ITWASSOOTED: Not enough change.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Not enough change.

Letter from Glenn Greenwald's blog comment section

I had high hopes for the Obama Administration, but am extremely dismayed that when he said he stood for "change", it appears that what he really meant was "minor, incremental adjustments". He is trying to maintain a military empire that is running itself into the ground, and a financial system that has proven itself unsustainable. In short, he's trying to put things back to the way they were, and that's not going to happen. The empire is finished. We can pretend it will last forever, or we can adjust to the new reality.

Throughout his campaign, I thought Obama understood this fundamental, tectonic shift in world politics, and in his initial overtures to the World he appeared to bear this out. Unfortunately, there is simply no way to deny that by failing to aggressively investigate and, where warranted, prosecute perpetrators of torture, he is actively seeking to continue exempting America from obeying the laws where inconvenient or potentially impolitic. Furthermore, he is engaging in lawlessness all his own by bullying a longstanding ally and potentially damaging said alliance by threatening retaliation if that nation seeks to observe its own--and international--laws, to which it has bound itself. Contempt for the rule of law at the highest echelons of government breeds contempt all the way to the lowest levels of society.

It does not matter that there may be some justification or explanation for these criminal acts; few defendants in any courtroom do not offer some justification or rationale, and in theory these should not sway the judge or jury in considering guilt or punishment. Unfortunately, at this point that represents yet another, indirect violation of the Constitution, insofar as it is a breach of equal protection under the law; somewhere within our country is an invisible line, below which laws apply and above which they are suggestions.

In such circumstance, one cannot really say that any law exists at all, and that the only governing principles under which one should rationally operate are to do whatever you can get away with. All concepts of rectitude or morality become empty rhetoric, signifying nothing more than meaningless paeans to values long since obsolete.

One facet of this which is most depressing is that we Americans are fooling nobody but ourselves with these righteous yet vacuous platitudes in support of principles that we believe everyone should follow--but ourselves. While some in this country may believe that it doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks, that we can do what we want and they can't stop us, that is only true for now. It is not a state of nature, or a rule of biology that we enjoy the power to commit crimes with impunity, it is simply a matter of spending twice as much as the other 95% of the world combined does on war. Money we borrow from that 95%. To think that can last forever is madness.

Americans are exceptional only insofar as we declare ourselves to be, and currently play on a field where nobody can tell us otherwise. At some point, this will no longer be so. When that time comes, people will not remember America scolding their torture, condemning their invasions, vilifying their support of terrorists, or challenging them to observe the rule of law. They will remember that we did all of these things ourselves, and that the only principle we truly believe is "if it serves your immediate interests and no one can stop you, do it."

This is the principle enshrined in shows like 24, and supported in real life by a public that doesn't really like torture--but understands it was necessary and served a purpose at the time, so why make a big deal about it?

I grew up loving my country and everything it stood for, but lately I am beginning to wonder: That if what I loved--a country that believed in liberty, in freedom of speech, in the rule of law, in democracy and the right of all citizens to live free from government interference and surveillance--even existed, or if, in my younger days, I merely fell for the platitudes.

When I see "free speech zones" at political events, when cities like Miami can ban citizens from protesting the passage of laws they oppose, when the state of Indiana can charge protesters who oppose a particular highway project under the RICO statues, it saddens me. When I go to an airport and am subjected to demeaning, degrading violations of basic dignity just to travel within my country, or see that there is a secret list of who can and who can't fly, that if your name is on the list you must present your papers, please--before you are permitted the simple freedom of movement, it disgusts me.

The irony is that the laws in this country were initially designed to protect the weak from the strong, to secure the rights of every citizen from harassment or abuse. They have, of late, morphed into a grotesque parody of that ideal, and now protect the strong from the weak. It was such laws that led the first Americans to reject their government in the first place, which is why it is all the more depressing that Obama--himself allegedly a Constitutional "scholar"--would continue to support and in fact actively pursue, this oppressive and authoritarian view of the law. There is no further proof necessary that he supports this view than by making an illegal threat against an ostensible ally, in order to protect the most powerful nation in the world from a single, innocent man.
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