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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dr. Obama & Mr. Hyde

Normally during their second term U.S. presidents reveal their true ambitions. Without the pressure of having to win a re-election at the end of the term, they have their hands free to implement all those unpopular policies that in their first term would have been suicidal but that are the ones that forge a presidential legacy.

For Obama, it was going to be hard to accomplish more than in the first four years. Obamacare and the closing chapter of Osama Bin Laden were a hard act to follow. All this, however, has gone out of the window. His legacy might be rather murky in the end.

Picture: Obama's twitter
The revelation of secrets involving the US government spying its own citizens has dented the image of the country both abroad -and this is the novelty- and within the US. Foreigners were already suspicious; Americans are now on board that train too. All this has made Obama into a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

It is remarkable to see the different opinions that held candidate Obama and President Obama. Several online videos illustrate how both Obamas could have perfectly had a debate with completely opposing views. As an example, take this video. There is another one that puts Obama to debate with Biden.

The truth is that the US President has promoted laws to protect those who leak information to the press. But at the same time, he has ensured that no one can do it without being considered a traitor. To get an idea, it would be like legalizing the use of hands to play soccer while banning at the same time touching the ball at all. And while Obama is defending the whistleblowers that are working towards building up the freedoms of citizens, his team also removed from the memory of his electoral program the mentions to all promises working on that line.

Obama's speech isn’t contradictory only when talking about whistleblowers. Take the global war on terrorism, for example. Obama has put a deadline on the military intervention in Afghanistan and he has decided that the conflict is over, just to have the Pentagon saying straight after that it actually will be around for 10 or 20 years more -which is like saying that it will never end.

That’s without mentioning other flops like Guantanamo, still there. Or the policy of use for drones, whose operations have grown exponentially since Obama is in the White House. There even have been ad-hoc laws created to legalize the targeted killing of Americans who belong to "associated forces" of Al-Qaeda, which in practice is a blank check to blast out anyone anywhere.

But undoubtedly the cases of Manning and Snowden are the ones that seem to have started the ball rolling at home. Manning has been held incommunicado for weeks, months, years, without knowing his future. Today he finally knew it: he will be considered a snitch, not a traitor. The saga is not over yet. There are 20 more charges that could lead to a more than 120 years sentence.

For Snowden it is more poignant. The journalist who he leaked the information to is facing already voices calling for his prosecution and a smear campaign. It’s a declaration of intentions and a warning to the press in general. It effectively coerces journalists who might land in the future on leaked information. They know what they must adhere to. Snowden, meanwhile, lives in an airport at the moment and probably he will never again have a normal life.

But neither will American citizens -or the rest of the world. Giants like Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook have been involved in a case that threatens something Americans defend to death: privacy.

Snowden’s support among American citizens is far greater than the one for Manning, basically because this time Americans rights are the ones that got violated; not some foreign people’s. PRISM has done far more damage to the Obama administration that the supposed dangers it was trying to protect them from.

Obama might be remembered as the president who killed bin Laden. Or the one who won a Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps as the one who created the basics of an egalitarian health system or the one who rescued the car industry. But he also might be remembered as the tyrant who spied, tortured and killed other Americans. And there isn’t any Nobel Peace Prize capable of cleaning that.

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Are you afraid? Well, this works in that way. First you do what scares you and it's later when you get the courage
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