Friday, July 23, 2010

Which side are you on? #2

This business of Which side you are on? is obviously not a new thing for me (after all, the letter I quoted was from 21 years ago), but there were two recent things that were the immediate prompts.

One was a comment on a site that is generally supportive - okay, they are hard-line loyalists - of Obama. In one of their own fairly regular discussions about golly gee whiz how can progressives criticize Obama aren't they ever satisfied, a commenter ran down the expected list of supposed Obama accomplishments then allowed as how in the area of security and civil liberties "there was room for some legitimate criticism."

Excuse me? "Some legitimate criticism?" This is an administration that has embraced the very same sort of - and in many cases the very same - arguments and policies on "state secrets" and "inherent powers" adopted by the Shrub gang, arguments and policies that had these same (supposedly) progressive voices screaming to the high heavens how Bush was shredding the Constitution and was a danger to the freedom of all Americans. And now it's just "room for some legitimate criticism?"

In addition to that embrace, consider these, as a partial list just for illustration:

- Early on, the Obama administration threatened the UK government with loss of intelligence-sharing if a UK court case revealed information about the torture of a former Guantánamo detainee.

- It has not only failed to, indeed refused to, prosecute or even investigate Bush-era White House criminality, it has moved in court to actively shield those criminals from facing any possible civil consequences or even any examination of their actions.

- It has secured the renewal of provisions of the TRAITOR (excuse me, "PATRIOT") Act Obama specifically opposed on the campaign trail.

- It has argued that it does not need additional Congressional authority to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely (i.e., for the rest of their lives if it's so desired) and without charges and that prisoners at Bagram do not have any rights at all.

- Shockingly even in this context, it has claimed that the president, on his own authority and without any oversight, can order the murder of an American citizen.

- It has continued the Bush policy of aggressively targeting whistleblowers and has called on Congress to carve out an exception to Miranda rules whenever the White House decides it's an "intelligence" or "terrorism" matter.

If you can look at that and react by grudgingly allowing as how there is "room for some legitimate criticism" then I say you are not on the side of civil liberties and that you in fact, even if you don't think of it that way, actually stand with the criminals, Constitution-shredders, and torturers.

And yes, that's part of why I said the answer to the question "Which side are you on?" may not be obvious. Because it may not be and no matter where your heart may imagine you are or desire you to be, it's where your feet are that matters.

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