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From the Blog
At first, it seems like a simple choice. Â You have an urbane, eloquent and charismatic man of undeniable skill. A man who has likely invited one or more of your Facebook friends to the White House Iftar and has even hired a few Muslims, one being hired with a statement mentioning his qualifications as being âHafiz-ul-Quran.â Â How can we not be impressed?
On the other hand, you have Romney, a cartoonishly evil âvulture capitalist,â known to do mafia style âbust-outsâ and style himself a job creator by doing so. Â A man who seems beholden to an increasingly racist and fear-driven right wing, who has hired extreme anti-Muslim ideologues as senior advisors. Â Itâs all so scary. Â Â
What kind of choice do we really have?
Voting is our duty to voice our own self-determination, even if our chosen candidate will certainly lose. I consider the menu of âthird party candidatesâ legitimate options. Â Having a vote, having a say in our governance is fundamental to our dignity. Â Exercising this right through a sense of fear, of resignation (lesser of two evils), ignorance or by defying the ruler affords us none of the dignity associated with a democratic system. Â In other words, wasting your vote. Â
I associate my own dignity with that of humanity. Â Â With the rule of Obama, I grieve for the state of humanity and the extent to which it has suffered. Â I think of Tarek Aziz, who at 16 attended an Anti-Drone conference, and 72 hours later was summarily executed in North Waziristan with his 12-year-old cousin, Waheed Khan. They were not given an opportunity to surrender; they were not accused or charged with any crime. These young people were simply burned alive by a âhellfireâ missile. Â
I consider the continued imprisonment in Yemen ofAbdulelah Haider Shaye, a journalist who reported the facts after the Obama Administration and the Yemeni government lied about a cruise missile strike inMajala, revealing that instead of âmilitants,â the butcherâs bill included 14 women and 21 children, along with pictures of the dead and the âmade in the USAâ armaments. Â The Yemeni government imprisoned Shaye for being a journalist, but the then President of Yemen had a pardon on his desk ready for signature, until President Obama personally called him to stop the release. Â
I consider hissupport for torturers in the legal system. Â For the use of the stateâs secret privilege (so eloquentlyopposed by Obama 4 years ago) in favor of corporations that illegally violate the privacy of Americans at his behest, as well as to shield the government from any legal accountability for anything it wishes to not be accountable for: the continued use ofrendition to other countries for torture, the continued oppression and reign of evil that isGuantanamo, and Â the special Muslim prisons known as Communications Management Units. I consider his continued defense of a recently passed law that allows the military to detain anyone indefinitely without charge. Â While so far there is an injunction against this law in Federal Court, the Obama Administration has refused to tell the court if it has abided by this injunction (by not kidnapping someone into military custody). Â Â Â
He has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all American Administrations put together. Â
Whistleblowers are often theheroes of American democracy, or what is left of it. People likeBradley Manning, accused by the government of leaking the âcollateral murderâvideo showing American helicopters opening fire on individuals who did not seem to pose a threat to them (one was a Reuters reporter), then following on with attacking those who attempted to aid them, another war crime. Â The Obama Administration cleared the soldiers, who could plainly be seen committing atrocities, but severely punished Manning. Â Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is as committed as ever to âdouble-tapâ attacks against rescuers, which discourages anyone from rescuing or even photographing attacks, leaving the injured with no aid so they may suffer. Â Obamapersonally vouched for Manningâs guilt before any trial (which has still not taken place), and his administration treated him with pretrial punishment that was degrading and tortuous, and saw to it that a fair trial for Manning will be impossible. Â Â This is not to say that he is against leaks, as his administration has been generous in leading âclassified intelligenceâ in a manner that glorifies Obama. He will, however, aggressively prosecute anything that leads to the governmentâs embarrassment. Â
Indeed, in Obamaâs America, trials are an optional way of establishing guilt and meting out the ultimate punishment. Â His Attorney General announced that when Obama chooses, the âdue processâ guarantee of the U.S. Constitution does not mean âjudicial process.â Â The regime of Grand Juries, Judges, Jury of your peers, confronting your accusers, being charged with something, is all swept away if he wishes it so. Â If there is a difference between Obamaâs justice system or the dark ages, it would be lost on 16 year old Colorado-born Abdul Rahman Awlaqi, whose body was torn into pieces by Obamaâs version of âdue processâ as he had dinner with another teenage cousin, who was also killed. Â A special form of âdue processâ exists, however, for those who commit atrocities at the governmentâs behest. Â Recently, The New York Times reported that CIA employees who tortured and killed during the Bush Administration will not be prosecuted. Â This follows a nearly uninterrupted pattern of protecting oppressors and oppression while encouraging oppression. Â
I fully acknowledge that by voting against Obama, I am not actually changing anything, only registering my own discontent with the injustice I see. Â I do wish the Republican party presented itself as a more palatable choice, or that enough Americans cared about these issues for it to register with politicians. Â That is not our reality. It is imperative that instead of voting for either Obama or Romney, I vote for my own dignity and the dignity of humanity. Â To me, this means voting for neither. Â
Ahmed Shaikh is a self-employed attorney living in Irvine, California.Â