On Oct. 10, the Nobel Committee awarded President Barack Obama a Nobel Peace Prize. Their award is premature given that empty promises of change hardly deserve such a highly regarded award.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Obama spoke of the change that we, as voters, could believe in. Now that our votes are no longer imminent, it seems that the promise of change has quickly dissipated with respect to our civil liberties.
At times throughout his campaign and into his presidency, Obama expressed his high regard for the Constitution of the United States and for the civil liberties of all people. His rhetoric does not translate into his actions.
According to investigations by the International Committee on the Red Cross and other human and civil rights organizations, the prisoners held in the Guantanamo Bay camps are victims of abuse.
The mistreatment of these prisoners not only violates the eighth amendment of the Constitution which protects from cruel and unusual punishment, but it also violates the Third Geneva Convention which clearly states in Article 13 that “prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated.”
The Obama administration promised in its campaign that Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. military facility, would be closed immediately upon his entrance to the Oval Office. As of Oct. 13, 2009, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base remains open.
Furthermore, on Obama’s campaign site under a heading titled “The Problem,” it is stated that “The Bush administration . has invoked a legal tool known as the ‘state secrets’ privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court.”
The case of Mohamed et. al. V. Jeppesen deals with five men that were kidnapped and tortured in U.S. run prisons overseas, a practice often called extraordinary rendition or torture by proxy. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who is representing the plaintiff in this case, the Obama administration reinforced the Bush administration’s position that this case cannot move forward because it involves a ‘state secret.’
Continuing a policy which Obama has publicly criticized in the first place is anything but change. Furthermore, kidnapping and torture do not promote world peace.
At home, Obama has done little to preserve civil liberties concerning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgendered/Transsexual (LGBT) rights. During his campaign, he pledged to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which states that marriage is between a man and a woman, and he promised to end the 1993 law commonly dubbed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that our military employs. Nine months into his presidency, these two things are far from done.
Despite his inaction, on Oct. 10, at a fundraiser for the largest LGBT rights organization (Human Rights Campaign), Obama again pledged to repeal DOMA and abolish “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” though he did not give a timeline for completion. Maybe this time it won’t be just an empty promise.
There is no doubt that Obama could be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize if he follows through on his promises. Until then, the Nobel Committee may want to give Miss America a Nobel Peace Prize since she wishes for World Peace as well.
Presently, Guantanamo Bay is still open, extraordinary rendition hasn’t been punished, the ‘state secret’ privilege is still being abused, and LGBT rights are still on hold. The blatant disregard for the civil liberties of Americans and people all over the world is evident in the Obama administration’s behavior. As an American who believed President Obama’s rhetoric, I’m still waiting for change.