End of the Obama Era

Official portrait of Barack Obama
Official portrait of Barack Obama, by Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project [CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons”
At 11:47a Eastern, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States.  As that happened, Barack Obama joined the ex-President’s club, leaving behind a legacy that will probably take a little time to truly comprehend.  Just as Bill Clinton benefited from slow-developing policies enacted by George H.W. Bush, it can take years before a President’s actions are truly understood.

I’m not ashamed–why would I be?–to admit that I voted for Obama in 2008 based on his promises to clean up the messes left behind by George W. Bush. And there were certainly messes, not the least of which–but probably the most obvious–was the near-collapse of the economy.  The problems in America, however, were so much deeper.  George W. Bush had presided over an administration which had flouted international human rights norms through its policies of extraordinary renditions, operation of so-called Black Sites and Gitmo, torture, and specious spying on Americans.  Obama ran on a platform that promised to end these abuses, promised to provide greater transparency, and promised to curtail the abuses of the Bush Administration.

So, how’d Obama do?

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Extraordinary Rendition–Convictions

It’s been awhile since extraordinary rendition has been in the news, but the Italians have done something that is both unexpected and not surprising.  It’s unexpected because it isn’t often that CIA agents are convicted of anything anywhere, and it’s not surprising because they were tried in absentia.

The convictions involve 23 CIA agents who allegedly kidnapped a very influential Italian Imam–Abu Omar–off the streets of Milan, and then sneaked him off somewhere, where he was then allegedly tortured.  The Italians have, from time to time, thought of having the agents extradited from the United States, but nothing ever came of that (mainly because the Secretary of State would never authorize the extradition, and it would cause diplomatic friction, so Italian authorities never pursued the matter).  In lieu of that, then, the Italians opted to try the agents in absentia and now they have been convicted.  (Link)  It really doesn’t mean a whole lot from a practical perspective other than that the agents are pretty much barred from going to Europe now.