JEREMY SCAHILL ON TODAY'S WAR

by Jeremy Scahill
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June 5, 2009

Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill has some disappointing analysis for supporters of Barack Obama. From an increase of armed contractors in Afghanistan to his handling of detainees, Scahill sees the Obama administration continuing what he believes to be some of the most dangerous U.S. foreign policies from the Bush administration. According to Scahill, President Obama has moved from inheriting policies to adopting them, "Obama is sending one message to the world, but the reality on the ground, particularly when it comes to private military contractors, is that the status quo remains from the Bush era."

President Obama has made several changes since taking office. He has changed the tone of foreign policy in his speeches; he has changed official U.S. detainee policy; he has increased the number of troops in Afghanistan and selected a new commander, General Stanley McChrystal.

But much of what President Obama has done has not corrected what Scahill sees as the fundamental problems. For instance: President Obama has left a loophole allowing indefinite detention without charges, and though President Obama plans to close Guantanamo, he is expanding Bagram Airforce base in Afghanistan. Scahill says, "They're spending $60 million to expand that prison. You have hundreds of people held without charges. You have people that are being denied access to the Red Cross in violation of international law. And you have an ongoing position, by the Obama administration, formed under Bush, that these prisoners don't have right to habeas corpus."

Underscoring the similarities for Scahill is the Obama administration's continued reliance on unmanned aerial vehicles — commonly called drones —to strike inside Pakistan and Afghanistan, a practice that can lead to high civilian death tolls.

Scahill wants the United States to back up and examine its entire approach to foreign policy and, rather than analyze the number of troops to send to Afghanistan or replace the commander, ask whether the U.S. should have any troops there at all.

For Scahill, the use of private miliatry contractors, like XE (formerly Blackwater) and Triple Canopy, is a symptom of bad policy. He asks, if we cannot fight a war with our own citizens, and must rely on foreign mercenaries, should we be fighting that war? "The fact is that I think most Americans are not aware that just under 50 percent of their dollars being spent in Afghanistan are, in fact, going to for profit corporations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. "

Published June 5, 2009.

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Guest photos by Robin Holland