The Republicans don’t even try to act like they support peace and civil liberties. For many years, the Democrats did. But after the Hook the Vote debate last week between the University Democrats and the Libertarian Longhorns, it became clear even the Democrats, at least those on campus, don’t support our rights. (In the interest of full disclosure, I serve as Public Relations Director of the Libertarian Longhorns, but my opinions are my own).
During the debate, the University Democrats slammed former President George W. Bush — and rightly so — for his expensive and unnecessary wars and his violations of civil liberties. Afghanistan should have been a mission to kill Osama bin Laden and those involved with the 9/11 attacks. Bush made it into a war with the Taliban and an occupation of the entire country. Then he decided to invade and destabilize Iraq, resulting in countless unnecessary deaths of both American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Bush trashed civil liberties with the Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping, indefinite detention and torture at Guantanamo Bay.
Bush’s policies were inexcusable. And throughout his presidency, the Democrats rarely put up with any excuses from the Bush administration. During the 2008 presidential election, then-candidate Barack Obama had huge respect for civil liberties. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay on his first day in office, end indefinite detention and honor the principle of habeas corpus. He denounced the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens and racial profiling in the name of national security. The War on Drugs would be reformed.
Those were changes we could believe in. Unfortunately, they’re changes we’re still waiting for.
Since taking office, Obama hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay. Rather than ending indefinite detention, he expanded it to include American citizens under the National Defense Authorization Act. Instead of ending the Patriot Act and its warrantless wiretapping, Obama extended it. His administration has the same FBI guidelines for using race and religion in investigations as the Bush administration did.
Despite the “hope” of improvement, Obama has actually proven worse than his predecessor on many civil liberties issues. In the past four years, whistleblowers have been targeted under the 1917 Espionage Act twice as many times as under all previous presidents combined.
Arguably the most disturbing violation of human rights is Obama’s extensive use of drone strikes. Obama has already ordered more than five times as many drone strikes as Bush did, in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and possibly even more countries. Obama assassinates suspected terrorists — including U.S. citizens — without judicial or legislative oversight. He is the judge, the jury and the executioner. Bush would never have gotten away with such blatant disregard of human rights and the rule of law.
As MIT linguist and vocal activist Noam Chomsky put it, “If Bush, the Bush administration, didn’t like somebody, they’d kidnap them and send them to torture chambers. If the Obama administration decides they don’t like somebody, they murder them, so you don’t have to have torture chambers all over.”
At the debate last Wednesday, the UDems defended these unconstitutional, expensive and ineffective wars. They defended the use of sanctions, which force innocent civilians into poverty and at times even starvation. They supported the continued existence of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and praised the president’s use of drones.
Claiming that “we can’t live in a world of rainbows and unicorns,” they argued the measures that Obama has taken were necessary because they are “practical.”
It was sad to see that the one thing both major parties can agree upon now is the abandonment of civil liberties and peace.
McCann is a Plan II freshman from Dallas.