4.14.2009

No dice, Mr. President

Everyone who pays attention to politics has an issue or two that motivates that attention. No matter how much we may care about a generally liberal (or progressive, or conservative, or libertarian) viewpoint or agenda, there are a few issues that we pay more attention to, that keep us reading or searching. Some people are big on energy issues, for example. Others care about reproductive rights, or limited government, or school vouchers. There are a lot to choose from, and it's implausible to try to care about all of them equally. I certainly don't pretend to.

Obviously, if you read this blog with any frequency (and may the Lord bless and keep you), you know I care about gay rights issues. A lot. This is due, in large part, to my being gay and enjoying rights. Not a particularly surprising thing. But another issue that I care a whole lot about is executive power. Or rather, appropriate limits thereupon. During the Bush administration, I was horrified by how much power the executive accrued unto itself in the form of signing statements, assertions of executive privilege, and overreaching prerogatives described as war powers, among others. Congress acted like a bunch of whimpering puppies for much of this, and the Democratic party hardly covered itself in glory in its role as Loyal Opposition.

A particular issue of personal concern was the assertion by President Bush that he could lock up whoever he wanted, for as long as he wanted, with no oversight, simply by asserting that the person in question was a terrorist, or enemy combatant, or whatever term of art they happened to choose. It didn't matter if the person was a foreigner captured on the battlefield, a man with the wrong name apprehended in Canada, or a US citizen -- anyone deemed suspect could end up in some dark hole somewhere, cut off from all legal recourse. I found this prospect appalling, and it was one of the reasons I campaigned so vigorously for Obama.

I feel a deep sense of betrayal and disappointment, thus, on reading this:
Back in February, the Obama administration shocked many civil libertarians by filing a brief in federal court that, in two sentences, declared that it embraced the most extremist Bush theory on this issue -- the Obama DOJ argued, as The New York Times's Charlie Savage put it, "that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team." Remember: these are not prisoners captured in Afghanistan on a battlefield. Many of them have nothing to do with Afghanistan and were captured far, far away from that country -- abducted from their homes and workplaces -- and then flown to Bagram to be imprisoned. Indeed, the Bagram detainees in the particular case in which the Obama DOJ filed its brief were Yemenis and Tunisians captured outside of Afghanistan (in Thailand or the UAE, for instance) and then flown to Bagram and locked away there as much as six years without any charges. That is what the Obama DOJ defended, and they argued that those individuals can be imprisoned indefinitely with no rights of any kind -- as long as they are kept in Bagram rather than Guantanamo.

[snip]

In the wake of Judge Bates' ruling that foreign detainees shipped to Bagram at least have the right to a hearing to determine their guilt, what is the Obama DOJ doing? This:

The Obama administration said Friday that it would appeal a district court ruling that granted some military prisoners in Afghanistan the right to file lawsuits seeking their release. The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight. . . .

Read the whole post. It makes it resoundingly, unquestionably clear that the Obama administration is behaving with rank hypocrisy.

As Greenwald notes at the end of the piece (which, seriously, you should read in its entirety), many liberal bloggers are defending Obama for exactly the same behavior that they condemned in his predecessor. They are giving him the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that because he is their President, that his motivations must be more noble than the ones that spawned the exact same type of policy from the last President.

No. Absolutely [obscene gerund] not. We do not get to change our standards of decency after we win, in some kind of human rights shell game. We do not get to hold one administration accountable for the same thing we excuse in the next. Obama deserves every last bit of scrutiny and criticism that he gets for this (and I've been looking for clips from Rachel Maddow's show to post, but can't find them -- suffice it to say that I'm glad she's talking about this), and if we on the left wish to maintain our integrity, then we must demand a better answer than the one we are getting.

1 comment:

  1. It makes it resoundingly, unquestionably clear that the Obama administration is behaving with rank hypocrisy.Well knock me over with a feather. I'm glad you have come to this conclusion because I think it is the correct conclusion.

    if we on the left wish to maintain our integrity, then we must demand a better answer than the one we are getting.You go, Dan. I salute your integrity.

    ReplyDelete