Obama W. Bush Does His Banana Republic Thing

02/11/2011 11:26 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader or Glenn Greenwald or Paul Krugman or Chris Hedges or any number of Obama's leftwing critics call him a disgrace and worse -- ok, let's say it, a finkified hypocrite -- their opinions are dismissed on the right as the mutterings of ideologues who in some cases feel that they were jilted at the alter.

So let's quote a rightwinger, the columnist Ross Douthat, who writes in today's NYT:

[A]fter two years in office we can say with some certainty where Barack Obama's instincts really lie. From the war on terror to the current unrest in Egypt, his foreign policy has owed far more to conservative realpolitik than to any left-wing vision of international affairs.

And that's not all.

On nearly every anti-terror front, from detainee policy to drone strikes, the Obama administration has been what the Washington Times's Eli Lake calls a "9/14 presidency," maintaining or even expanding the powers that George W. Bush claimed in the aftermath of 9/11.

This is not news to anyone who keeps up with the news.

But anyway, according to Douthat, despite a brief flirtation with "new strategies" on Israel-Palestine and Iran, the Obama White House "soon reverted to the policy status quo of Bush's second term."

Indeed, from the twilight struggle over Iran's nuclear program -- featuring sanctions, sabotage, and the threat of military force -- to the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, this White House's entire approach to international affairs looks like a continuation of the Condoleezza Rice-Robert Gates phase of the Bush administration.

If anybody -- right, left, center, or on the moon -- hasn't got the message about Egypt,

...it's clear that the administration's real goal has been to dispense with Mubarak while keeping the dictator's military subordinates very much in charge. If the Obama White House has its way, any opening to democracy will be carefully stage-managed by an insider like Omar Suleiman, the former general and Egyptian intelligence chief who's best known in Washington for his cooperation with the C.I.A.'s rendition program.

Douthat calls Obama's policy "cold-blooded" and praises him for it. Naturally. He says the American public should feel "a certain measure of relief" that "this liberal president's foreign policy instincts have turned out to be so temperamentally conservative." I wouldn't call it relief. How about disgust. What he doesn't say is that Chomsky, Nader, Greenwald and others like them on the left who didn't walk down the aisle with Obama had him pegged all along.

Check this out from frisky Robert Fisk, about the envoy Obama sent to Cairo, Frank Wisner, who has

connections with the litigation firm Patton Boggs, which openly boasts that it advises "the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government's behalf in Europe and the US."

"Oddly," Fisk writes, "not a single journalist raised this extraordinary connection with US government officials -- nor the blatant conflict of interest it appears to represent." (Certainly not in this flattering NYT profile.)

And he quotes his source for the info about Wisner, Nicholas Noe, cited as "an American political researcher now based in Beirut," who is "also a former researcher for Hillary Clinton":

"Even in past examples where presidents have sent someone 'respected' or 'close' to a foreign leader in order to lubricate an exit, the envoys in question were not actually paid by the leader they were supposed to squeeze out!"

Should it have surprised Obama & Co. -- if it did -- that Wisner made a "robust call for Mubarak to remain in place"? Watch this. Then read "The Egyptian Mirror."

Postscript -- Essential reading from emptywheel at firedoglake: "No wonder Obama has no problem pushing our Egyptian torturer, Omar Suleiman, to lead Egypt. It's completely consistent with our own practice of promoting our own torturers."

There's Matt, who froze Gul Rahman to death in the Salt Pit. Paul, his boss and the CIA Station Chief of Afghanistan, who ignored Matt's requests for more help at the prison. There's Albert, who staged a mock execution of Rahim al-Nashiri, and his boss, Ron, the Station Chief in Poland, who witnessed the forbidden technique and did nothing to stop it. There's Frances, the analyst who was certain that Khaled el-Masri had to be the terrorist with a similar name, and Elizabeth, the lawyer who approved Frances' decision to have el-Masri rendered and tortured. There's Steve, the CIA guy who interrogated Manadel al-Jamadi and, some say, effectively crucified him. There's Gerry Meyer, the Baghdad station chief, and his deputy, Gordon, who permitted the ghost detainee system in Iraq. And of course, there's Jennifer Matthews, the Khost station chief who ignored warnings about Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi that might have prevented his attack (and her own death).

These are the CIA officers responsible for the Agency's biggest known fuck-ups and crimes since 9/11.

emptywheel bases all of that on an AP story "tracking what happened to those officers." The AP! Not exactly a leftwing institution.

The AP story, At CIA, grave mistakes, then promotions -- written under the banner of AP IMPACT, a tenacious, brilliant, productive investigative team -- "finds that few [CIA officers] were held accountable," as firedoglake characterizes the story's conclusion, "particularly not senior officers, and even those who were reprimanded have continued to prosper in the agency."

The AP story has a matter-of-fact tone. It goes like this:

[CIA director Leon] Panetta agreed there were widespread problems. But, in a move that's been compared to former CIA Director Porter Goss' decision not to hold an accountability review for the failures before 9/11, Panetta opted not to punish anyone.

The director explained his reasoning to journalists in October.

"The conclusion was that the blame just didn't rest with one individual or group of individuals," Panetta said. "That there were some systemic failures that took place here."

It was a collective failure, Panetta said. So nobody was held accountable.

Ain't that sweet ... our reflection in the Egyptian mirror tells us how ugly we are.