This excellent cross post to ACLU’s blog by Glen Greenwald shows just how effective Obama was in framing his candidacy as one about ‘issues’ without really stating what those issues are, or where he stands on a great number of them. Greenwald points out the host of questions that remain about just civil liberties even after Obama’s fairly extensive 60 Minutes interview – I think it’s particularly important to note that ‘closing Guantanamo’ could mean a wide variety of things, including some that would be much worse than whatever it is now. The camp provides a visible symbol that you can visit and monitor, but if prisoners are moved to black sites around the world, then everyone will have a much harder time keeping tabs on them. Obama somehow made an end run around actually discussing any of these things, but still managed to berate McCain for avoiding ‘the issues.’
Tag Archives: torture
all I’ve got on the Mumbai attack so far:
Two incidents about how this event is being framed.
First from the BBC: the day after the Mumbia ‘standoff’ finished, there was a riot in Nigeria that killed 200 people. This is the counterpoint to all the vague moralizing about the loss of human life on the coverage of the Mumbai attack, because it has garnered only a tiny fraction of the Mumbai attack’s press. The (false) report that the attackers targetted ‘westerners’ is one big reason why this became as big as it did: the attack was against the ‘west’ and the friends of the west – it had little to do with loss of life.
Second, from Andrew Sullivan: within a few hours, he made two posts about torture. one was about US torture policy, which he refers to as the “Bush Cheney Torture Regime“. However, when discussing torture committed by the (presumed) Islamic terrorists in Mumbai… the big rhetoric comes out. In this case, we’re dealing with “Barbarians“. Another shameless and senseless pro-west bias that taints an effective analysis of what just went down in Mumbai.
I’m not particularly happy with the idea of Brennan as the head of the CIA – but then again, I’m not particularly OK with the CIA in the first place. Anyways, there’s also a problem with the idiotic rhetoric of ‘opening a debate‘ about the use of torture. I definiately don’t take issue with debates – I’m pleased with the defeat of a challenge to NYU’s Coke ban in a debate, to cite the most recent example – but I’m fairly sure that any ‘national debate’ about torture will look nothing like a productive discussion about torture, or state violence. The terms of the debate will be left up entirely to people like Brennan – not only will he choose what people talk about, but also the forum in which they do it, and the terms in which it is described. The cacaphony of a truely national debate will be reduced to the talking points of a hoarde of ‘national security experts’ and other apologists for the exercise of US military power.
Here’s the point: I don’t think debate is a problem, but in the narrow, imagistic environment that constitutes public discourse, the idea of a ‘debate’ all too often only serves as a fig-leaf to media campaigns meant to justify some pretty fucked up stuff, and I’m not buying it.
Both major parties showed some serious lack of fortitude in their failure to reprimand either (soon to be frmr) Senator Ted Stevens or Joe Lieberman. While Uncle Ted will saw his day in court – and will soon he his day in prison – Joe will go more or less scott-free for his transgressions (which were of a different magnitude that Ted, but still).
The point is this: after an administration that tortures people to death, the first step towards making sure that rampant abuse of executive power and torture doesn’t occur again is open and earnest prosecutions of the folks at the top. The Senate’s unwillingness to even really second guess either of these folks – particularly Lieberman, who Greenwald points out as a head cheerleader for the downright evil shit both parties let go down in the last 8 years or so – signals that no one close to the President will be publicly or legally reprimanded for their crimes. And that is a disturbing precedent.
I think Glen Greenwald does some of the best writing on American politics online – yesterday he took Joe Biden to task for referring to Barack Obama as ‘our future Commander in Chief,’ a phrase with strong authoritarian overtones considering that Obama refuses to even discuss the US policy of executive-led torture and voted to authorize wiretapping.
“Commander in Chief” does not mean “our chief who commands us” – it has a legal context, which Greenwald points out, is ‘Commander in Chief of the Armed forces of the US.’ All it means is that people in the armed forces have to listen to him when he says ‘jump.’
The surging use of the phrase has more to do with rhetoric than the law. It sounds so good in the mouth, marshals so much authority, even if it means almost nothing. Ditto for the effort to label US detainees “enemy combatants,” a term that John Yoo & Co. just sort of pulled out of thin air to run interference for torturing people to death. Both provide words for the President to parrot on the teevee while lawyers work overtime in the boring annals of our legal system, trying to authorize unacceptable bullshit. They effectively stave off real criticism of the legal implications of the President’s actions while the folks in the executive branch do the dirty work of undermining democracy.