Thank God for Obama’s Broken Promises

May 3rd, 2011

By Seth Forman

Guantanamo Military PrisonAfter campaigning for years on closing Guantanamo Bay military prison and secret overseas CIA prisons, and actually signing an order to do so in 2009, Obama abruptly reversed himself in March, 2011. Good thing, too.

Follow the sequence of events.

Barack Obama, August 2007, Salon.com:

As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.

Barack Obama, November 16, 2008, 60 Minutes:

I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that.

Barack Obama, January 22, 2009, Salon.com:

Just two days after taking office, Obama signs the executive order directing the military to close Guantanamo Bay by January 2010. Says Obama:

“This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.”

Barack Obama, January 23, 2009, Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now. … We can abide by a rule that says we don’t torture.

Barack Obama, May 2009, Salon.com:

By any measure, the costs of keeping it [Guantanamo] open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. That’s why I argued that it should be closed throughout my campaign, and that is why I ordered it closed within one year.

Barack Obama, January, 2010, Salon.com:

We will not be transferring additional detainees back to Yemen at this time. But make no mistake. We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.

March 2011, Salon.com:

Obama signs an executive order to create a formal system of indefinite detention for the captives still kept at Guantanamo Bay. Releases statement through senior administration official: “The president does remain committed to closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”

Osama bin Laden killed, May 1, 2011, Washington Post.

May 2, 2011, New York Times:

The New York Times reports that a courier for Bin laden who led American intelligence to the terrorist leader was identified by Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had given the courier’s pseudonym to American interrogators and said that the man was a protégé of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

May 2, 2011, Associated Press:

Officials say CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons developed the first strands of information that ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Current and former U.S. officials say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, provided the nom de guerre of one of bin Laden’s most trusted aides. The CIA got similar information from Mohammed’s successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Both were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.

Here’s hoping that Obama indulges us in many more such policy reversals.

[Seth Forman is author of the forthcoming book American Obsession: Race and Conflict in the Age of Obama (Booklocker).]


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5 Responses to “Thank God for Obama’s Broken Promises”



  1. Zal |

    I have to comment on the photo that’s being posted by the media of the administration around the table in the White House situation room watching the events as they unfolded over there. Looks like the photographer was angling for the portrait shot or movie set up when they make the film. I just have to ask, “weren’t Obama, Clinton, and Biden the 3 same(idiots),along with their democrat flunkies, that did everthing possible to dismantle the programs that led up to this mission and also threw every road block possible in front of President Bush which may have dragged this out longer than it needed to be?!?” Yeah, they look so engaged (sarc). They’re witnessing who the real heroes are and what real leadership is all about.


  2. Tim |

    liberals hate it when you use their words back at them, it makes them face reality which of course is the opposite point of liberalism.


  3. Tom Carter |

    Zal, I have to wonder how this operation was so successful if the villains in your scenario did everything possible to “dismantle the programs that led up to this mission.” Why not give credit when it’s due? Of course the President and the people with him while the operation was in progress weren’t doing the shooting in that compound. Neither were the thousands of people, military and civilian, whose support made it possible.

    Whether you like or dislike President Obama, the fact remains that he deserves a lot of credit for making the decision to go ahead with this operation in the way it was done. You can bet your bippy that he’d have been heavily blamed if it had failed, and I’m sure you would have been first in line to blame him.


  4. Seth Forman |

    Tom, you are no doubt correct. Obama deserves credit for this, and he will get it. This helps remove doubts a lot of people, including myself, had about his tenacity in combatting terrorism. Still, it is incumbent upon all who view Bin Laden’s death and the war on terror as supremely important to try and determine what portion of this victory is due to policy and to which ones. We will, of course, never have complete information about this. To his great credit, CIA Director Leon Panetta told Brian Williams of NBC News that “Enhanced interrogation techniques” were used to extract information that led to the mission’s success. Panetta, an Obama appointee who told a congressional confirmation committee in 2009 that “waterboarding is torture and it’s wrong,” acknowledged that waterboarding was included as an interrogation method leading to Osama. Several news sources and intelligence officials confirmed Panetta’s statements. Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, no friend of George Bush, said that “The trail that led to the doorstep of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan began years earlier with aggressive interrogations of al Qaeda detainees at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and CIA ‘black site’ prisons overseas, according to U.S. officials.” The New York Times reported very much the same thing.

    A period of revelry and congratulation are due. But voters and policy professionals should not forget that even at the signing of the order to continue operations at Guantanamo, Obama did his best not to publicly renounce his prior position of closing the facility.“The president does remain committed to closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay,” said a senior administration official who briefed reporters.

    So too it would be foolhardy to forget that Obama’s Justice Department investigated for criminal actions the former head of counterterrorism at the CIA from 2002-2005, Jose Rodriguez. Rodriguez ran the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center from 2002 to 2005 during the period when top al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) and Abu Faraj al-Libbi were taken into custody and subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” at secret black site prisons overseas. Rodriguez was cleared of charges last year of burning video tapes of the interrogations, but it is clear now that he was very probably one of the heroes of this saga. I think voters should not support any presidential candidate who wasted or would waste tax dollars vilifying a public servant doing this kind of great work. This, of course, includes Obama.

    While I am euphoric about Osama’s death and grateful to Obama, I am obligated to support politically not the person who gets the most credit for a great success, but the person I think will mostly likely implement policies that will lead to more such successes. It is perhaps one of the greatest political ironies ever that Obama gets credit for the killing of Osama. Such is life. But that shouldn’t stop the search for effective public policy, and it doesn’t put Obama’s policies above reproach.


  5. Tom Carter |

    Seth, I agree. It’s always been true that the enhanced interrogations paid off, even though the details couldn’t be and for the most part will never be made public.

    Those who vociferously oppose interrogation techniques like waterboarding generally are ignorant on the subject of interrogation. Waterboarding is damned unpleasant, but it doesn’t result in permanent physical damage or death and it isn’t “torture” in realistic terms. At the same time, it works and can save lives.

    Those who say that such techniques don’t work because people subjected to them will tell you whatever you want to hear are showing how little they know. Yes, if the average person pulls someone off the street and tortures them, in some cases they’ll hear what the victim thinks they want to hear. When skilled interrogators do it, the results are very different. The facts behind the Osama case make the point clearly.


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