Biden Vows to Continue Bush Policy Towards Iran

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden last Saturday outlined the Obama administration’s continuation of the Bush administration’s foreign policy towards Iran.

Reiterating the Bush policy of loosely defined “preventive” warfare outlined in Bush’s National Security Strategy, he said that the “U.S. will strive to act preventively to avoid having to choose between the risks of war and the dangers of inaction.”

Echoing the previous administration’s policy, Biden offered an ultimatum, saying the U.S. would be “willing to talk to Iran” but only if Iran acquiesces to the Obama administration’s demands to abandon its nuclear program.

Translated into meaningful terms, this effectively means the U.S. will continue to refuse to talk to Iran, since its nuclear program would be one of the major points Iran would like to negotiate.

The U.S. has accused Iran of having a nuclear weapons program, despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is actively monitoring and verifying Iran’s program and its commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), has repeatedly noted that there is no evidence that this is so, and despite the U.S. intelligence community’s own assessment that Iran today has no nuclear weapons program.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes.

Biden incongruously declared that his reiteration of the Bush policy was “a new tone in Washington”, and the Western media parroted the claim, offering no explanation for how the Obama policy Biden outlined was substantially different from that of the previous administration.

The New York Times called Biden’s remarks “a departure from the Bush administration”, failing to explain in what way it represented a “departure”.

The Associated Press reported in an analysis that “Biden promises foreign policy shifts”, while failing to observe that his “promises” of “pressure and isolation” if Iran does not submit to U.S. demands were exactly those of the Bush administration.

Even before the November elections that resulted in a victory for Barack Obama and his vice-presidential running mate Joseph Biden, Biden had strongly expressed that he favored the use of military force against Iran. When Israeli Army Radio reported that Biden firmly opposed the use of force against Iran’s nuclear facilities, his office strongly objected, with his press secretary David Wade calling it “a lie,” adding that “we will not tolerate anyone questioning Senator Biden’s 35-year record of standing up for the security of Israel” by suggesting he wouldn’t attack Iran.

The news coverage of the continuation of the foreign policy of the Bush administration has been expressed in similar terms on other issues. The move towards drawing down forces in Iraq, established under the Bush administration well prior to the inauguration of Barack Obama, has continuously been referred to as representative of a “shift” by Obama’s administration. The same holds true of the move to increase the number of military forces in Afghanistan, which was also a course firmly established during Bush’s final term.

When Obama issued a series of Executive Orders during the first days of his presidency, the Los Angeles Times declared: “Obama overturns Bush tactics in war on terrorism”. But the orders did little more than reiterate existing U.S. law, recognize court decisions that were made during the Bush administration, and respond minimally to enormous public pressure both at home and internationally.

In June 2008, the Supreme Court restored habeas corpus, ruling that prisoners held in the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were entitled to challenge their detention in a court of law.

In July, a U.S. Court of Appeals decided that the courts must be able to assess the reliability of the evidence before determining the status of prisoners, a shift from the Bush policy of simply declaring detainees “unlawful enemy combatants” without evidence.

While such court decisions did not call for the closure of the facility at Guantanamo, they eroded the shaky legal framework that defined the facility’s purpose, which was to provide a legal black hole where the rule of law did not apply.

Where Obama is able to continue Bush policies under color of law, he has already made it clear that he will do so. So, for instance, in solidarity with the Bush administration, Obama advisers told the Associated Press shortly after the November election that the new president would most likely prevent charges from being brought against CIA interrogators for having tortured prisoners.

The L.A. Times article noted above reported that Obama ordered to “permanently shut the CIA’s network of secret overseas prisons”, which had already come under intense international scrutiny. Pressure to close the not so secret CIA centers was growing with both the American public and with the public and governments of the countries where the centers are located. The Supreme Court in 2006 had ordered prisoners held by the CIA in such facilities to be transferred to Guantanamo.

At the same time, as another L.A. Times headline less than a week later observed, “Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool”. Reporting on a fact it had omitted in its earlier article, the Times noted “Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.”

One solution for dealing with Guantanamo detainees upon its closure, as ordered by President Obama to occur within a year, would be to render them to foreign governments to be held in prisons there, or possibly transfer to other U.S. military detention centers, such as at Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan, where court rulings such as the Supreme Court’s restoration of habeas corpus do not apply.

So far, the Obama administration has offered little in the way of evidence that it represents a significant “change” from the previous administration. Headlines proclaiming a “shift” and statements declaring a “departure” and “a new tone”, however, serve as useful propaganda to lull the public into a sense of accomplishment and optimism in order to ease public pressure on the government to press for substantial and measurable changes in policy.

The fact that Obama’s stated policies match almost exactly those of his predecessor are inconvenient to that end, however, and therefore must be rendered down Orwell’s memory hole.

Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor of Foreign Policy Journal, a website providing news, analysis, and opinion from outside the standard framework provided by government officials and the corporate media. He was among the recipients of the 2010 Project Censored Awards for outstanding investigative journalism and is the author of The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination. You can contact him at: Read other articles by Jeremy, or visit Jeremy's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. rosemarie jackowski said on February 11th, 2009 at 10:46am #

    Good article.
    No surprises with Biden. He has a long history. I always thought that he was ‘selected’ so the two of them could play ‘good cop, bad cop’. Sadly, it looks like we have two bad cops.
    About Iran and nukes – why should the US have any say there. Why should the only nation to have ever used nukes to kill people be the global nuke police. Actually, the US should pay reparations to Iran for past offences.

  2. bozh said on February 11th, 2009 at 12:14pm #

    whereas from ?1800-1945 US was largely on missions posibles or missions achievables (and achieved), it has been largely on missions impossibles since that time.
    koreas, palestine, ‘nam, afgh’n, laos, cambodia, pak’n, iran, iraq, syria, russia, china testify to US failures of differing magnitudes for each country.

    so, who are people who are guiding light in search for elusive peace ala america?
    so far, i haven’t heard a word about who these warlords are. it seems to me that army generals, pols are mere tip of the iceberg; there is much, much more underwater; oops, undeground than that. thnx

  3. dino said on February 11th, 2009 at 12:47pm #

    In Haaretz today Akiva Eldar trying to explain the succes of Kadima ended the article thus:

    Or perhaps the secret Kadima code is in the formula political strategist Reuven Adler used to lead Sharon and Olmert to power and repeated it for Livni: Kill as many Arabs as possible and talk as much as possible about peace.

    Today,one of the important newspaper from the free world deals with Ahmadinejad,the enemy of the free world and commented his desire to meet with an American diplomat on mutual respect- a wish which is derided-saying that all what he says are platitudes and he is a joke, a thing that can’t be said about Sharon,Olmert and Livni.
    After anyone reads the article the conclusion have to be bomb Iran

    On the streets of Tehran, even the hardliners are weary of presidential platitudes

    By Katherine Butler

    Wednesday, 11 February 2009

    It should have been the high point of festivities for the glorious 30th anniversary of Iran’s revolution. But 15 minutes or so into President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech, people began to leave.

    These were supposedly the hardliners, the most loyal and conservative of the President’s constituents, out in big numbers to honour the 1979 uprising. These are the people for whom the “death to America” rhetoric has played best over the years and who, we in the West assume, blindly back an uncompromising Iranian approach to the rest of the world.

    Yet among the crowds as Mr Ahmadinejad returned a tentative olive branch to Barack Obama, there was a strong sense that even these people were weary with the ritual denunciations and might be ready to contemplate a reconciliation with the US. There was also a firm hint that at least some, even in this flag-waving throng, were underwhelmed by Mr Ahmadinejad himself.

    Down in the front rows of the crowd, the chador-wearing women chanted with gusto. But where I stood, directly beneath the Azadi, or Liberty, monument – a 1970s-built monstrosity that symbolises the revolution – it felt more like a predictable football game as people chatted and joked during the speech and then, too soon perhaps as it turned out, headed early for the exits. “He’s talking bullshit,” one man said to another as they left.

    At that moment, Mr Ahmadinejad was boasting about aluminium production, the number of new phone lines installed and an apparent massive boost in tourism. “Is he talking about Iran?” one woman muttered to her husband. No mention of the 20 per cent inflation, chronic unemployment and economic crisis. And when Mr Ahmadinejad said Iran owed everything to Allah, another man quipped: “Let’s hope he doesn’t blame the high prices on God.”

    Many were genuinely moved, carrying placards saying “30 years of freedom, 30 years of glory”. Somayeh Shahi, 23, a student, confided that she “hated” the US and didn’t believe Mr Obama. “We don’t trust him,” she said. But the numbers were unimpressive (about 400,000 out of a city population of 10 million) for such an auspicious anniversary. And while there were no roars of approval when the President said he would be ready for dialogue, some in the crowd had already decided he should.”Yes it would be better for us to speak to Obama,” said Majid Ahmadi. “But the Americans must listen.”

    And among the millions of Iranians who stayed away, most, even if they support a tough nuclear policy, long for an end to isolation and reconciliation with the US. “You in the West have to decode what is going on,” said a student who sums up the Iranian paradox. She wears a full chador, yet thinks her President is “a joke” who has needlessly picked fights with the world Iranians never wanted. “People in Iran are not opposed to engagement with the US, as long as it is on equal terms.”

  4. Brian said on February 11th, 2009 at 6:09pm #

    Ah, continuity you can believe in.

    But of course, the whole Obama effort was about performance. And our spectator oriented, once every four years citizens love it.

  5. bozh said on February 12th, 2009 at 9:57am #

    one hopes that the theocratic and plutocratic gov’ts cld be either largely replaced or their powers decreased to some degree without bloodshed.

    in a plutocratic country like US, it can be done via enlightenment or thru strong second party or combining the two.
    the same scheme wld work for iran. actually, iranians have much greater chance to eliminate thocracy than USans its plutocracy.

    for one thing iranians appear much less indoctrinated/disinformed than amers. so that’s a big plus for iranians. thnx
    it seems that the “Dear Leader” in US is not the same as the “Dear Leader” in korea, iran, syria, afpak’n, iraq, kyrgystan. thnx