June 5, 2009
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.
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.
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