Monday, 26 January 2009

Good start, keep it up

As someone who is officially disillusioned with Obama, I'm willing to satate I'm impressed with the start he's made. A lot of it has simply been deft image stuff - announcing the closure of Guantanamo on Day 2, even though it will be operating for up to a year. But when the image of a regime, and by association the country that it governs, is as tarnished as that of the US government's, even restoring that image is a worthy task.

So good the good stuff, with caveats:
  • Ordering the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Great, but we were expecting more following the buzz about it being done in the first hundred days, or shortly thereafter. Instead, the camp remains operation for almost four times as long - but so low had the US government sunk, even this feels like a courageous act of humanity (1).
  • Banning torture. Again, good. Only it shouldn't have been done in the first place. So once again, restoring the norm in a civilised country has the whiff of dangerous radicalism about it (2).
  • Closing the CIA secret prisons. See above (3).
  • Reversing Bush's ban on overseas abortion funding. THis is probably the best thing he's done, something that will have a huge impact on the lives of millions in the third world. And unlike closing Gitmo or stopping enhanced interrogation torture, it took real courage, as it will hand the Religious/Conservative fringe a big stick to beat him with: "Obama ... KILLS BABIES" (4).

With regards the final point, it should be remembered that anything that annoys the Religious/Conservative fringe is generally a Good Thing. In the USA, however, it takes rare courage to do something that is going to make them hate you forever.

So, a good start. But he needs to carry on. For there is an awful lot of debris from the Bush years to be cleared up, just to get the USA back to where it was at the end of the CLinton years. And even that won't be enough in the face of climate change, terrorism, peak oil and whatever else may be.

Final thought - selecting tags for this post, I was suddenly struck that this might be the first time I've applied the 'Human Rights' tag to mark an IMPROVEMENT - however slight - in how we're treating each other.

So once more, with feeling - KEEP IT UP.

1 - "Obama Orders Guantanamo Closure, Interrogation Changes," by Greg Miller and Julian E. Barnes, published in the Business Mirror, 23rd of January, 2009. (
2 - Op. Cit.
3 - Op. Cit.
4 - "Obama reverses Bush's ban on abortion funding abroad," unattributed CBC News article, published 23rd of January, 2009. (

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I am still here.

 I am still here.  I haven't gone away.  I'm just trying to shame you all into better behaviour through my disapproving silence.