Thursday, September 06, 2012

Raining a little on the Democrats' festivities


Don't get me wrong -- I'll be voting for President Obama and I sure don't want the other guy. That one seems to be an ambitious sociopath, adhering to no principle but his own benefit. It would be irresponsible not to strive to get the lesser evil.

But I think we have to realize that our excellent Democratic President has definitively either failed or actively betrayed those of us who hoped that a Democratic administration would repudiate the surveillance state at home and torture abroad. Get this observation from Washington Post wonk Ezra Klein on the party platform:

President Obama pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay Facility and even signed an executive order, on his second day, to do so. That makes this brag a bit odd: “We are substantially reducing the population at Guantánamo Bay without adding to it. And we remain committed to working with all branches of government to close the prison altogether because it is inconsistent with our national security interests and our values.”

Okay, so they didn't grow the (Cuban) gulag, but they completely failed to reverse the ongoing disdain for domestic and international law and norms by our hyper militarized imperium. If not in words, the Obama administration in practice has followed the Bush/Cheney trajectory of admitting no limits on its conduct in the name of "security." Now it emerges that they intend to keep a nice, unregulated offshore prison in Afghanistan once the U.S. finally withdraws. (I won't be surprised if Afghans manage to undermine that plan.) And there is no sign that the voters care about all this imperial overreach, so naturally the politicians don't either.

Last week, Kevin Drum expressed sentiments I can only share:

I don't write about national security and civil liberties issues as much as I should. Partly this is because I find much of it too grim to bear. But it's also because it seems so hopeless: there's really no significant difference between the two major parties on most of these issues, and therefore no real chance of any of them being changed. There are differences at the margin — Obama banned torture and Eric Holder at least tried to institute civilian trials for terrorist suspects — and during campaign season even modest differences become magnified. But really, there's a pretty broad bipartisan consensus on all the big stuff: drones and assassinations and secrecy and military intervention and the ever increasing role of surveillance in our society, just to name a few items.

Minimally, those of us who do care must keep on telling the truth about these matters; otherwise we betray ourselves.

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