Glenn Greenwald characterizes Barack Obama’s recent terrorism speech as a Rorschach test–something for everyone:
The highly touted speech Obama delivered last week on US terrorism policy was a master class in that technique. If one longed to hear that the end of the “war on terror” is imminent, there are several good passages that will be quite satisfactory. If one wanted to hear that the war will continue indefinitely, perhaps even in expanded form, one could easily have found that. And if one wanted to know that the president who has spent almost five years killing people in multiple countries around the world feels personal “anguish” and moral conflict as he does it, because these issues are so very complicated, this speech will be like a gourmet meal. But whatever else is true, what should be beyond dispute at this point is that Obama’s speeches have very little to do with Obama’s actions, except to the extent that they often signal what he intends not to do.
According to recent polls, a growing number of Americans believe that the Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights in order to guarantee that our government will not impose any kind of tyranny upon us. That an armed populace is a bulwark against government oppression. [More . . . ]
One very common tactic for enforcing political orthodoxies is to malign the character, “style” and even mental health of those who challenge them. The most extreme version of this was an old Soviet favorite: to declare political dissidents mentally ill and put them in hospitals. In the US, those who take even the tiniest steps outside of political convention are instantly decreed “crazy”, as happened to the 2002 anti-war version of Howard Dean and the current iteration of Ron Paul (in most cases, what is actually “crazy” are the political orthodoxies this tactic seeks to shield from challenge). This method is applied with particular aggression to those who engage in any meaningful dissent against the society’s most powerful factions and their institutions.
Only because Rand Paul, Ted Cruz – and now others – have been willing to stand up to the administration and demand transparency on drone strike policy are Americans learning the chilling truth about the executive’s elastic definition of “imminence” in “imminent threat.”
If you’re concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability of the policy of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, you have to concede that Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have done us a great service: Cruz, R-Texas, with his questioning of Attorney General Eric Holder in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Paul, R-Kentucky, with his widely reported filibuster on the Senate floor. Unfortunately, some Democrats don’t want to acknowledge this contribution. That’s a shame.
This statement proves that most media outlets have been slandering Bradley Manning. He is an extremely intelligent and courageous man with a real conscience. He is heroic in every sense of the word, as discussed in detail by Glenn Greenwald.
Manning is absolutely right when he said today that the documents he leaked “are some of the most significant documents of our time”. They revealed a multitude of previously secret crimes and acts of deceit and corruption by the world’s most powerful factions. Journalists and even some government officials have repeatedly concluded that any actual national security harm from his leaks is minimal if it exists at all. To this day, the documents Manning just admitted having leaked play a prominent role in the ability of journalists around the world to inform their readers about vital events. The leaks led to all sorts of journalism awards for WikiLeaks. Without question, Manning’s leaks produced more significant international news scoops in 2010 than those of every media outlet on the planet combined.
This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which the top UN torture investigator deemed “cruel and inhuman”, and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.
If you are wondering why Manning’s trial is not being freely broadcast, that’s a good question.
Before going further, a question: What should a person of good conscience do when he or she discovers that the government is repeatedly lying, and that people are dying, getting maimed and becoming homeless because of those lies? What would we say about someone who had the capability of exposing this ongoing dangerous conduct but did nothing? Wouldn’t we call those kinds of people “cowards,” “accomplices,” or “immoral”? What do we normally call someone who risks his or her own life for the benefit of others? We call them heroes, even if what they are doing breaks formal laws. Since when are people allowed to do nothing in the face of evil just because those in power put a law on the books to scare them or muzzle them?
Here are a few excerpts, in Manning’s own words, of what he did and why:
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Recently, I finished reading Lawrence Wright’s new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollwood, & the Prison of Belief, about Scientology. It’s a lucid history and examination of the movement. [More . . . ]
[t]hink tank “scholars” don’t get invited to important meetings by “national security professionals” in DC if they point out that the US is committing war crimes and that the US president is a war criminal. They don’t get invited to those meetings if they argue that the US should be bound by the same rules and laws it imposes on others when it comes to the use of force. They don’t get invited if they ask US political officials to imagine how they would react if some other country were routinely bombing US soil with drones and cruise missiles and assassinating whatever Americans they wanted to in secret and without trial. As the reaction to Cornel West shows, making those arguments triggers nothing but ridicule and exclusion.
One gets invited to those meetings only if one blindly affirms the right of the US to do whatever it wants, and then devotes oneself to the pragmatic question of how that unfettered license can best be exploited to promote national interests. The culture of DC think tanks, “international relations” professionals, and foreign policy commenters breeds allegiance to these American prerogatives and US power centers – incentivizes reflexive defenses of US government actions – because, as Gelb says, that is the only way to advance one’s careerist goals as a “national security professional”. If you see a 20-something aspiring “foreign policy expert” or “international relations professional” in DC, what you’ll view, with some rare exceptions, is a mindlessly loyal defender of US force and prerogatives. It’s what that culture, by design, breeds and demands.
Glenn Greenwald points out that many Democrats have been exposed as hypocrites, supporting abhorrent Bush era policies simply because Obama is now implementing them.
That many Democratic partisans and fervent Obama admirers are vapid, unprincipled hacks willing to justify anything and everything when embraced by Obama – including exactly that which they pretended to oppose under George W Bush – has also been clear for many years. Back in February, 2008, Paul Krugman warned that Obama supporters are “dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality.” In May, 2009, a once-fervent Obama supporter, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, wrote a column warning that Obama was embracing many of the worst Bush/Cheney abuses and felt compelled – in the very first sentence – to explain what should be self-evident: “Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House.” The same month, former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith – who provided the legal authorization for the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program – went to the New Republic to celebrate that Obama was not only continuing the core Bush/Cheney approach to terrorism, but even better (from his perspective), was strengthening those policies far beyond what Bush could achieve by transforming Democrats from opponents of those policies into supporters.
Many, including Greenwald have repeated attacked our policy allegedly justifying the assassination of Americans. A much bigger concern to me is that we are, through the use of drones, waging illegal undeclared wars in a many other countries. Also consider these domestic and foreign policy actions of Obama. How many Democrats would support them if a Republican President had been responsible?