By going beyond the closure of Guantánamo Bay to shut the CIA’s international network of interrogation centres and ban the use of rendition and torture, Barrack Obama has won a significant battle in the true war on terror.
In a signing ceremony every bit as significant as a military victory Obama announced: ‘We are not, as I said during the inauguration, going to continue with the false choice between our safety and our ideals.’
Bush’s decision to fight fire with fire had reduced the moral high ground to scorched earth, Obama has made restoring it a priority.
In Britain foreign secretary David Miliband anticipated the change in mood, explaining why the UK no longer supports a ‘war on terror’ leaving some, like the Telegraph’s Con Coughlin confused: ‘If there isn’t a war on terror, then what exactly are our boys dying for?’
Con Coughlin could begin his education by reading this of diary of a Pakistani schoolgirl, who receives death threats for seeking an education in defiance of a Taleban order that has closed schools that teach girls; they regularly attack schools and assassinate teachers.
Con Coughlin could go on to consider Saddam’s near genocide against the Marsh Arabs, who’s population fell from 250,000 in 1991 to 40,000 a little over ten years later: many, says Human Rights Watch, were ‘arbitrarily held, tortured, “disappeared,” or executed’.
The war achieved more good: the Marsh Arabs’ homelands are partly restored. Ninety per cent of the area some claim was the biblical Garden of Eden, was deliberately turned to desert as part of Saddam’s attempted genocide.
The big but is that the simplistic ‘war on terror’ was used to justify subverting the rule of law, torture and many more abuses. It encouraged and enabled the corruption of noble war aims; Obama’s challenge is to make that right.