Thursday, October 04, 2007

We know what we are: Torture and the end of the American exception

Today the NYT revealed that the Bush administration lied when they said they'd cut back on torture. I won't bother quoting the original article because I assume only the most dimwitted are surprised. Cheney, Bush, Gonzales and their cronies are snakes. The reactions are more interesting, here's a very edited version of Greenwald's response:
Glenn Greenwald - Political Blogs and Opinions - Salon

Much outrage has been provoked by the generally excellent New York Times article this morning revealing the Bush administration's recent violations of legal restrictions on the use of torture and other "severe interrogation techniques." And, in one sense, the outrage is both understandable and appropriate. Today's revelations involve the now-familiar, defining attributes of this administration -- claims of limitless presidential power, operating in total secrecy and with no oversight, breaking of laws at will, serial misleading of the Congress and the country and, most of all, the shattering of every previous moral and legal constraint on our national behavior.

But in another, more important, sense, this story reveals nothing new. As a country, we've known undeniably for almost two years now that we have a lawless government and a President who routinely orders our laws to be violated. His top officials have been repeatedly caught lying outright to Congress on the most critical questions we face. They have argued out in the open that the "constitutional duty" to defend the country means that nothing -- including our "laws" -- can limit what the President does.

It has long been known that we are torturing, holding detainees in secret prisons beyond the reach of law and civilization, sending detainees to the worst human rights abusers to be tortured, and subjecting them ourselves to all sorts of treatment which both our own laws and the treaties to which we are a party plainly prohibit. None of this is new.

And we have decided, collectively as a country, to do nothing about that. Quite the contrary, with regard to most of the revelations of lawbreaking and abuse, our political elite almost in unison has declared that such behavior is understandable, if not justifiable. And our elected representatives have chosen to remain largely in the dark about what was done and, when forced by court rulings or media revelations to act at all, they have endorsed and legalized this behavior -- not investigated, outlawed or punished it...

... We all know what has happened to our standing in the world, to our national character and our core political values, as a result of the previously unthinkable policies the Bush administration has relentlessly pursued. Ignorance or incredulity can no longer explain our acquiescence. Accommodating and protecting the lawbreaking of high Bush officials is widely seen by our Beltway elite as a duty of bipartisanship, a hallmark of Seriousness...

... The NYT article today reveals new facts about the administration's lawbreaking, lying, and pursuit of torture policies which we had decided, with futility, to outlaw. The Congress could aggressively investigate. Criminal prosecutions could be commenced. Our opinion-making elite could sound the alarm. New laws could be passed, reversing the prior endorsements and imposing new restrictions, along with the will to enforce those laws. We still have the ability to vindicate the rule of law and enforce our basic constitutional framework.

But does anyone actually believe any of that will be the result of these new revelations? We always possess the choice -- still -- to take a stand for the rule of law and our basic national values, but with every new day that we choose not to, those Bush policies become increasingly normalized, increasingly the symbol not only of "Bushism" but of America.
Glenn, we know what we are, we've proven that beyond a reasonable doubt. Nobody on the right, left, or center says "it can't happen here" any longer. We're probably a bit too heterogeneous to make great Nazis, but we could do some noisier variant thereof. We are a flawed nation with a nasty past and a weak moral core -- like Japan, China, Russia, Germany, France, Mexico, Brazil, the UK, Zimbabwe, Uganda and, really, most of the world excepting the Scandinavians and maybe Canada.

American "exceptionalism" was always a fraud, but now nobody believes it.

We can still aspire to a higher ground, but it will take a generational effort. The boomers have failed America's better self, we can only hope future generations are made of better stuff.

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