|Scahill – Shaye – Obama|
Jeremy Scahill is one of the most curious, thorough and courageous journalists working anywhere today. As a writer, his book on the growth of military contractors such as Blackwater (now known as Xe Services LLC, uh – Academi), Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, won the George Polk Book Award. His work with Democracy Now and The Nation is highly regarded by people concerned with the continuing abuse of American imperial power in the Obama administration. Being a realist in terms of how Obama is conducting armed foreign policy has led to his being marginalized by apologists for these policies.
Scahill’s bottom line is that these policies, particularly the killing of hundreds of innocent people (if not more!) by our growing fleet of armed drone aircraft, are counter productive, and against our country’s long-term interests in many ways. His latest article for The Nation, Why is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?, deals with aspects of that bottom line. The article is far more chilling, though, in some of its content and message. It shows quite clearly how the Obama administration’s manipulation of some of the new powers it asserts for the chief executive are beyond troublesome. The secretiveness of this administration is no secret on the real left. Not expressed in Scahill’s article, nor in Glen Greenwald’s thorough assessment of it, is what bothers me most about this administration’s growing uses of secrecy and extra-constitutional powers to go after its perceived enemies abroad – and here:
Once an American chief executive takes on new powers, his successor never backs down from that position. Not even when, as Obama clearly did in 2008, the new president has promised on the campaign trail to ratchet these powers down a notch or two.
Here’s Greenwald’s description of some of what Scahill and others have uncovered, regarding the imprisonment in Yemen of another courageous journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, at the direct behest of Obama. The White House is disturbed that Shaye uncovered a major Obama lie regarding civilian deaths from drone strikes:
There is one reason that the world knows the truth about what really happened in al Majala that day: because the Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, traveled there and, as Scahill writes, “photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label ‘Made in the USA,’ and distributed the photos to international media outlets.” He also documented the remnants of the Tomahawks and cluster bombs, neither of which is in Yemen’s arsenal. And he provided detailed accounts proving that scores of civilians, including those 21 children, had been killed in the attacks. It was Shaye’s journalism that led Amnesty International to show the world the evidence that it was the U.S. which had perpetrated the attack using cluster bombs, and media outlets to reveal the horrifying extent of the civilian deaths. Shaye’s work was vindicated when WikiLeaks released a diplomatic cable — allegedly provided by Bradley Manning — in which Yemen’s then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh joked with David Petraeus about continuing to lie to the public: ”We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”
Saleh, perhaps under pressure from the White House, had Shaye imprisoned without charge, tortured and abused:
Despite that important journalism — or, more accurately, because of it — Shaye is now in prison, thanks largely to President Obama himself. For the past two years, Shaye has been arrested, beaten, and held in solitary confinement by the security forces of Saleh, America’s obedient tyrant. In January, 2011, he was convicted in a Yemeni court of terrorism-related charges — alleging that he was not a reporter covering Al Qaeda but a mouthpiece for it — in a proceeding widely condemned by human rights groups around the world. “There are strong indications that the charges against [Shaye] are trumped up and that he has been jailed solely for daring to speak out about US collaboration in a cluster munitions attack which took place in Yemen,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, told Scahill. The Yemen expert, Johnsen, added: “There is no publicly available evidence to suggest that Abdulelah was anything other than a journalist attempting to do his job.”
Shaye’s real crime is that he reported facts that the U.S. government and its Yemeni client regime wanted suppressed. But while the imprisonment of this journalist was ignored in the U.S, it became a significant controversy in Yemen. Numerous Yemeni tribal leaders, sheiks and activist groups agitated for his release, and in response, President Saleh, as the Yemeni press reported, had a pardon drawn up for him and was ready to sign it. That came to a halt when President Obama intervened. According to the White House’s own summary of Obama’s February 3, 2011, call with Saleh, “President Obama expressed concern over the release of Abd-Ilah al-Shai.” The administration has repeatedly refused to present any evidence that Shaye is anything other than a reporter, and this is what State Department spokesperson Beth Gosselin told Scahill in response to his story:
“We are standing by [President Obama’s] comments from last February. We remain concerned about Shaye’s potential release due to his association with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We stand by the president’s comments.” When asked whether the US government should present evidence to support its claims about Shaye’s association with AQAP, Gosselin said, “That is all we have to say about this case.”
So it is beyond dispute that the moving force behind the ongoing imprisonment of this Yemeni journalist is President Obama. And the fact that Shaye is in prison, rather than able to report, is of particular significance (and value to the U.S.) in light of the still escalating American attacks in that country. Over the past 3 days alone, American air assaults have killed 64 people in Yemen, while American media outlets — without anyone on the scene — dutifully report that those killed are “suspected Al Qaeda insurgents” and “militants.”
This White House policy is not only stupid, it is dangerously blind. And arrogant in a profoundly un-American way.
It is blind to how history works on a global scale. And, importantly, it is blind to how a possible GOP successor to this president might use these same tools of dictatorship against what he or she perceives to be a threat, foreign – or domestic. During the past few months, Obama and the U.S. Congress have undermined the Constitution in so many ways, it is hard to keep score. Just this past week, we’ve been given the anti-Occupy H.R. 347, that would make our citizens’ protests outside the White House felonies.
I’ve never voted for an incumbent president before. It doesn’t look like that will change. This really sucks, as I’ve got a feeling that the Israel Lobby will be backing whichever jerk the GOP pulls out of their hat in Tampa, and that they might be powerful enough in the 2012 scenario to be the final arbiter of who ends up winning in November.
The dilemma for me is not whether or not I will vote for Obama, but how strenuously I’ll be backing an alternative candidate, such as Dr. Jill Stein, should she get the Green Party nomination.
But – no matter what – I cannot in good conscience consider marking Obama on my ballot.
Here’s Scahill on the Alyona Show last week – America Cannot Kill Its Way to Peace: