The radicalism of our political system outstrips one's ability to mock it; plus: Manning and Bales are together VIDEO
Topics: Politics News
(1) A reader reminded me of this yesterday and it’s really quite something: in July, 2009, NBC‘s Chuck Todd went on Morning Joe to defend President Obama’s decision to shield all Bush officials from prosecution for torture, arguing that because Bush got his lawyers to say he could torture, it was legal. I interviewed/debated Todd a couple of days later about those views, but before I did, I wrote a reply to the argument he made on television. When doing so, I tried to think of the most extreme tyrannical and lawless power possible which a President could hypothetically assert, in order to reveal the invalidity of Todd’s reasoning, and this is what I wrote:
I’d like to ask Chuck Todd: if Bush had John Yoo write a memo opining that it was perfectly legal for Bush to deploy hit squads within the U.S. to assassinate American citizens without any due process, would it be wrong to investigate and prosecute that, too, on the ground that everyone had permission slips from a DOJ lawyer and that’s just what lawyers do?
The current President has, of course, obtained his own DOJ permission slip to assassinate American citizens without due process. Since that permission slip is too secret for us to see, we do not know whether the authorized assassination power is confined to foreign soil or extends to the U.S., although once one embraces the Bush-Cheney-Yoo theory that the entire world is a “battlefield,” there is no coherent way to limit those asserted powers to foreign soil. In any event, the real point here is that our government has become so radical and warped that it outstrips one’s ability to create absurd hypothetical powers to test the validity of a principle: before you blink your eyes, you find that your hypothetical has become reality.
(2) Yesterday, the Obama administration — which, in the past six months alone, has killed three American citizens in Yemen: Anwar Awlaki, Samir Khan, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman — smashed the limits of all known irony charts:
The only civilized way to kill Americans in Yemen is through the use of drones. Or, put another way: killing Americans in Yemen: that’s our job — not the job of you Terrorists!
(3) After Bradley Manning was arrested on charges that he leaked documents to WikiLeaks, he was held in intense solitary confinement for ten months until political pressure finally forced his transfer to more humane conditions in Fort Leavenworth; the top U.N. torture official last week concluded that Manning’s treatment during those 10 months was “cruel and inhumane.” By stark contrast, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales — the prime suspect in the slaughter of 16 Afghan civilians — is already at Fort Leavenworth and is receiving this treatment:
Bales arrived at Fort Leavenworth last Friday and is being held in an isolated cell. He is “already being integrated into the normal pretrial confinement routine,” prison spokeswoman Rebecca Steed said.
The routine includes recreation, meals and cleaning the area where he is living. Steed said once his meetings with his attorneys are complete later in the week, Bales will resume the normal integration process.
An ABC News article back when Manning was transferred to Fort Leavenworth included these details:
The 150 inmates at the facility — including eight who are awaiting trial — are allowed three hours of recreation a day, she said, and three meals a day in a dining area.
That likely means that there will be some substantial interaction between Bales and Manning. Think about that: if you expose to the world previously unknown evidence of widespread wanton killing of civilians (as Manning allegedly did), then you will end up in the same place as someone who actually engages in the mass wanton killing of civilians (as Bales allegedly did), except that the one who committed atrocities will receive better treatment than the one who exposed them. That’s a nice reflection of our government’s value system (similar to the way that high government officials who commit egregious crimes are immunized, while those who expose them are aggressively prosecuted). If the chat logs are to be believed, Manning decided to leak those documents because they revealed heinous war crimes that he could no longer in good conscience allow to be concealed, and he will now find himself next to a soldier who is accused of committing heinous war crimes.
(4) I have an Op-Ed in The Guardian on the quick removal of Bales from Afghanistan and the resulting exclusion of Afghans from the investigation into what happened. Today, The New York Times explains the serious difficulties this could pose to Bales’ prosecution:
The case could founder in the courtroom on questions of evidence collected under difficult conditions thousands of miles away, . . . .Gathering evidence and securing the cooperation of witnesses can be bedeviling in far-flung places, and contributed to the collapse of the prosecutions against Marines linked to the killings of 24 men, women and children in the Iraqi city of Haditha. Charges were dropped against most of the Marines who were tried in that case.
Perhaps trying him in Afghanistan would have solved those problems. It is true that American soldiers accused of commiting crimes are not legally subject to the Afghan judicial system, but that does not mean that their trials cannot take place in Afghanistan, thus ensuring the inclusion of Afghans in the investigation and the subsequent attempts to bring justice to those who deserve it.
(5) There are a couple of articles that have appeared in the last week or so about the willingness of many Democrats to passively accept or even actively cheer for policies under President Obama that they vehemently condemned (or would have condemned) under President Bush: this from Politico, and this from Tim Carney at The Washington Examiner. Back in June, 2009, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert — once an ardent admirer of President Obama — wrote a column lambasting his civil liberties record, and this was the first sentence in Herbert’s column: “Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House.” At the time, I truly did not fathom how that principle — which really should just be an unstated axiom — would not only come to be so controversial but routinely violated and ignored.
(6) In November, 2011, Jonathan Chait wrote an article for New York Magazine castigating liberals as “unreasonable” for failing to revere President Obama as much as Chait does. Today, Chait wrote an article entitled “How Obama Tried to Sell Out Liberalism in 2011” about a new Washington Post piece detailing the President’s attempts last year to massively cut Social Security and other entitlement programs without any new revenue. Chait concludes: “What the story actually shows is that Obama’s disastrous weakness in the summer of 2011 went further toward undermining liberalism than anybody previously knew.” This was the essence of Chait’s accusation back when he was in Obama-hagiography mode: “Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president.” The Prime Progressive Pundit Principle: The permissible range of Obama criticism is precisely equal to the amount that I criticize Obama.
Meanwhile, Chait’s primary competitor for supreme Obama media defender, Andrew Sullivan, has spent this week doing what he often does: insisting that President Obama is a True Conservative, and that the Right is therefore irrational for not adoring him the way that Andrew does. Notably, Andrew is equally fond of attacking liberals who fail to adore the President as much as Andrew does, on the ground that Obama has achieved more progressive goals than any President in decades. In other words, Andrew’s core defense of the President — set forth most comprehensively in his Newsweek cover story declaring the President’s critics on both the right and the left to be basically stupid and crazy – amounts to simultaneously claiming that: (1) conservative critics of Obama are dumb because Obama is a Real Conservative; and (2) liberal critics of the President are dumb because Obama’s presidency is a bonanza of progressive successes. As Guy Saperstein put it: “The fact that these two critiques are internally inconsistent has somehow managed to escape Mr. Sullivan.”
What seems to permit these simultaneously held views is the belief that President Obama’s personal greatness is so vast and profound (perhaps deserving of Mount Rushmore elevation given the pile of corpses he’s assembled) that he is actually both The Great Conservative President and The Great Liberal President all rolled into one. He deserves the gratitude and admiration of everyone regardless of their agreement with his policies and actions: that’s how fantastic he is as a leader. That said, Andrew really seemed to enjoy the White House state dinner to which he was invited last week, including his “warm chat with the president” and discovering “the impact that the Newsweek Obama cover-story had on Obama donors and staffers,” so that’s good. It’s important and gratifying as a journalist to know that you’ve given something of great value to a politician’s donors and staffers; isn’t that why the Founders insisted on a free press?
(7) I was on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story yesterday debating the material support given to MEK, a designated Terrorist group, by many of Washington’s most well-connected former officials. It was a robust and contentious debate, well worth watching, and I’ll post the video when it’s available. NBC News reported last week that more subpoenas have been issued seeking to investigate payments to these officials, now including former Gov. Ed Rendell, ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton. The extremely broad “material support” laws are a grave threat to free speech and free association, but nobody of any significance in Washington cared or objected when the ones being imprisoned were powerless, nameless Muslims (indeed, some now receiving payments from MEK were the same ones cheering or even perpetrating those “material support” prosecutions). Perhaps this is what is needed to motivate those with influence to put a stop to these McCarthyite prosecutions. I would draw an analogy to the Drug War: injustices are easy to perpetuate when they primarily affect those who are powerless and marginalized; it’s much more difficult when they apply equally to those with power.
UPDATE: Here’s the aforementioned (contentious though enlightening) Al Jazeera debate on MEK in which I participated yesterday with Patrick Clawson of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Reza Marashai of the National Iranian American Council:
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- Glenn Beck: "The American people have just been raped"
- "Original Coca-Cola had a very small amount of cocaine"
- Corporations accused of wrongdoing win battle to keep identities secret
- Weak, incompetent Democrats blow another one
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Cyber attacks could cause the next world war
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- Biden cracks Obama teleprompter joke
- IRS official takes the Fifth: "I have not done anything wrong"
- Lessons from Lincoln leave gay immigrants behind
- Los Angeles elects first Jewish mayor
- Peter King: There's "hypocrisy" over aid by Oklahoma senators
- Anthony Weiner announces run for NYC mayor
- How policy nihilists in the Senate doomed LGBT immigrants
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
Glenn Greenwald (email: GGreenwald@salon.com) is a former Constitutional and civil rights litigator and is the author of three New York Times Bestselling books: two on the Bush administration's executive power and foreign policy abuses, and his latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, an indictment of America's
two-tiered system of justice. Greenwald was named by The Atlantic as one of the 25 most influential political commentators in the nation. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and is the winner of the 2010 Online Journalism Association Award for his investigative work on the arrest and oppressive detention of Bradley Manning.