Thursday, March 15, 2012

"What if President Bush Did This?": Detaining Journalists Edition

With Obama's actions on Civil Liberties and the war on terror, an always interesting game is: What would be the reaction had President Bush done this?

Today's case study: "Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?"
As Scahill reports, Shaye has "risked his life to travel to areas controlled by Al-Qaeda and to interview its leaders." He argues that this reporting has not exactly won him friends in the U.S. or Yemeni governments:
His collision course with the U.S. government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al-Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen's southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al-Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military's arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label "Made in the USA," and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, 14 women and 21 children were killed.

Shaye was subsequently arrested and likely tortured by Yemeni authorities, who charged and convicted him on terrorism charges.  The case has drawn international attention, with media and human rights groups denouncing the trial. Pressure inside Yemen seemed to be working, and a pardon was ready for then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign.

Enter Barack Obama, who "expressed concern" over Shaye's release. The pardon was shelved; as Scahill reports:
Yemeni journalists, human rights activists and lawyers have said he remains in jail at the request of the White House.

Salon's Glenn Greenwald weighed in (3/14/12), reminding readers that the initial media accounts of the attacks in Majala were wildly misleading--the strikes were carried out by Yemen, those killed were "militants," and so on. As Greenwald puts it, the world knows the truth about this attack--which was a U.S. strike using cruise missiles and cluster bombs--because of Shaye's reporting.
I quoted this report from FAIR because the summary was shorter, but read the incredible story by Jeremy Scahill, and the follow up from Glenn Greenwald for the full picture. It's horrifying.

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out in the interview I posted the other day, it's not that Obama wants to do things that are worse than what Bush did or wanted to do (He did this exact thing too! For 7 Years!), it's that when Bush did these types of things, there was usually about half the country up in arms about how bad it was. When Obama does these type of things you have a few people up in arms, mixed in with liberals at liberal institutions defending whatever the fuck Obama does because he's a Democrat, and that's OUR team dammit!

These arguments happen all the time on all kinds of issues, so I don't mean to pick on Kevin Drum, but read his defense for Obama's actions:
But which do I find more likely? That Shaye is indeed affiliated with al-Qaeda based on evidence that hasn't been made public? Or that Barack Obama is a sociopath who pressures foreign leaders to keep innocent journalists in prison based on the fact that they very slightly annoy him? Call me what you will, but I have to go with Door A. U.S. attacks within Yemen might be bad policy. The entire war on al-Qaeda might be bad policy. What's more, Obama — along with the entire security apparatus of the United States — might be specifically wrong about Shaye. But I don't believe that they're simply making this story up because of a basically inconsequential piece that Shaye wrote two years ago. That just doesn't add up.
Why doesn't it add up? Did he find flaws in Scahill or Greenwald's reporting? Nope, he just doesn't think Obama is a bad guy, therefore mountains of evidence and reporting be damned, he's going to assume Obama is right, and the reporting is wrong. The laziness and stupidity in that response really speaks for itself.

Do I think Obama is a nice guy? How about George W. Bush? By all personal accounts he was a really nice guy, and that clearly translated in his policy choices. Politicians, celebrities, athletes of all kinds are in the business of making themselves a brand and projecting a certain image. Since a) you don't actually know Barack Obama and b) He has a track record that you can judge him on, you should probably keep your opinions based on that. Instead you have someone who gets paid to do this shit for a living willfully ignoring real world evidence and reporting because he think's Obama is a nice guy. If our guy wasn't in the White House most people would expect better than that.

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