Saturday, September 11, 2010

For Shame, Mr. President

Tim Rutten has written another column that nails it, and its timing is perfect. He reminds us that we lost more than thousands of lives and an iconic landmark on this day nine years ago. He also points to the fact that in many respects, a change in administrations was in fact no change at all.

The story of how the Bush-Cheney administration rushed to make torture an instrument of national policy in its "war on terror," and of how it created an international gulag in which to abuse prisoners, is well known. Less remarked on — for reasons that do nobody credit — is the fact that President Obama and his administration have embraced the secrecy and usurpations of power that made possible the Bush-Cheney betrayal of American values. ...

As former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told the Washington Times this week, differences between the Bush-Cheney White House for which he worked and the Obama administration on these issues essentially are minor.

"You've got state secrets, targeted killings, indefinite detention, renditions, the opposition to extending the right of habeas corpus to prisoners," Hayden said. "Although it is slightly different, Obama has been as aggressive as Bush in defending prerogatives about who he has to inform in Congress for executive covert action."
[Emphasis added]

Last Wednesday 9th Circuit decided that those caught up in the horrific snares of rendition and torture have no right to damages because to secure those damages via a fair and open trial, something this nation once believed was an essential liberty, might reveal "state secrets," a defense regularly used by the Obama Department of Justice, even when the government is not a party to the litigation.

Behold the Imperial Presidency, something which Adam Serwer rightfully skewers in a post at The American Prospect. Atrios had a terse and cynical response to Serwer's essay on how to end the Imperial Presidency here:

What it will take (and even then only temporarily) is a Republican Congress, a Democratic president, and a real or perceived abuse of power against some part of the conservative tribe.

If Atrios is right, and I fear he is, then more than the Twin Towers were destroyed nine years ago. I think Tim Rutten would agree:

The further descent into the false exigencies of the national security state are different and far more threatening, as the Obama administration's eager embrace of their cover demonstrates. Our essential liberties survived the Cold War diminished but intact. Now, the "war on terror" is eroding them further in a conflict in which no one seems able to define a final victory.

I would only add that it is possible that victory is upon us. Unfortunately, we are not wearing the victor's garland.

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