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ANATOMY OF TORTURE — Historian Christopher Dietrich on the 100-year-long history of American torture; Jeffrey St. Clair on the implications of giving impunity to the CIA’s torturers; Chris Floyd on how the US has exported torture to its client states around the world. David Macaray on the Paradoxes of Police Unions; Louis Proyect on Slave Rebellions in the Open Seas; Paul Krassner on the Perils of Political Cartooning; Martha Rosenberg on the dangers of Livestock Shot-up with Antibiotics; and Lee Ballinger on Elvis, Race and the Poor South. Plus: Mike Whitney on Greece and the Eurozone and JoAnn Wypijewski on Media Lies that Killed.
The Good, the Bad and the Preposterous

The Metamorphosis of Vladimir Putin

by ANDREW LEVINE

Suddenly last summer, Vladimir Putin, formerly once a decent enough Russian leader (with a few unsettling quirks), turned into a malevolent, almost demonic, force.

Congratulations to the American propaganda system for putting over this remarkable metamorphosis.

At the same time, the verdict on Barack Obama did not change – not last summer, not since he assumed office.

From the moment that it became clear that his presidency would be rife with “disappointments” and sparing in achievements, Democrats have maintained that he means well and would be a force for good – were it not for pesky Republicans thwarting his every move.

Republicans, meanwhile, have a different view.  For them, Obama has always been evil incarnate – like Putin now is, maybe worse. Hell, he may not even be a Christian, and he doesn’t “love America.”

Needless to say, the Republican take on Obama is preposterous. But then the liberal view is preposterous too. Disappointed Obamaphiles are not as in-your-face stupid as GOP Obamaphobes, but it is hard to say which is worse.

* * *

Obama’s first term was, for the most part, a continuation of George Bush’s second.

Winding down (repackaging) the never-ending wars Bush and Dick Cheney started in Afghanistan and Iraq was one of Obama’s principal objectives. Bush and Cheney had been working on this too, at least since 2006.

It was the same with 24/7 surveillance.   Obama’s predecessors got it going; then Obama picked up the ball and ran with it, taking it as far as he could.  In this case, there was not even a pretense of winding anything down; the point was to rev the snooping up.

The war on whistleblowers, and on investigative journalism generally, was more Obama’s obsession than Bush’s. But Bush and Cheney laid the groundwork; their goal too was to keep the public uninformed and therefore easier to control.

Under Obama, no one has been held accountable for Bush era war crimes. Not long into his first term, it became obvious why.

The administration’s line was that Obama wanted to “look forward,” to let bygones be bygones. So much for retributive justice. So much for honesty too; Obama’s excuse was a patent subterfuge.

His real reason for granting war criminals de facto immunity was that he wanted a free hand to do more of the same. And so he has, though with a few differences.

The Bush-Cheney way was to capture “bad guys” and “render” them out to be tortured in dark sites in client states, or else to imprison them indefinitely, usually without charges, in secret prisons overseas or at Guantanamo. Obama prefers to kill suspects on the spot – preferably with unmanned drones or, when that isn’t enough, with special ops assassins.

The tactics are different – in part, because, unlike...

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