Join 3,503 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."
August 9, 2010 9:45 PM   Subscribe

In late July the American Civil Liberties Union released "Establishing a New Normal" (pdf), an 18 month review of national security, civil liberties and human rights under the Obama Administration.
posted by IvoShandor (30 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
puff-a-doodle says previously interested
posted by Mblue at 10:25 PM on August 9, 2010


In the eighteen months since the issuance of those executive orders, the administration’s record on issues related to civil liberties and national security has been, at best, mixed. Indeed, on a range of issues including accountability for torture, detention of terrorism suspects, and use of lethal force against civilians, there is a very real danger that the Obama administration will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful during the Bush administration. There is a real danger, in other words, that the Obama administration will preside over the creation of a "new normal."

At best, mixed. On average, Bush. George W. Bush.

Heck of a job Obama. Heck of a job.
posted by three blind mice at 10:55 PM on August 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Surely this...
posted by roll truck roll at 11:04 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's it, I am moving to the fucking Yukon.
posted by zjacreman at 11:34 PM on August 9, 2010


Indeed, on a range of issues including accountability for torture

More on the CIA’s Torture Doctors
posted by homunculus at 1:12 AM on August 10, 2010


Under Bush the Second - how many FPP's were dedicated to the 'considered extreme and unlawful'?

How many under the new boss on the same topics?

When does he stop getting a pass, if the last guy didn't get a pass - why this guy?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:34 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


When does he stop getting a pass, if the last guy didn't get a pass - why this guy?

A Truly Shocking Gitmo Story Oct. 11, 2009.

Obama administration's blackmail diplomacy over torture evidence May 12, 2009.

It hasn't ended yet. Feb. 22, 2009

Obama DOJ continues Bush secrecy on torture
Feb. 9, 2009

There's plenty more, but I don't feel the need to do a comprehensive comparison. You might want to search under "Obama" and "torture" before making such an uninformed comment
posted by three blind mice at 2:54 AM on August 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


It is pretty clear that Obama’s administration has provided little evidence of concrete change in direction on the ‘war on terrorism’ – it retains a militarised approach to dealing with political violence, has failed to reform or remove the PATRIOT act, end economic policies that provoke anger against the US, or reassure the American public about the low threat of terrorism.*

However, it seems clear that no matter who was in office, structural constraints would prevent radical alterations to the US security architecture. The ‘strategically selective’ nature of the political landscape prioritises certain actions and reduces the priority of others.

The ‘war on terrorism’ was planted into US collective understanding after the moment of rupture symbolised by the attacks on September 11, 2001, and it has become embedded within the political landscape through the shrewd exploitation of pre-existing identities and narratives.

Having been embodied through institutions and internalised by the media, destabilising the ‘war on terror’ discourse would have required a massive investment of political capital and sophisticated discursive challenges. That is something you are unlikely to see from a first term president, particularly when domestic issues such as a major recession and the debate over healthcare reform dominated discussion.

Furthermore, if another attack on the US were to be successful, blame would be focused on Obama, even more so if he had moved to dismantle any aspect of the security architecture prior to the attack. Such an event would be crippling politically and would almost certainly guarantee victory to the Republicans in the next election.

The ‘war on terror’ as a discourse was easy to put in place in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, but to unseat it is much more difficult.

* And it's not like much of this should be a surprise to anyone who read his books:
With justice at our backs and the world by our side, we drove the Taliban government out of Kabul in just over a month; Al Qaeda operatives fled or were captured or killed. It was a good start by the Administration, I thought – steady, measured, and accomplished with minimal casualties
This quote is notable for a number of reasons. Firstly, it symbolises outright acceptance of the militarised response to the attacks and discounts an international policing approach such as that taken in response to the war crimes committed in Yugoslavia. And secondly, by referring to the operation’s “minimal casualties”, Obama overlooks the thousands of Afghan civilians that were killed as a result of US aerial bombing. The focus is entirely on the USA.

And even in his inauguration speech, Obama stated, “Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred”, reaffirming the core narrative of the Bush administration, that the USA is engaged in a war against irrational evil. And if you are fighting against an irrational evil, then what's a bit of extrajudicial killing amongst friends.

In November 2008, we were celebrating a return to normal US operating procedure after the excesses of G W Bush, not radical change.

posted by knapah at 3:01 AM on August 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


When does he stop getting a pass, if the last guy didn't get a pass - why this guy?

Yes, clearly the place to make a comment like this is in response to a post that doesn't give "this guy" a pass. Brilliant use of irony.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 3:02 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the link Homunculus provided:
interrogators introduced “corrective” and “coercive” methods, including facial and abdominal slaps, dousing with cold water, stress positions and wall standing, confinement in a small or large box, and “walling” (throwing a detainee against a wall up to 20-30 times). If the detainee still did not provide information, interrogators could use waterboarding (simulated drowning).
This is weird in two ways. Firstly, it's obviously torture. But, it's also really weak torture. If these people believe they're justified in what they're doing - if they really believe that there's a nuclear bomb that's going to go off in 24 hours unless Jack Bauer gets there in time - then why are they confining themselves to piss-weak things like "throwing a detainee against a wall up to 20-30 times"? If you believe yourself to be justified in torturing someone, why not go all the way? Where are the thumbscrews, the flaying knives, the irons boots, the molten lead?

The secret of classic torture was that the inquisitors didn't want to use it. The first stage was "displaying the instruments". That in itself was enough to extract confessions in many cases. What do these guys do - show them their hands and say "talk, or we're going to slap you"? Why do they confine themselves to things that not only can be resisted, but which will fail to inspire terror?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:13 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, if another attack on the US were to be successful, blame would be focused on Obama, even more so if he had moved to dismantle any aspect of the security architecture prior to the attack. Such an event would be crippling politically and would almost certainly guarantee victory to the Republicans in the next election.

I despise the idea that "only Nixon could go to China" and that Democrats have to out-Republican Republicans on National Defense, but it seems undeniably true.

In 1967 LBJ put 500,000 soldiers into South Vietnam to prove he wasn't a weak-kneed, America-hating, liberal. In 1973, Nixon ended the war in Vietnam.

Jimmy Carter was the only Democratic president in my memory to walk the talk on human rights. Carter was the real deal.

Obama is too much of a politician to do what is right by the soldiers and what is right by the country.

But I'm giving him a pass on this one.
posted by three blind mice at 3:13 AM on August 10, 2010


This is weird in two ways. Firstly, it's obviously torture. But, it's also really weak torture. If these people believe they're justified in what they're doing - if they really believe that there's a nuclear bomb that's going to go off in 24 hours unless Jack Bauer gets there in time - then why are they confining themselves to piss-weak things like "throwing a detainee against a wall up to 20-30 times"? If you believe yourself to be justified in torturing someone, why not go all the way? Where are the thumbscrews, the flaying knives, the irons boots, the molten lead?

Well, you don't want to cause acute pain you want to cause suffering. With acute pain theirs a flood of endorphins to help you deal with it. You want to slowly grind away on the captive's sense of self and so on. One major way to do that is to keep people awake for long periods of time (in this case, 11 days)
I despise the idea that "only Nixon could go to China" and that Democrats have to out-Republican Republicans on National Defense, but it seems undeniably true.
That's bullshit. Judging the entire arc of history by one example (Carter) and ignoring the problems that LBJ actually ended up facing due to Vietnam is stupid. What exactly happens if Obama rolls this stuff back? The right is going ape-shit about him no matter what he does. The problem is that these people get seduced by power once they have it.

Making broad proclamations based on a handful of examples and acting like it means you're just "being rational" about all that pain and suffering, all the oppression, etc, is just bullshit. The goal of politics shouldn't be to keep "your team" in power, it's supposed to actually make things better. The way politics is covered in this country, it's like a game of "king of the hill" where people try to stay on top while the entire edifice slowly collapses.
posted by delmoi at 3:44 AM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


OK, sure, maybe Obama tortures people. Maybe he even kills Americans. But you have to balance that with the fact that he also held an enormous giveaway for the health insurance industry (not to mention Wall Street) and failed to do anything to help the environment or the massively unemployed.

(BTW, all of the above makes him an ultra-left marxist.)
posted by DU at 4:37 AM on August 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Judging the entire arc of history by one example (Carter) and ignoring the problems that LBJ actually ended up facing due to Vietnam is stupid.

C'mon, delmoi. Accusing Democrats of being "soft of communism" and "weak on defense" has been an (effective) Republican talking point in every election in which I remember (and even more than I do not.)

"Nixon going to China" is a metaphor, not a data point.

"....it refers to the enhanced legitimacy that hardline leaders possess in making peace with opposing countries or political movements, or reforming aspects of the political system they have been strong supporters of."
posted by three blind mice at 4:46 AM on August 10, 2010


I often find myself agreeing with my more wingnut family members about awfulness of the sitting president nowadays, although for completely opposite reasons.
posted by moonbiter at 5:32 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


C'mon, delmoi. Accusing Democrats of being "soft of communism" and "weak on defense" has been an (effective) Republican talking point in every election in which I remember (and even more than I do not.)
How exactly do you measure the effectiveness of a talking point?

The problem here is that the statements are so vague. "an (effective) Republican talking point in every election" means what exactly? If the republicans hadn't made that claim, but all other things being the same they would have won? How could you possibly know that?

And anyway, the argument that somehow Obama needs to dispense with the rule of law or whatever, because of some vague, non-quantifiable metaphor is just insane. You're not thinking about the real world, you're thinking about how to rhetorical points in some game without any evidence that the average voter is even paying attention. People care about their paychecks, whether or not they and their friends have jobs. And Obama hasn't delivered. The Stimulus at the beginning of the administration was way to small, and it was too small for the exact same reason: fears that doing a bigger one would somehow be 'politically infeasible'. The same rhetorical bullshit to win the argument of the day in Washington without worrying about the real-world effects at all.
posted by delmoi at 5:46 AM on August 10, 2010


> OK, sure, maybe Obama tortures people. Maybe he even kills Americans. But you have to
> balance that with the fact that he also held an enormous giveaway for the health insurance
> industry (not to mention Wall Street) and failed to do anything to help the environment or
> the massively unemployed.
>
> (BTW, all of the above makes him an ultra-left marxist.)

Which, in turn, both drives the lunatic right bananashit for reasons of no substance and gets him a fat handful of out-of-jail-free cards on metafilter for the same.
posted by jfuller at 6:30 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have wondered if there is some super duper top secret information that is for the eyes of the POTUS only that, when the candidate took office, completely changed his outlook, and made him realize that Bush and Cheney had been right all along.
posted by Trochanter at 7:28 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the things this demonstrates is the falsity of the "pendulum" trope. It's not swinging back and forth, it's slowly ratcheting. It's the opposite of progress.

This is largely due to the DLC strategy of splitting the difference with the Republicans and pretending that uncommitted voters are the important audience for policy. The Republicans certainly don't believe this as they continue to play to a narrower and more extreme base.

The upshot is that Republicans have pretty much controlled policy since 1980, or maybe 1968. As we are seeing now, Democratic administrations do not seem to be able to direct policy, only try to and then react to the backlash.

It's not just Obama, if it was Hillary Clinton in the White House, we'd be seeing the same dynamic.
posted by warbaby at 7:42 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


. . .if another attack on the US were to be successful, blame would be focused on Obama, even more so if he had moved to dismantle any aspect of the security architecture prior to the attack. . . and would almost certainly guarantee victory to the Republicans in the next election.

If Obama had to loose re-election in order to effect real de-Bushification, so be it.
posted by General Tonic at 9:13 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reading Bomb Power made me permanently doubtful that the "national security state" was going away anytime soon. I just looked up my Goodreads review: "his (necessarily brief) treatment of the Obama administration so far only shows how easy it is for even well-meaning people to be captured by the f'ed-up logic of the National Security State."
posted by epersonae at 1:04 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Robert Gibbs attacks the fringe losers of the left
posted by homunculus at 3:21 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Republicans get mad and vote for fruitcakes. Democrats get mad and don't vote. Could be ugly in November.
posted by Trochanter at 3:42 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have wondered if there is some super duper top secret information that is for the eyes of the POTUS only that, when the candidate took office, completely changed his outlook, and made him realize that Bush and Cheney had been right all along.

I realize that saying things like this is a pretty tinfoil hat thing to do, but I've often wondered the same thing. Obama's clearly an intelligent guy, and he is a constitutional scholar, so what is it that makes him endorse things like putting out a hit on an American citizen, or illegally suppressing evidence of torture? Either he is an evil guy deep down inside, or he came into some information that he didn't anticipate before being elected, or he's not really as powerful as people think he is, and the real power comes from somewhere else. Am I crazy for thinking this?

(disclaimer: I am Canadian)
posted by Dr. Send at 5:57 PM on August 10, 2010


First, I'm a Canadian, too. (How 'bout that local sports team, eh?) Second, I think you've got to use Occam's razor. Like so many Democrats before him, he's afraid of coming across as soft. Funny, huh? To not seem a coward, you must not be brave.
posted by Trochanter at 7:44 PM on August 10, 2010


Dr. Send wrote: Either he is an evil guy deep down inside, or he came into some information that he didn't anticipate before being elected, or he's not really as powerful as people think he is, and the real power comes from somewhere else. Am I crazy for thinking this?

I think you're assuming that there is a locus where "real power" is to be found. In fact power is distributed amongst lots of people and coalitions of people, and actual power isn't always held by the same people who hold it in theory. I'm sure the President does have the power to order an end to torture, and I think he ought to. But doing this would be a significant political cost at a time when he doesn't have much political capital, what with the war in Afghanistan going so badly. I think the way to end it wouldn't be to focus on the President, but the people who make the decision expensive - the ones who would bring up the "ticking time-bomb" argument, the ones who would say that stopping torture is being soft on terrorism. Persuade them and the decision to ban torture is politically cheap, and I bet it would be banned overnight.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:55 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


‘John Doe’ Who Fought FBI Spying Freed From Gag Order After 6 Years
posted by homunculus at 8:56 PM on August 10, 2010


The Omar Khadr travesty
posted by homunculus at 9:34 AM on August 12, 2010


Democracy Now: As Gibbs Attacks Progressive Critics, ACLU Says Obama White House Enshrining Bush-Era Policies
posted by homunculus at 9:34 AM on August 12, 2010


Other countries probing Bush-era torture — Why aren't we?
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on August 19, 2010


« Older Romance Game Monday: Katawa Shoujo is a free datin...  |  Mark Twight, a prominent alpin... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments