Thursday, March 15, 2012

Obama presses to keep journalist in jail

Via Glenn Greenwald, here is a link to a video that explains the entire situation. If you don't feel like watching the video here is a summary:

The Obama administration is facing scrutiny for its role in the imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist who exposed how the United States was behind a 2009 bombing in Yemen that killed 14 women and 21 children. In January 2011, a Yemeni state security court gave the journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a five-year jail sentence on terrorism-related charges following a disputed trial that was condemned by several human rights and press freedom groups. Within a month of Shaye’s sentencing, then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he was going to pardon the journalist. But Saleh changed his mind after a phone call from President Obama. Thirteen months later, Shaye remains behind bars.

These drone strikes are ridiculous. Beyond the question of whether the targets are really terrorists and have committed crimes, which is a very important question, the fact that such strikes are killing so many innocent people is unacceptable and arguably counterproductive. Think about the reaction this situation would get if the roles were reversed. If the British gov't bombed a suspected IRA member living in the US and happened to kill 20 innocent American women and children in the process, the American public would be outraged, and rightfully so.

Yet this situation in Yemen is probably not even known about by most Americans. And I'd wager that most of those who do know about it don't have much of a problem with it because the Obama administration is largely given a pass with whatever they do in the name of the war on terror.

At least they haven't tried to kill this journalist. That's something considering the Obama administration claims it can kill people they suspect of being a terrorist. I guess they don't try to use that power because this guy is already in jail and probably doesn't meet their standard for "imminent threat". Still, keeping a journalist in jail for being suspected of being a terrorist without providing any evidence is an abuse of power. And the fact that Obama himself made the call to persuade the Yemen gov't to keep him in jail puts the criticism and accountability directly on him and demonstrates just how hands on he is in these abuses of power.

I've been extremely critical of the GOP candidates for president. But just because I think they would be worse presidents than Obama (though at this point, on these issues, I'm questioning that assumption) doesn't mean Obama should escape criticism and accountability. We need to hold his feet to the fire on these issues which not only might harm our interests in countries like Yemen, but also results in the crimes of killing innocent people. It's unacceptable no matter who does it and under the vast majority of situations.

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