Ironies in American justice and political cheerleading

The radicalism of our political system outstrips one's ability to mock it; plus: Manning and Bales are together VIDEO

Topics:

Ironies in American justice and political cheerleadingPresident Barack Obama speaks during a 'Lawyers for Obama Luncheon' fundraiser, Friday, March, 16, 2012, at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (Credit: AP)

(updated below)

(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:

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>