Monday, March 14, 2011

Torture and the truth in Obama's America

There's a lot to like, I suppose, about Obama's America, or, at least, about Obama's high-falutin' (and idealistic, if not delusional) rhetoric about America. It would seem to be a better place, than, say, Bush's America.

But not by much.

Sure, Obama deserves much of the credit for health-care reform (even if he didn't ever push for a public option and, on this as on pretty much every other issue, gave in to Republican demands without much of a fight and certainly without ever using his bully pulpit to achieve more progressive ends) and for pulling the economy back from the brink of utter catastrophe and for improving the country's standing around the world, but otherwise, as we look back over his first two-plus years, he has extended Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, protected Wall Street from being held accountable for the financial meltdown, and, much to his and the country's discredit, continued Bush's anti-democratic and illiberal national security state.

On this last point, here's yet another shameful case in point, via Glenn Greenwald:

On Friday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denounced the conditions of Bradley Manning's detention as "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid," forcing President Obama to address those comments in a Press Conference and defend the treatment of Manning. [Yesterday], CNN report[ed], Crowley... "abruptly resigned" under "pressure from White House officials because of controversial comments he made last week about the Bradley Manning case." In other words, he was forced to "resign" -- i.e., fired.

So, in Barack Obama's administration, it's perfectly acceptable to abuse an American citizen in detention who has been convicted of nothing by consigning him to 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, barring him from exercising in his cell, punitively imposing "suicide watch" restrictions on him against the recommendations of brig psychiatrists, and subjecting him to prolonged, forced nudity designed to humiliate and degrade. But speaking out against that abuse is a firing offense...

Of course, it's also the case in Barack Obama's world that those who instituted a worldwide torture and illegal eavesdropping regime are entitled to full-scale presidential immunity, while powerless individuals who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing and illegality are subjected to the most aggressive campaign of prosecution and persecution the country has ever seen. So protecting those who are abusing Manning, while firing Crowley for condemning the abuse, is perfectly consistent with the President's sense of justice.

As always, here's the problem? What's the alternative? This, but even worse, under Republican rule.

And so we who abhor what is going on -- the government's authority to invade privacy, among other things, under the Patriot Act; the treatment of Bradley Manning; Gitmo remaining open with detainees kept indefinitely and subjected to military "trials"; etc. -- end up backing Obama (and his Democratic enablers) just because the other side is worse. Which is hardly much of an endorsement of the president.

That's my pragmatism speaking. Ultimately, the choice is clear.

But that doesn't make this any better.

Whatever good it will do, if any at all, we must keep up the pressure on Obama and expose the injustices that are being committed under his rule, injustices for which he himself must be held accountable.

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