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I sat at Harpo’s Bar and Grill on Tuesday mid-morning and watched Barrack Obama get sworn in as the first black(ish) President of the United States. Forty years ago – not too far back at all – black people were still fighting for equal rights and now one is president. I don’t think this means the US is not a racist country, but I do think it’s a huge step forward. I think Obama will do some great things and I know that we are a safer, stronger, better-off country with George W Bush not in the White House. I had cautious optimism leaving Harpo’s; I didn’t cry or think my activism work was done, but I was excited. When – the next day – President Obama acted to shut down Guantanamo and other secret prisons and end torture (along with some transparency orders that I’m not too familiar with) I almost got caught up in the blind hope. Then, yesterday I had a class with a guest speaker. The man speaking was intelligent; he has a radio show, has been involved in protests and activism since the Civil Rights movement, is very well spoken, and has a borderline obsessive love for Barrack Obama (who he – as well as others in the class – kept calling Barrack, which – in my opinion – is strange). After sitting in a room for three hours and listening to a dozen people go on and on about how Obama is the second coming, I was snapped out of my dreamland.

For the past eight years, the insane group that was in charge of our country destroyed the constitution, killed millions of people, practically took away all our civil rights, and ignored national and international law. If I did this, I would be facing massive amounts of charges right now, but for some reason these men and women are going to walk free, spending the next 5 (in the case of Cheney) to 50 (in the case of some of the younger psychopaths) years profiting off of what they have done. Obama has said that he will not make these obviously guilty people face charges- even though the majority of the rest of the world is demanding trials, or at least investigations into the almost uncountable amount of war crimes that have taken place. The Anonymous Liberal – who is a “litigator at a large national law firm” – says that the Bushies deserve to face charges, but shouldn’t. He claims that there is no way to convict them – because of their ability to amass a “dream team” of lawyers – so it’s better that we shouldn’t try. I agree that pressing charges against any of the major players – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Rice – would somewhat divide the country, and probably result in not-guilty verdicts, but these people committed internationally recognized war crimes! It was hard work to convict the Nazis, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t try. Even if years are spent trying to convict these men and women, and not one case results in a guilty verdict, they will still have to face the world and answer questions about what they have done. What’s to stop future presidents – or anyone else with power and money – from doing what these people have done? And worse, if they know they will never be held accountable then what’s the deterrent? This may be “looking backwards”, but if Obama has any sense of right and wrong, he will pursue it.

My main reason for being cynical about the next four years is that while Mr. Obama is acting to (probably) stop torture, with the other side of his face he is allowing the murder of more innocent people. I’m not even talking about the fact that he will keep permanent bases in Iraq, send more troops to Afghanistan, and possibly endanger more human lives in Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and elsewhere. Our new President has kept silent for the past month and a half about the situation in Gaza because “we only have one president at a time”. Obama apologists everywhere were quick to agree, despite the fact that he spoke out about almost everything else that is affecting the United States. Now, Mr. Obama is president, and what did he do? He blames the Palestinians for the brutal attacks that have been visited on them, and thinks turning power to a corrupt government full of puppets will solve everything. Not once did he condemn Israel or mention the fact that we enable them to carry out war crimes. I won’t analyze his speech any further, but will instead direct you to read Chris Floyd. I’ll say one last thing though- Israel is using the oldest, most successful tool in the genocide book- divide and conquer. If the Palestinians were able to all agree that the fact that it is unacceptable that Israel is occupying their country, there would be no more need for weapons.

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