He was then President-elect and had not moved into White House still. And his gift of gab had already projected him as the new messiah the world has long been waiting for. So when he said, "When the United States stands up for human rights, by example at home and by effort abroad, we align ourselves with men and women around the world who struggle for the right to speak their minds, to choose their leaders, and to be treated with dignity and respect," we believed him and felt encouraged. But, fifth year into his presidency Barack Obama has belied us all.
Obama, in power today, seems to have gone back on everything that he so vociferously professed on the anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Rather than rededicating himself and the United States "to the advancement of human rights and freedoms for all, and pledge always to live by the ideals (the US) promote to the world," he and his administration have abused human rights and gagged the voice of American conscience which he himself admitted "can feed many of the global dangers that we confront — from armed conflict and humanitarian crises, to corruption and the spread of ideologies that promote hatred and violence."
John Kiriakou says that only ten people in American history have been charged with espionage for leaking classified information, seven of them under Barack Obama. Kiriakou himself is one among those seven people. The latest is Bradley Manning, convicted under the 1917 Espionage Act. They were all criminalised for exposing America's state-sponsored crimes.
None of these seven people spied for any enemy nation of the United States, sold secrets for personal gain or tried to undermine America's security. From Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent to Bradley Manning, they were all idealists and patriotic American citizens who have just blown whistles on America's wrongdoings; they spoke the truth and exposed their government's crimes against humanity.
They exposed what the Americans and the world rightfully needed to know but what their government wanted to keep concealed — from torturing inmates in prisons to snooping on individuals.
"Many of us believed that the torture policy was solely a Bush-era perversion. But many of these perversions, or at least efforts to cover them up or justify them, have continued under President Obama." We know that the United States is not a dictatorial state. But it often behaves like one and with impunity, oblivious of what Obama claimed — "The United States was founded on the idea that all people are endowed with inalienable rights, and that principle has allowed us to work to perfect our union at home while standing as a beacon of hope to the world."
Thirty ninth US President Jimmy Carter is right. The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights. The process has gained pace during the presidency of Barack Obama.
Obama administration pressured Yemen's leader to jail the reporter, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who exposed US lies about drone strikes at Al Qaeda base in Majala. Shaye exposed that it wasn't a drone strike. The US had actually bombed at Majala which killed several civilians. New York Times reporter James Risen was forced to admit that Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent, passed on him confidential information about the CIA's efforts to sabotage Iran's nuclear programme.
Sterling was indicted. Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency, was charged with espionage for exposing how the United States was wasting resources in the pretext of surveillance. Shamai Leibowitz, a former translator for the FBI, was jailed for passing on information to a blogger.
Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst and counter-terrorism consultant, was the "second person in US history to be charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), a law that was written to be used against rogues." He was punished for blowing the whistle on the CIA's torture programme and for confirming to the press.
Convicting whoever dared to blow the whistle on America's crimes Obama, no way different to his immediate predecessor George W. Bush, has proved that the empire hasn't changed. In fact, by drowning humanity and trampling human rights with impunity in its own criminality the United States and its Nobel laureate president have sent out a chilling message to all whistle-blowers—'challenge us and we will destroy you'.
Bradley Manning has been crushed and so shall be Edward Snowden if Obama's satraps can lay their hands on him. Thirty five years behind bars is a draconian verdict dished out to Manning which will completely destroy a youth. And for what? Only because he sought to warn his fellow citizens that their country was moving along a wrong path. He did not murder anyone neither did he pass on classified information to US enemies which could have put the United States and Americans into any peril.
Forget all that Obama stood for and professed before he stepped into the shoes of George W. Bush. Today, into his second term as the US President he is out to create an Orwellian matrix where he seeks disinformation to rein supreme, dissents nullified and thoughts controlled.
Manning, Snowden, Kiriakou, Shaye, Sterling, Drake, Leibowitz and others have all been punished like Prometheus for their defiance of the empire and emperor Barack Obama. In behaving like Zeus the emperor has raised a question in our minds. Is this the way democracy in America works? If so, it then offers us no qualitative difference than regimes that are not democratic.?
The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman