Andrew Sullivan has an excellent post on something I try not to think about very often, because it’s simultaneously infuriating and intractable: Obama’s poor handling of civil liberties and the role of the security state.
But Obama’s insistence on protecting every Bush era war criminal and every Bush era war crime from any redress or even scrutiny is a sign both of how cold-blooded he can be, but more, I think, of how powerful the security state now is, how it can protect itself, how it exists independently of any real accountability to anyone, how even the metrics of judging it are beyond the citizen’s reach or understanding.
That sums of my feelings on the issue as well. But Sullivan doesn’t excuse Obama, nor should we:
But Obama has gone much further than this now. The cloak of secrecy he is invoking is not protecting national security but protecting war crimes. And this is now inescapably his cloak…If an outsider like him, if a constitutional scholar like him, at a pivotal moment for accountability like the last two years, cannot hold American torturers to account, there is simply no accountability for American torture…Obama, more than anyone, now bears responsibility for that. We had a chance to draw a line. We had a chance to do the right thing. But Obama has vigorously denied us the chance even for minimal accountability for war crimes that smell to heaven.
The problem is that for most liberals, the economic issues seem more pressing right now. Yea, we’re pissed about it, but we’re more pissed about weak stimulus, lack of cap and trade, and still licking our wounds from a less-than-ideal health care bill. There is little support in the grassroots to divide on yet another issue, because the concern seems more ephemeral and long-term, whereas the economy matters now (as do the elections). Further, there is no institutional support for movement on these issues- maybe a crackpot congressperson or too, but that’s it. It’s hard to see a movement coalescing around this issu unless things get a lot worse and the economy gets better- addressing these issues in tandem would land us on some libertarian-ish solution that wouldn’t be better economically.
I don’t know if I agree with Sullivan on his last line, but I appreciate the sentiment:
Have I been radicalized by this? You betcha. Because this is so plainly not a nation under the rule of law anymore. And there are very few political issues more important than that.
My unwillingness to be radicalized around this issue is why I’m the problem.