Tuesday, August 12, 2014

outrage + us

dear barry,

as you probably recall, you and i shook hands back in 2006. twice, in fact.

it was out in front of the chicago tribune building, where you had just met with the editorial board. there was a camera crew outside, to whom you gave a couple minutes, and then you worked the pedestrians and passers-by a little bit.

those people really liked you. they smiled and encouraged you to run for president. we shook hands on your way up the street (i said something clever like, "nice to meet you, senator."), and then again as you worked back the other way. no idea what i said that time, but maybe you remember.

in the months leading up to the 2008 election, i campaigned for you and raised money for you. i believed you would lead the anti-bush administration, that you would be the guy who would swing the pendulum from the batsh*t-crazy right back to the left.

and don't get me wrong, you've done some extraordinary things. for one, you turned around an economy in total meltdown. and i really appreciate obamacare, not to mention the supreme court justices you've appointed. they will make a huge, positive difference for a lot of people for a long time.

having said that, barry, you and i can't hang out together any more.

because of this:
"...before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong.  We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.  We did some things that were contrary to our values.
 I understand why it happened.  I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.  And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.  And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots."
barry, you're a constitutional law professor. you, more than most, know words have power and meaning. you know this, and yet you just stood up before the whole wide world and said being afraid is an excuse to do unconscionable things. 

you just said that when people are working hard under enormous pressure, anything goes. 

and you characterized a pack of ravening war criminals as "real patriots."

does pointing all this out make me "sanctimonious"? if so, i don't care. because defining-down sociopathic behavior as "patriotism" is more than just grotesque. it guarantees that the same thing will happen again in some future crisis. it also ensures the same behavior will be practiced against america ~ because what's legit policy for the US is legit for everybody else.

i hate to state the obvious, especially to the constitutional law professor in the room, but we're either a nation of laws, barry, or we're not. we either walk the talk, or we don't. (and if you ever want to use the phrase "american exceptionalism" with a straight face, you don't let the war criminals off the hook because they were stressed out.)

"we tortured some folks." 

seriously? you make it sound like the bush administration hazed a few pledges at a fraternity party. 

what really happened is that the united states officially adopted a policy of "...international kidnappings (euphemistically called "renditions") of terror suspects, including completely innocent people the CIA snatched off the streets of global cities, as well as from the backlands of the planet and "rendered" into the hands of well-known torturing regimes (with the help of 54 other countries) and the setting up of a network of "black sites" or offshore prisons where anything went, the CIA tortured up a storm. And it did so at the behest of the top officials of the Bush administration, including the president and vice president." 

barry, i could go on and on, but what would be the point? you know all of this, in gruesome detail. and we haven't even mentioned the war ginned up for no good reason whatsoever.

i don't get how you can shrug all this off, like it's nothing. sorry, i can't. or maybe more accurately, i won't. 

if that makes me sanctimonious...i guess i'll just have to learn to live with it.


Fish and Bicycles said...

I had the same reaction when I read this. As you say, it's essentially excusing doing the same thing in future crises, but it's actually worse than that, because the crisis that begat torture, and which also begat a suspension of habeas corpus and widespread domestic spying and data capturing, in the mind of the administration, the military, and the "intelligence" agencies, that crisis is still ongoing.

spaceneedl said...

"We've always been at war with Eastasia..."