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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Leaking the Truth: Obama Reveals More of His True Values

Leaking the Truth: Obama Reveals More of His True Values
Image © Austin Cline
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The real values of Barack Obama and the Obama administration have become clear: if you commit war crimes you will receive immunity and won’t even be investigated; if you tell the public about American war crimes you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. These are the explicit positions of a president whose platform while a candidate was to restore the rule of law in America and restore America's moral standing around the world.

This isn't spin or hyperbole, they are the simple facts of how the Obama administration has been behaving. Barack Obama stated unambiguously that he preferred to "look forward and not backwards" when he learned that Spanish prosecutors would be investigating Bush administration officials for sanctioning torture at Guantanamo. Bradley Manning, in contrast, won't be receiving that sort of privileged treatment and is instead facing 52 years in prison for releasing classified tapes of Americans shooting unarmed civilians.

Whistle-blowers vs. Classified Material

It has to be admitted up front that it is important for governments to be able to keep some material classified and hidden from public view. It would be absurd to demand that every government document be open to everyone. The critical difference between material that deserves to be kept classified and material that deserves to be released lies in why someone wants it classified in the first place. Who or what is being protected? What interests or goals are being furthered?

If the "who" is a spy in Iran and the "what" is the ability to understand the true motives and capabilities of the Iranian government, then you've got a great case for keeping the information classified. If the "who" is people who may be guilty of crimes and the "what" is protecting the image of the government, then you've got no case for keeping the information classified. Which do you suppose applies in the case of the Apache attack video which Bradley Manning turned over to WikiLeaks?

Barack Obama vs. Whistle-blowers

It's instructive that Barack Obama didn't just campaign on restoring the rule of law in America, but also on protecting whistle-blowers. Obama stated clearly that whistle-blowers' "acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled." This was consistent with his acts as an Illinois senator when he helped pass legislation to protect government employees who reveal waste, crime, and corruption.

Now that he's president and has gotten a taste of the imperial power accumulated by George W. Bush, though, Barack Obama's tune has changed dramatically. The Obama administration has targeted journalists to reveal their sources for stories on America's policies and military activities. Barack Obama also added a signing statement (remember how he criticized Bush for those?) to a spending bill in which he unilaterally declared he had the authority to bypass whistle-blower protections to act against executive branch employees to dare to tell Congress what the president is really doing.

Barack Obama vs. Thomas Drake

At least as bad as, if not worse than, the case of Bradley Manning is the case of Thomas Drake. Obama has pushed the prosecution of Thomas Drake who exposed the government's warrantless domestic spying operations... back during the Bush administration. Yes, Obama's trying to punish someone who blew the whistle on crimes that took place under Bush, not his own administration. Why is this prosecution only occurring now? Because George W. Bush didn't indict Drake.

That's right, the only action taking against Drake by the Bush administration was to revoke his security clearance. It was Barack Obama who is responsible for launching a criminal prosecution here — he doesn't even have the excuse that he's simply continuing something started by Bush.

This is an even more egregious violation of Obama's stated principle that he'd rather "look forward rather than backwards" — even when it comes to activity that occurred years ago rather than weeks ago, Obama only wants to look forward when it means ignoring the violent crimes of government officials. When it comes to those who dared to tell the public about those crimes, his keen gaze reverts backwards faster than you can blink.

Barack Obama's Police State

To allege that a country is a "police state" is a pretty serious accusation, but more and more we are being handed evidence that that is exactly where America is going — if it isn't already there. Supporting such an accusation isn't easy because the definition of "police state" isn't simple and, like any political system, it exists along a spectrum such that a nation will be "more or less" a police state, not simply "is or is not" a police state.

Gonzalo Lira makes a good case for the claim that America has become a police state and defines a police state in this way:

A police-state uses the law as a mechanism to control any challenges to its power by the citizenry, rather than as a mechanism to insure a civil society among the individuals. The state decides the laws, is the sole arbiter of the law, and can selectively (and capriciously) decide to enforce the law to the benefit or detriment of one individual or group or another.

In a police-state, the citizens are “free” only so long as their actions remain within the confines of the law as dictated by the state. If the individual’s claims of rights or freedoms conflict with the state, or if the individual acts in ways deemed detrimental to the state, then the state will repress the citizenry, by force if necessary. (And in the end, it’s always necessary.)

What’s key to the definition of a police-state is the lack of redress: If there is no justice system which can compel the state to cede to the citizenry, then there is a police-state. If there exists a pro forma justice system, but which in practice is unavailable to the ordinary citizen because of systemic obstacles (for instance, cost or bureaucratic hindrance), or which against all logic or reason consistently finds in favor of the state—even in the most egregious and obviously contradictory cases—then that pro forma judiciary system is nothing but a sham: A tool of the state’s repression against its citizens. Consider the Soviet court system the classic example.

A police-state is not necessarily a dictatorship. On the contrary, it can even take the form of a representative democracy. A police-state is not defined by its leadership structure, but rather, by its self-protection against the individual.

Prosecuting people who reveal evidence of crimes, but not prosecuting the people who actually commit the crimes, sounds utterly bizarre, yet it suddenly makes a lot of sense if the government is using the law as a means to control challenges to its power rather than as a means for protecting the citizens. It makes sense if the government is selectively applying the law in order to protecting a ruling class (i.e., current and former holders of high government posts) and to repress those who challenge the actions of members of that class.

Really, think about whose interests are truly being served when wealthy, powerful people like Cheney are virtually guaranteed that they'll never face even an official inquiry while people like Drake and Manning face decades of prison (if they are lucky). Your interests and security aren't being protected. It isn't even partisan interests that are being protected, because it's Democrats who are pushing the furthest and hardest on behalf of powerful Republicans.

President Obama has asserted the authority to kill you at any time, anywhere in the world, if he personally decides that you're a terrorist — and you will never have any recourse to challenge that decision. The Supreme Court has granted the Obama administration the authority to unilaterally declare any group a "terrorist" organization and thus anyone who does anyone to help them is automatically guilty of providing "material support" to terrorism — even including facilitating legal speech by that group. You have no right or ability to challenge such a decision. Such policies are nothing if not arbitrary and they make a sham out of any pretense that you're protected by an impartial judiciary.

Barack Obama didn't create this situation — it's been developing for years, and it's precisely because the changes have been so gradual that so many Americans are in denial about how bad the fundamentals are. Even George W. Bush didn't create this situation. Both Bush and Obama, however, are guilty of pushing the problem along much further and making it much worse than it would have been otherwise.


  1. To start off, I have to say that you're just repeating the same things that that traitorous Glenn Greenwald fellow spouts. Oh yeah, I read him every day, and I'm making notes all the time of what he writes, in case the police ever need information on the anti-government sedition he spews. But somehow, I feel that the security forces are surveilling his pathetic pabulum so they can reel him in when they're darn good and ready. It makes me feel safer to know that.

    Anyway, poor, poor, disappointed Cline. Like so many lie-burrals, you expected that Obama would be the opposite of George Bush and realPresident Cheney. I must admit that even an arch-conservative like me was surprised. The Kenyan socialist deciding on his own to kill certain renegade Americans, without a trial or anything?!? Even Snarlin' Dick would not have gone that far! Obama will go down as one of the greatest death-dealing conservative presidents in American history (until the reign of nextPresident McChrystal, who will outdo him by a factor of 6 million.)

    Of course, conservatives will never concede that Obama is one of us, no matter how many American leaktraitors he arrests kills or with drone airstrikes. He'll keep doing whatever we want, but WE'LL ALWAYS HATE HIM! Because he's... Because he's... Because he's -- not a citizen!

    And you liberals are stuck with him. He's your tar baby. Happy with the choice you made?

  2. you will never be one of us - so keep up the racist crap - it certainly helps the aussie tourism...

  3. Ever been here before, James? You might wanta check out the sidebar for that lawyer stuff:
    "This is political satire. Everything posted here should be understood in that context."

    We love Bucko the Non-Aussie, just as we love Austin and his sermons, even if he is a mis-guided gawdless Lie-beral.

    Stick around awhile, you'll get the hang of it.

  4. You think he was talking about ME? And which "us" is it that I will never be a part of? And what does any of this have to do with Aussie tourism? It's bloody cold down there at the moment, even way up north in Queensland! Meanwhile, up here in the Great Hot South (south Canadahoovia, that is) it's so summery that I spent half of yesterday wrangling an extension ladder around my cherry tree to harvest as much as I could before the raccoons got all the fruit.

    I think raccoons are liberals. They don't work; only steal, they have bandit masks on, and they're a mix of black, brown and white. The only conservative trait they have is washing their hands. Everybody knows how clean conservatives are, compared to dirty hippie libbos.

    P.S. Ixnay on the atire-say. It's or-may un-fay when it's an oke-jay.

  5. And one more thing! Everyone (except Cline) can be one of "us" in the conservative movement, because it's what I call a "Big Sheet" Party. Underneath the big white sheet, we're all equal, because no one can tell who you are.

    Except we can see your hands. And if the skin is too dark, or the wrist is limp, or you're wearing the sort of rings that Jews wear -- I don't know what those would be, but I'm sure someone in the klavern does -- then God help your soul, boy, because He's going to be meeting it soon.

  6. Cenk Uyger has an article over at the Huffington Post that talks about how Obama is more conservative than Reagan was. It just goes to show that all these political goons are on the same side: the side of the monopolistic corporations. Government, like big business, is a racket.

  7. I say the official birthday of the American Police State was the day The Patriot Act was signed. As far as I know that was the first time the president was excused from oversight in writing. When the president is above the law we don't have rule of law. Instead we have rule by president, and by extension, rule by the police and all the petty bureaucrats who answer to the president.

  8. Brother Rentlord, don't you know this is in keeping with the Great American Tradition of using words that mean the exact opposite of the actions they refer to?

    Like the way so many generations of American children grew up hearing the story about how George Washington was so honest that he confessed to chopping down his father's cherry tree. That never happened. It was a lie. But American mythology uses a lie to teach children that they should tell the truth.

    Similarly, the "Patriot" Act is the name of something that many people (dirty stinking liberal hippies, at least) would say is unpatriotic because it pushes America even more into police statedom. If there's ever a "Motherhood and Apple Pie" Act passed, better guard your Mom and her pie, because they'll be in grave peril.

  9. So you're saying that The Violate the Poor and Enslave the Masses Act is the one I should support?

  10. They'll never let that one pass. Too obvious.

    I'd settle for something like the "Top .01% Income Security and Guaranteed Love Act" which would "protect" the wealth of billionaires by not letting them spend it on frivolous things like hedge fund speculation, yachts, buying pro sports teams, etc. They might LOSE money on those deals, after all!

    Society needs to safeguard them from such things by locking up those funds in perpetuity to build schools and roads and pay for food baskets, which would be adorned with the names of the rich people. That would make everyone LOVE them! And it would protect them from the bleak Robocop world of the future where anyone with enough money to own a new Mercedes will be endangered by flying bricks and gunshots from the masses of angry starving people who are everywhere outside the electrified perimeter of the rich peoples' gated communities, and are always threatening to breach the moats -- I mean intrude on the sanctity of private property.

    I long for the day when I hear the rallying cry of "We must protect the rich!" (And corporations, too.) Because then I'll know they're truly screwed.


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.