By Ted Rall

The Japan Times
June 2 2009

MIAMI -- We expected broken promises. But the gap between the soaring
expectations that accompanied Barack Obama's inauguration and his
wretched performance is the broadest such chasm in recent historical
memory. This guy makes Bill Clinton look like a paragon of integrity
and follow-through.

>From health care to torture to the economy to war, Obama has reneged
on pledges real and implied.

So timid and so owned is he that he trembles in fear of offending,
of all things, the government of Turkey. Obama has officially reneged
on his campaign promise to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. When
a president doesn't have the grit to annoy the Turks, why does he
bother to show up for work in the morning?

Obama is useless. Worse than that, he's dangerous. Which is why,
if he has any patriotism left after the thousands of meetings he has
sat through with corporate contributors, bloodsucking lobbyists and
corrupt politicians, he ought to step down now -- before he drags us
further into the abyss.

Take Obama's plan for "preventive detentions." If a cop or other
government official thinks you might want to commit a crime
someday, you could be held in "prolonged detention." Reports in
U.S. state-controlled media imply that Obama's shocking new policy
would only apply to Islamic terrorists (or, in this case, wannabe
Islamic terrorists, as well as kinda-sorta-maybe-thinking-about-
terrorism dudes). As if that made it OK. In practice, Obama wants to
let government goons snatch you, me and anyone else they deem annoying
off the street.

Preventive detention is the classic defining characteristic of a
military dictatorship. Because dictatorial regimes rely on fear
rather than consensus, their priority is self-preservation rather
than improving people's lives. They worry obsessively over the one
thing they can't control, what Orwell called "thought crime" --
contempt for rulers that might someday translate to direct action.

Locking up people who haven't done anything wrong is worse than
un-American and a violent attack on the most basic principles of
Western jurisprudence. It is contrary to the most essential notion
of human decency. That anyone has ever been subjected to "preventive
detention" is an outrage. That the president of the United States,
a man who won an election because he promised to elevate our moral
and political discourse, would even entertain such a revolting idea
offends the idea of civilization itself.

Obama is cute. He is charming. But there is something rotten inside
him. Unlike the Republicans who backed George W. Bush, I won't follow
a terrible leader just because I voted for him. Obama has revealed
himself. He is a monster, and he should remove himself from power.

"Prolonged detention," reported The New York Times, would be inflicted
upon "terrorism suspects who cannot be tried." Interesting choice
of words.

Any "terrorism suspect" (can you be a suspect if you haven't
been charged with a crime?) can be tried. Anyone can be tried for
anything. At this writing, a Somali child is sitting in a prison in
New York, charged with piracy in the Indian Ocean, where the U.S. has
no jurisdiction. Anyone can be tried.

What they mean, of course, is that the hundreds of men and boys
languishing at Guantanamo and the thousands of "detainees" the
Obama Administration anticipates kidnapping in the future cannot be
convicted. As in the old Soviet Union, putting enemies of the state
on trial isn't enough. The game has to be fixed. Conviction has to
be a foregone conclusion.

Why is it, exactly, that some prisoners "cannot be tried?"

The Old Gray Lady explains why Obama wants this "entirely new chapter
in American law" in a boring little sentence buried past the jump
and a couple of hundred words down page A16: "Yet another question is
what to do with the most problematic group of Guantanamo detainees:
those who pose a national security threat but cannot be prosecuted,
either for lack of evidence or because evidence is tainted."

In democracies with functioning legal systems, it is assumed that
people against whom there is a "lack of evidence" are innocent. They
walk free.

In countries where the rule of law prevails, in places blessedly
free of fearful leaders whose only concern is staying in power,
"tainted evidence" is no evidence at all.

If you can't prove that a defendant committed a crime -- an actual
crime, not a thought crime -- in a fair trial, you release him and
apologize to the judge and jury for wasting their time.