Clash of the presidents: Carter vs. Obama

Clash of the presidents: Carter vs. Obama

New York City : NY : USA | Jun 25, 2012 at 6:58 PM PDT
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On June 24, former President Jimmy Carter penned an op-ed piece in The New York Times which lambasted the Obama administration's human rights record. Without naming the president directly, it is clear that Carter is upset with Obama.

Under Obama, Carter argues, America has completely abandoned its role as a leader, if not the leader of human rights enforcement throughout the world. On the contrary, the U.S. may now be ranked high among the most serious violators of human rights, both abroad and at home.

Carter's main concerns are with America's actions overseas, and are, broadly, twofold:

  • The escalation of unmanned drone attacks in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa; and
  • Obama's continuing failure to close Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.

Drones. Carter reveals that pursuant to American military (and thus administration) policy, any man killed in a drone attack anywhere overseas is declared an “enemy terrorist” after the fact. All women and children killed in such attacks are, as always, the unfortunate but inevitable result of “collateral damage.” President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has demanded that the drone attacks cease inside his country. The Obama administration has ignored him. Likewise, drone attacks have been stepped up in non-combat zones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, killing untold hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent people.

Guantanamo Bay. Obama has reneged on any number of solemnly, earnestly made promises during his 2008 campaign. But the failure to follow through on his pledge to close the Cuban prison camp known as “Gitmo” has rankled many of his staunchest supporters to the point of not just disillusionment but disgust as well.

As one of the president's very high-profile supporters, Carter's critique of Obama's Gitmo policy is particularly stinging. Carter points out that only half of the 169 remaining prisoners there have any hope of ever being released. He says that some of these men have been tortured in extremis via waterboarding more than 100 times, subjected to snarling dogs, power tools, and “threats of sexual assault against their mothers.” Further, it is almost a foregone conclusion that those who are brought to trial before “military tribunals,” where normal rules of evidence and procedure do not apply, will be given decades-long or life sentences to be served right there in Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.

Carter's domestic issues. Carter also objects to Obama's support for legislation allowing for the assassination of American citizens and/or their indeterminate "detention" should he, and he alone, determine that they represent a “threat” to “national security.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, under Obama, has been hollowed out and now allows for virtually unlimited snooping by the government on American citizens' electronic communications devices without judicial warrant.

Finally, the president's tacit embrace of state laws which allow arrest, detention and prosecution of citizens because of their appearance, national background, or “suspicious” behavior is also decried by Carter.

November 2012. Carter's clash with Obama is not a good omen for the president's re-election prospects. There is no doubt whatsoever that Carter is a man of principle and would not and does not levy these charges against Obama lightly. He, Carter, is certainly aware that his words may have a detrimental effect on the president's ultimate vote totals, and, indeed, could contribute to his loss in November. Thus, he is also surely aware that his criticism may provide more fodder for the right-wing media's propaganda machine.

So, why did he do it? Carter called Obama on the carpet because wrong is just wrong. And the truth must be told no matter whom it hurts, or when it hurts, or how bad it hurts. Those who still support the president, must allow the scales covering their eyes to fall away and face the obvious truth. The president has been acting as any ordinary, power-hungry warmonger would act. George W. Bush comes readily to mind. In fact, most of the president's bad behavior here is merely an enhancement of Bush's original so-called "doctrines."

There is little time left for Obama to redeem himself, though. As a gesture of good faith, however, I suggest that, at the very least, Obama begin by returning his Nobel Peace Prize.


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Carter v. Obama
President Jimmy Carter (AFP photo)
Herbert Dyer, Jr. is based in Chicago, Illinois, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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