Edited to add: Just so you know, I wrote this after watching Taxi to the Dark Side.

There have been a few cosmetic improvements to the Oval Office since the Obama administration moved in. One of the more important ones was the announcement of the closing of the gulag at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This move is largely symbolic, because it does not address the underlying causes of the travesty. The camp itself was the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s war on the rule of law. It will be nice if the Obama administration closes it down and sends all the innocent home (those that can go home, anyway; reasonably suitable homes should be found for those who can’t go home). But there is a more fundamental problem that must be addressed, and that can only be accomplished by holding accountable the decision-makers who constructed the policies and gave the orders to create and populate the gulag.

I doubt that I am alone in suggesting that we would not have gone into Iraq had the architects of Vietnam (and those who kept us there long after our presence was clearly more destructive than constructive) not escaped accountability. Nixon’s fall from power also demonstrated how the rule of law is regarded as a convenience for our nation’s executive branch. Nixon was let off the hook, as was Reagan after him (for Iran-Contra). Our Congress has displayed a disturbing unwillingness to expose some our nation’s most egregious criminals to prosecution merely because of those miscreants’ lofty positions in the political power structure. (The subsequent running of Bill Clinton through the impeachment process for lying about a blow job only further illustrates the moral crevasse beneath our legislative branch.) I seriously doubt that the Obama administration will do anything to hold the Bush administration to account for the illegal war-mongering, the torture, the illegal domestic spying, and other abuses of domestic and international law*. Under the pious and fuzzy auspices of “moving forward,” Obama will have us pretend that the needless death, suffering, and destruction wrought by Bush, Cheney, et al are not worth the time and effort of prosecution. (It’s a good thing none of them was ever caught trying to peddle a dime bag of blow, or they might be into some actual legal trouble.)

The one other lack of progress that gets my goat is Obama’s morally repugnant stand (or lack thereof) on the Israel/Palestine conflict. One of the reasons I couldn’t bear to watch the inauguration festivities is that so much was being made about the historic nature of a black man being made president. See, I haven’t forgotten the last eight years. Throughout that time, we had two African-Americans in very high positions in the executive branch, and both of them were active (and often enthusiastic, especially in Condi Rice’s case) participants in the Bush campaign against human rights and decency. So having a black man as President gave me no warm fuzzies. It has been clearly demonstrated to me that apocalyptic assholery is not the sole province of white men.

I heard Obama’s tepid commentary in the days approaching his inauguration, and I didn’t mistake them for good political decorum (which is how Obama tried to frame them). I recalled that AIPAC was the first major stop of Obama’s general election run. Of course, that wasn’t nearly the first manifestation of Obama’s Right Wing Zionist love. So for all his propensity for lofty talk, I predict that Obama will do nothing substantially different toward Israel unless somehow forced to. Noam Chomsky says so, too. So does Arthur Silber, in spades, and he takes it one step further: he explains that we won’t move to stop Israel because Israel is doing things the way we like to do things.

Finally, there is no doubting the gravity of the situation Israel has created, and there is little doubt that Obama is capable of understanding both the situation and the power he has to intervene. So this will be a test of Obama’s ability to apply U.S. power in a just and equitable manner, and not a test of his intelligence or competence. I’m not holding my breath.

Tomgram: Tony Karon, Obama’s Gaza Opportunity

*This may have something to do with the Democrats having done little to nothing to stand in the way of the Bushies’ worst behavior, and in some cases with their open complicity.

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