be illegally detained and tortured are good liberal values and we should support our "liberal" president whose policies these atrocities are. These policies that Obama himself called "lawless" when he ran for president; these policies that he promised he would reverse.

Is Obama as bad as Bush? It is extremely difficult to make the case that he is not if you judge him based on principles instead of party affiliation.

1 A big part of the reason that people like the teabaggers and Faux News and Rush Limbaugh and the Republican party in general have zero credibility, as far as I'm concerned, is they "discovered" the issue of the illegality of the Unitary Executive only after their guy, Bush, was out of office. They were all fine with the idea of a president who proclaims the right to enact, on his own, what are essentially oppressive, illegal and unConstitutional policies ... when Bush was president.

Many of us who opposed these Bush-era policies did so not because we didn't want Bush to have those powers — we didn't want any Executive to have them, be that Executive a Republican, a Democrat or anything else (not that there's much else out there with any chance of becoming president). When Bush instituted the policies, Faux News, Limbaugh, and those who would later become the teabaggers all cheered for him and they called anyone who opposed Bush or his illegal policies a traitor, unAmerican, terrorist-coddlers; as a result, those illegal and immoral policies became, in effect, informal precedents; and now they are even further entrenched because they are also Obama's policies.

The only people who elicit from me a feeling of revulsion and contempt that approaches what I feel for Bush/Cheney's enablers are those who protested against these policies when Bush was in power, but now — now that their guy Obama is in power — have turned around and demanded that "the left" support Obama unquestioningly; including these policies, which are now Obama's. And their name is legion. Even though illegal detention is still illegal, still immoral, still something that a true Beacon of Freedom to the World shouldn't be doing, even if it's your guy doing it, these hypocrites tell us it's okay now because it's Obama doing it.

They are as devoid of principles as Limbaugh, Hannity, Faux News and the teabaggers.


  1. Where to start? I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy. Still, the fatal flaw to most such theories is human nature and the rule that 3 people can keep a secret only if 2 of them are dead.

    That said, I am totally convinced that the elected officials are puppets. No matter which party, excepting some independent candidates, they are bought and paid for by corporate and special interest organizations, and do what they are told, or else.

    When Harper succeeded Martin as Prime Minister, he promptly carried on with many of the same policies as the Liberal party, even though he has a visceral hatred of the Liberals. Mainly because some of them at least were pragmatic things to do, or keep doing. Obama campaigned on change, as did Harper, and you rightly point out people are brutally disappointed.

    Part of the problem, to cut Obama some slack, is that he is a captive of federal organizations, such as the NSA, CIA, INS though it's called something else now tied into Homeland Security which has both Communist AND Fascist overtones which I'd have thought would be difficult to do. To say nothing of the entire Military Industrial complex. The whole thing is out of control. I say the USA is a pariah rogue nation. I for one, welcome our new Chinese overlords.

    So why, to get back to my point, would Obama reverse course on so many issues? To some extent there must be a tremendous amount of inertia that he has to over come, but that doesn't stop him from publicly at least trying to do so. As you rightly point out, he has taken almost exactly the same reprehensible positions as Bush. Why? What does he know that the rest of us, perhaps even the rest of his government, don't know? If you want to get a good hint of what that is, read Griftopia, by Matt Taibbi.

    I don't understand why anyone would willingly travel to the USA now. The airports are essentially a constitution free zone now, where Homeland Security can do anything they want to anyone and their belongings regardless of citizenship. A Canadian citizen was disappeared by the USA in transit from Tunisia back to Canada. Eventually we found out he had been sent to Syria and tortured for a year. Nobody really knows what complicity the Canadian "intelligence" service had in the affair. Google Maher Arar.

    We look back on the McCarthyism as something unique to the 40's and 50's (for you children who weren't born and are a victim of the American educational system, it's the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.) Which is what is happening today though there isn't one identifiable face for the practice, as there was in McCarthy.

    It's the rich and powerful protecting and expanding their interests. Hearst used the Spanish American war (quick pop quiz, how many American's don't know they were recently in a major war against Spain?) to sell more newspapers and expand his interests. It's happened again and again, and now those special interests are now so entrenched world-wide I don't know what it will take to dislodge them.

    I feel sorry for Americans. Individually, they are some of the nicest people I've ever met, but now they are captives of one of the most horrific governments on earth. I cannot imagine having to walk into a voting booth to choose between Obama and Palin. I think it would be Obama by a hair, only because he can actually speak English.

    I could go on, but I think I'll stop now before I ruin my digestion for breakfast.

  2. I'm familiar with the Maher Arar. The Canadian authorities have admitted their complicity in sending Arar to Syria to be tortured and paid him reparations (not that mere money will ever end his nightmares or reverse the physical and psychological damage done). The US government, which actually sent Arar to Syria has admitted nothing (tho it's well known what it did) and has not so much as apologized. Again, it's a "National Security" issue.

    Glenzilla covered the Arar case as did Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!. Many of the "liberals" who were outraged by this evil Bush-administration illegal atrocity are utterly silent when Obama does the exact same thing and - in the case of putting out a hit on al-Awlaki - worse.

    By the way, that the Obama administration has a hit out on al-Awlaki is not a"conspiracy theory" - it's just an objective fact, admitted by the Obama regime.

  3. In my quest for a "kinder gentler" SteveQ this year, I'll not comment. What has me on the edge of saying something nasty is the (hoped) coincidence that the elected official shot in the head yesterday was one of the people targeted - with a rifle cross-hair bull'seye - on a Palin PAC website.

    @Keith: I'm so old, my grandfather went up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish American War.

  4. I believe there are some politicians who run for office believing they can make changes to the system. It's admirable to have that hope and drive, but completely unrealistic. I did not vote for Obama, but I sincerely believe he wanted to change things for the better. I just don't think 1 person can do it. I got so irritated and disgusted with the Georgia races this past year that for the first time since I've been a registered voter, I didn't vote. It's all gone to the shitter.

  5. Ewwww, politics! Touchy, touchy subject!!!
    I, in my opinion of what's left of this so called country of free speech, hate Obama. I think that he's the worst president we've ever had and ever will.
    The US government is the worst thing ever. People are too reliant on it. Time to pull up our boot straps and deal with life, not let the gov't do it for us. What's next?

  6. PS/I can only hope the gov't doesn't start to tell me how to train my snatch!

  7. Oh, and worst presidents:
    1 (tie) George W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson.
    3 (tie) James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson.

  8. Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention, Gulet is an American citizen, under no circumstance should Gulet be subject to torture. It is sad enough that Gulet was tortured and this is an embarrassing to the Obama Administration. Where is the change and hope??

  9. Sad, sad state of affairs.