15 December 2011, 15:43

The President has failed to show leadership

The President has failed to show leadership
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With the U.S. state debt exceeding $15 trillion, the House of Representatives has passed a measure setting defense policy for 2012. The House authorized $662 billion in defense spending. This is about $27 billion less than Obama requested, but still, as many observers point out, is going to put an additional strain on the already strained budget.

With the U.S. state debt exceeding $15 trillion, the House of Representatives has passed a measure setting defense policy for 2012. The House authorized $662 billion in defense spending. This is about $27 billion less than Obama requested, but still, as many observers point out, is going to put an additional strain on the already strained budget.

What will the money be allotted for? The bill presupposes a 1.6 percent rise in payroll of the military personnel, additional security programs in the Energy Department, expenditures on the two current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and additional pressure on Iran. One field where the legislators decided to cut the expenditures by $700 million, is military aid to Pakistan.

The vote in the House was a bipartisan one with the bill being supported by 283 votes and 136 representatives voting against. Such voting became possible after Preesident Obama withdrew his threat to veto the bill. His veto would concern probably the most contradictory part of the legislation – the one dealing with the treatment of military detainees.

It is well known that the treatment of suspected terrorists in installations like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib has been a hot topic throughout the presidencies of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The suspects could and still can be detained without trial for months and years and subject to all kinds of inhumane treatment and torture. Such torture, like waterboarding were officially given a green light by the former president. Barack Obama did promise to put an end to such practices but did little in this respect.

His feeble stance on the issue with first threatening to veto the new legislation and then withdrawing his threat has already given way to a number of negative commentaries from human rights advocates. The bill actually leaves an opportunity for the military to take custody of a suspect deemed to be a member of al-Qaeda or its affiliates and who is involved in plotting or committing attacks on the United States. Thus, there is doubt on the issue whether the constitutional right for the U.S. citizens to be tried in due order by civil courts  makes it possible to keep them under detention for an unlimited time. At least, nothing in the bill is going to affect “existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the FBI or any other domestic law enforcement agency” with regard to a captured suspect “regardless of whether such person is held in military custody.”

The lack of clarity in the bill concerning the detainees and rules and procedural norms of detention and arrest of suspects is probably the weakest point in the proposed legislature (apart from the extra burden on the national budget), and has become a matter for criticism from many angles.

“The statute lacks clarity with regard to what happens at the time of arrest,” said FBI Director Robert Mueller. “What happens if we have a case that we’re investigating on three individuals, two of whom are American citizens and would not go to military custody and the third is not an American citizen and could go to military custody?”

On the other hand, human rights activists criticized the President for violating the constitutional norms.

“As a former constitutional lawyer, the president should know better,” said Raha Wala, advocacy counsel for Human Rights First. “This legislation not only undermines the Constitution, it compromises national security. The president needed to show leadership on this, and he’s failed.”

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