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Obama the Rock Star vs. Obama the Peacemaker

Much as Barack Obama may deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for changing the climate toward international diplomacy and recognizing the value in cooperating with the rest of the world, the prize seems more about congratulating the United States for breaking with the Bush go-it-alone attitude than for any great achievements or policy changes Obama has actually led, at least so far.

Americans’ surprise at the announcement may be best explained by a quick look at Obama’s domestic policies when it comes to the international war on terror — so let’s take a glance at Glenn Greenwald’s page today at Salon. Just below his discussion of Obama’s Nobel prize is a lengthy analysis of how the president, now with the help of Congress, has repeatedly suppressed evidence of war crimes committed by the previous administration.

From trying to exempt abuse photos from the Freedom of Information Act to dismissing torture cases on “state secrets” grounds, encouraging Congress to limit civil liberties protections against broad-based FBI snooping and refusing even to investigate cases where the Defense Department appears to have tortured detainees in its custody (let alone investigating the policymakers who approved of the abuse), the Obama administration has so far amassed a disappointing record on “peace”-related activities at home.

The Nobel Committee was obviously looking at different things when it made its award, and emphasized Obama’s ability to “capture the world’s attention” and offer people hope for the future. That’s a good start, and hopeful rhetoric is important and a welcome change for the so-called “leader of the free world.” But true diplomacy and progress and “peace” can’t come from hiding the brutality of the past.

So far, just as he’s promised a new diplomacy, the President has made lots of hopeful promises about a new transparency and accountability in government. He has yet to follow up on them.

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