Obama’s first year: a World War 4 Report scorecard

World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama’s moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. On the first anniversary of his inauguration, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:

UK rights group urges further investigation of Gitmo suicides:
Obama has, it seems, covered up for crimes committed at Gitmo under Bush. Negative

“Doomsday Clock” moves one minute away from midnight:
We defer to the judgment of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that Obama has ratcheted down global tensions. Positive

US officials concealed details of immigrant deaths in detention: NYT:
Another example of the Obama administration evidently covering up Bush-era crimes. Negative

Afghan authorities commit to taking over former Bagram detention facility:
This will not necessarily improve the human rights situation faced by the detainees there, but hopefully this hub of the CIA/Pentagon secret global gulag will become a traditional prison rather than an extra-legal one. Positive

EPA proposes stricter smog regulations: Positive

Obama administration announces new rules for public land drilling leases: More restrictive ones. Positive

New airline passenger screening unconstitutional: rights groups: Negative

Obama declassification order rolls back Bush secrecy legacy: Positive

Guantánamo prison may remain open until 2011: reports: Negative

Obama’s peace prize and its anti-war critics: Which is more Orwellian?:
We do not defer to the Nobel Committee, whose previous incarnations have honored Henry Kissinger and Theodore Roosevelt, thank you very much. However much we may disagree with a lot of the anti-war left’s glib propaganda, the awarding of the Peace Prize to a president who is waging two wars is a pretty bad sign. In normalizing permanent war, it may even count as a negative. But the prize wasn’t Obama’s doing, he just accepted it. So, we’ll go with Neutral.

Obama administration calls for dismissal of suit against John “torture memo” Yoo: Yet another example… Negative

Afghanistan’s secular opposition dissents from Obama’s troop surge:
Negative. Not that the Afghan opposition dissents, of course, but that Obama is going deeper into the quagmire.

Gitmo detainees to Illinois?:
Even at the Thomson Correctional Center, the detainees will still remain under Pentagon administrative control, not that of the civilian authorities, so this is ambiguous progress at best. But we’ll still go with Positive

Holder announces federal trials for accused 9-11 conspirators:
Civil trials as opposed to military tribunals—although other Guantánamo detainees will still go before tribunals. Still, on balance a Positive

Anti-nuclear protesters greet Obama in Japan:
Negative. Again, not that the Japanese peaceniks are protesting, but that Obama’s reorganization of US forces in Japan is more a matter of moving them around than getting them out.

Honduras: US seeks “happy end” —at cost of democracy?:
There is little evidence that Obama’s CIA was involved in last summer’s coup d’etat in Honduras, but Washington’s supposed isolation of the de facto regime has in fact been full of loopholes—even Pentagon training of Honduran military officers apparently continued. Washington’s intent to normalize relations with Honduras after the transfer of power to a new government next week—following an election rejected as illegitimate by the popular resistance movement—is a betrayal, if a predictable one. Negative

Honduran golpista: Obama a “little black man who knows nothing”:
Just because the reactionary golpistas hate Obama for not openly closing ranks with their illegal regime, that doesn’t mean his policy on Honduras actually displayed much courage or principle. Neutral

Obama’s State Department to Mauritania: restore “constitutional order”:
The world hardly paid note to the coup d’etat in Mauritania, but here Obama cut the usurpers little slack. Positive

Obama to maintain Cuba embargo…for now:
We’re still waiting… Meanwhile, Negative

Obama’s EPA silences dissent to carbon trading:
The Bush administration used heavy-handed tactics to silence scientists who dissented from the denialist dogma on climate change. Now the Obama administration is silencing those who dissent from the technocratic pseudo-solution of carbon trading. Negative

Tehran protests: neocons charge Obama with betrayal:
The neocons are aghast that the CIA and State Department are no longer attempting to groom the Iranian opposition as proxies—which is the last thing Iran’s pro-democracy movement needs. Positive

Obama’s Nowruz message to Iran: “appeasement” or Trojan horse?:
Predictably, the right sees the former and the left sees the latter. But on balance we’d call it Positive

Afghanistan: new Bagram rules “step in wrong direction”?:
As noted above, the Bagram prison is now in the process of being transfered to Afghan authorities. But Obama has continued the Bush policy of denying any recognition of the habeas corpus rights of detainees held by the US overseas. Negative

White House loosens up on ICE workplace policy; “gang” raids continue:
We aren’t happy about the ICE “gang” raids continuing, but halting the workplace raids is a big step in the right direction. Positive

Obama border strategy emphasizes enforcement:
On the other hand, while Obama has thus far resisted calls to mobilize army troops to the Mexican border, he has not halted construction of the border wall launched by the Bush administration. Negative

Justice Department investigates Sheriff Arpaio:
Obama’s Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona’s Maricopa County—who has run a local anti-immigrant police state complete with detainment camps—and ICE has revoked his authority to enforce federal immigration law. (Arpaio has vowed to defy the federal order, but so far hasn’t.) Positive

Bolivia bashes Obama over trade sanctions:
Obama continues to sanction Bolivia for insufficient Drug War zealotry. Negative

Obama pledges progress on FTA in meeting with Uribe:
He talked tough about human rights in Colombia on the campaign trail, but there has been hardly a whiff of that since he took the oath of office. Negative

Obama to Muslims: let’s chill out!:
In his historic Cairo address, Obama became the first US president to quote the Koran chapter and verse in an appeal for peace with the Islamic world. Positive

Obama in Cairo: selective historical memory:
On the other hand, he condescended to the Palestinians: “Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights.” As if the Civil War never happened! Negative

Obama denies White House to run GM:
If Obama had had the guts to nationalize Detroit and harness its industrial machinery for a Green New Deal based on a crash conversion from the fossil fuel economy, he might not be losing his populist thunder to the Republicans now. Negative

White House announces national vehicle emissions policy:
The least we could have expected, but better than Bush did (or McCain would’ve). Positive

Obama administration reviving military commission system —with changes:
Not enough changes. And any changes only help to legitimize the tribunal system. Negative

Obama seeking delay of torture photos release: Yet another example… Negative

Obama affirms position that waterboarding is torture: Positive

Obama open to prosecuting CIA interrogation memo authors: But he hasn’t. Neutral

Obama reassures CIA on torture:
“Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes,” he told CIA officers—weasily equivocation on a fundamental moral issue. Negative

Obama pledge not to prosecute CIA interrogators draws criticism: Negative (not that it is drawing criticism, of course)

Obama administration to appeal Bagram detainees’ habeas ruling:
See our above comment on Bagram. Negative

CIA says no more secret prisons —and rendition?:
The CIA’s own global gulag is ostensibly dismantled, but rendition to proxy torture regimes is left as a possibility. This barely counts as a Positive

Pakistan: thousands flee US drone attacks:
Obama has actually escalated US drone strikes against presumed al-Qaeda targets in Pakistani territory—over the open objections of the Islamabad government, Washington’s supposed ally. The drone strikes—now coming every few days—reportedly killed some 700 in 2009, overwhelmingly noncombatants. This counter-productive strategy only fuels the Taliban insurgency that now threatens to destabilize Pakistan entirely. Negative

Iraq: Obama won’t speed pullout:
He’s only following through on his campaign pledge for a slow withdrawal—but that’s not good enough. Negative

Obama forges “Af-Pak” strategy as Taliban insurgency spreads:
A strategy that only fuels the insurgency, as noted above. Negative

Obama administration drops GWOT nomenclature:
Obama has formally abandoned the Bush-era phrase “Global War on Terrorism.” The new term is the dryly clinical and antiseptic “Overseas Contingency Operation.” Is this an improvement—or a switch from a hubristic and bellicose rallying cry to an Orwellian euphemism? Again, a normalization of permanent war? We are still grappling with this question. But we think on balance it is Positive

Obama administration drops “enemy combatant” nomenclature: See above. Positive

Obama continues Bush-era “state secrets” argument in Gitmo torture case: Negative

Obama White House bullies Britain on Gitmo torture case?:
The US threatens to withhold intelligence cooperation with the UK if evidence is made public of the torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed at Guantánamo Bay. Negative

Obama orders on Gitmo, torture leave “wiggle room”?:
The wiggle room is very disturbing, but an executive order banning torture is still on balance Positive

Obama calls for halt to Gitmo tribunals:
As noted above, some tribunals are proceeding—albeit ostensibly with greater standards for due process, following a reform of the Military Commissions Act. This is an improvement over the Bush policy, but not by much. So in hindsight, Neutral

Potsdam peaceniks give Obama a chance:
This is a downside of having a liberal Democrat in power—the anti-war movement has lowered its vigilance. Negative

Obama names George Mitchell as Middle East envoy:
We were encouraged by this, but alone it means little. Obama still hasn’t even used the threat of an aid cut-off to reign in Israel’s illegal colonization of occupied lands. So in hindsight, we’ve got to say his overall Palestine policy rates a Negative

Obama’s rightward tilt…
…became obvious immediately after his historic victory, with the appointment of Rahm Emanuel, a pro-Israel hardliner, as chief of staff. Negative

Obama USDA pick another “biofuel” booster:
And his Energy Department pick too. Negative

Obama pick for National Intelligence director linked to East Timor genocide: Negative

Czech Green Party MP asks Obama to reconsider missile shield:
He has merely downsized the missile shield rather than dropping it. A slight improvement perhaps, but on balance Negative

Obama: ominous appointment for Homeland Security:
Janet Napolitano may not be an anti-immigration hardliner by the standards of contemporary Arizona, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. We’ve got to say Negative.

Eric Holder: death-squad defender:
Obama’s attorney general defended US banana companies accused of funding the Colombian paramilitaries. Negative

Tom Daschle: “regime change” extremist
He may have been out of harm’s way over at Health & Human Services had he taken the post, but he still shares the neocon agenda. Negative

Positives: 18
Neutrals: 4
Negatives: 38

Overall score: 63.3% Negative

See our last posts on the Obama administration and the politics of the GWOT.

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