Revolution #280, September 16, 2012

Romney or Obama: Poison Straight-up or Sweetened

From a reader:

The first 3-1/2 years of Obama’s presidency have been a bitter disappointment for many people who had been swept up by Obama mania. Yet still… Romney and the Republicans he leads can seem even worse to many people. But it’s a lethal trap spun out of deceit, illusion, and willful blindness to think that somehow Obama is “less worse” than Romney.

Torture and Indefinite Detention

Take a brief look at what Romney and Obama represent on two key issues—the use of torture and detention without trial as instruments of U.S. policy, and the mass criminalization and incarceration of Black and Latino youth.

During a debate among Republican presidential candidates last November, Romney didn’t address the topic of U.S.-sponsored torture. But immediately after the debate his top aide “clarified” Romney’s position, sending a message to reporters that Romney “does not believe waterboarding is torture.” Romney has said on numerous other occasions that he doesn’t think “it’s wise…to describe precisely what techniques we’ll use in interrogating people,” and then he adds with a straight face that he “opposes torture.”

Romney defends detaining people indefinitely without trial and opposes closing the U.S. torture dungeon at Guantánamo. He said, “And, by the way, I want to make sure these folks are kept at Guantánamo. I don’t want the people that are carrying out attacks on this country to be brought into our jail system and be given legal representation in this country. I want to make sure that what happened to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed happens to other people who are terrorists. He was captured. He was the so-called mastermind of the 9/11 tragedy. And he turned to his captors, and he said, 'I’ll see you in New York with my lawyers.' I presume ACLU lawyers. That’s not what happened. He went to Guantánamo, and he met GIs and CIA interrogators, and that’s just exactly how it ought to be.”

But what about Obama? Didn’t he promise to close Guantánamo as soon as he took office in 2009? Yes he did. He’s promised to close Guantánamo twice, in fact, when he first ran for president in 2008, and again in 2012, since the Democratic Party platform Obama is running on is once more making that promise in this year’s campaign. As of today, Guantánamo is still up and running, with 168 “detainees” held in its cages.

But the Obama administration has already gone much further—in deeds, not just words—in protecting and defending torturers from the Bush years, and extending its “right” to imprison people in other countries. As the New York Times reported on August 30 this year, “Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Thursday that no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of a prisoner in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the C.I.A. Mr. Holder had already ruled out any charges related to the use of waterboarding and other methods that most human rights experts consider to be torture.”

Earlier this year, Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which grants to any U.S. president the power to detain any person, including U.S. citizens, indefinitely and without charge or trial for associating with a broad and vague category of people, including those who have nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks or terrorism.

As for holding people without trial in prisons across the planet, in March this year, the U.S. government and its Afghan puppet Hamid Karzai announced an agreement that said the U.S. would turn over control of the massive prison complex at Bagram Air Base to Afghanistan. But just this week, the Pentagon declared that the U.S. will continue to control prisoners there “for the indefinite future” and to “hold and screen newly captured Afghans for a time, ensuring continued American involvement in detention and interrogation activities.”

Romney is promising to do things Obama sometimes says he opposes—but in reality has been putting into practice for years.

Mass Incarceration of Black and Latino Youth

And regarding the issue of mass criminalization and incarceration of Black and Latino youth in this country, how are the candidates for “the highest office in the land” addressing the shameful situation in this country that has the highest incarceration rate in world history, and where there is an epidemic of police brutality and murder that plagues inner cities from coast to coast?

Well, neither one of them has ever indicated in any way that he sees these outrages as a problem.

Their silence on this question is deafening. And the question must be asked: for anyone who cares about the future of the youth in this country, for anyone who is concerned about humanity and its future, for anyone who cares about the health of the planet itself, does it make any difference who wins this election? Would things be even worse for masses of people in this country and around the world if the pack of rabid warmongers, torture advocates, racists, and woman-haters headed by Romney came to power?

The short answer is no.

The presidential candidates, and even more the terms of this election—the terms of participating in the “political process” that U.S. imperialism offers—are deadly enough: would you like your poison straight up, or would you prefer it sweetened now and then with some honeyed words?

But even more, just by participating in this charade of “choice between two candidates”—by voting for either candidate, in other words—the role of the voters is to put a stamp of “legitimacy” on the entire process, and every monstrous crime against the people of the world and in this country that it commits.

Romney and Obama are contending to see which of them will preside over a political and military framework that defends and extends the most vicious, blood-drenched system of capitalism-imperialism in the world. The political machines they lead bring forward different bases of social support, but both act in the interests of that system. They work diligently to present and frame issues and topics of “debate” on the terms of that system.

And they work even harder to draw people in on those terms. Whoever wins this election will sit on top of a mountain of bones of the people killed and lives destroyed by the juggernaut of U.S. imperialism, and will be prepared to commit even greater crimes in the years and conflicts ahead. Whoever wins will say that these murderous acts are to “defend the American people” and represent the “will of the American people,” as expressed through the election.

As the Revolutionary Communist Party says, “Stop Thinking Like Americans and Start Thinking About Humanity!”

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