FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Liberal Apologetics for Obama’s Criminality

by NORMAN POLLACK

As we know, Candidate Obama in ’08 pledged to close Guantanamo; President Obama, now in his Second Term, as we also know, lied so egregiously, on a matter of extreme importance to the every meaning of the rule of law (because puking on Magna Charta and centuries of jurisprudential wisdom and morality by sanctioning and adopting the practice of indefinite detention—and all that follows, from denial of habeas corpus to affording the accused the right of counsel), that anything he says must be viewed with skepticism, if not worse.  We have lived through some pretty horrible presidencies as measured by the standards of democratic government, liberal as well as conservative, which provides irrefutable proof of bipartisan injustice in American life, but Obama is something special, a summation of the worst of each, primarily because he has operated on such a fundamental level—from abrogation of civil liberties to global paramilitary operations—that so far has slid under the radar screen, largely through the silence of liberals and progressives.  Republican obstructionism is welcome, because it allows him to pursue, through seemingly standing still, the reactionary alternatives to all policy issues (such as health care, social safety net reductions, favorable tax structures for the very wealthy, oil drilling as per usual, etc.) under the pretext that nothing can be done.  Welcome, too, because the resulting paralysis in government ideally prevents genuine social welfare measures and democratization of class, income, and power in America.

There are no late or early, partial or full, affronts to democracy under his leadership, but rather the seamless web of continuity, a unified policy-context of Reaction, which, gaining personal confidence, especially by means of working closely with and gaining the soldierly regard and respect of, the whole national-security establishment (particularly the intelligence and Special Ops communities), Obama is actually growing steadily worse, more aggressive, more arrogant, more hubristic, with no end in sight.  This sustained course, elements of which could be seen from the moment of taking office, as in faking health reform (to the delight of health insurers and Big Pharma), installing weak cabinet agency heads, compliant with and often championing the interests of those ostensibly to be regulated (Geithner and Salazar, Treasury and Interior, to say the obvious) and, of moment here, a combination of DOJ-NSC leadership, Holder and Brennan, useful in neutralizing the law itself in ensuring the militarization, done with impunity, of public policy at large, the armed drone transgressive of all legal restraints the perfect symbol of prevailing despotic practices.  Whether Guantanamo, covert operations, assassination, wiretaps, surveillance, none stands alone, as the US embarks on a phase of counterrevolution made more urgent, and conducted more deftly—the liberalization of attempted hegemonic retention—than perhaps ever before, because of the changing nature of the world system.

America is no longer the center of the universe, and the more it tries to be such the greater its ultimate isolation and retrogression via the political-ideological-structural process of blowback.  Obama is sitting on a powder keg of America’s own making.  Willful blindness to the social misery and destruction caused others only hastens the decline in international power and stature.  For now, the eyes of the world have focused on Guantanamo and drones as integrated aspects of and integral to the US framework of policy and power, while Americans persist in viewing them as discrete and of secondary importance (for some, of course, rather, both as being wisely pragmatic and highly satisfying, testifying to the nation’s courage and superiority).  Increasingly, however, not only the victims of US policy, but major nations classified as  “friends and allies,” are having sobering thoughts, on moral grounds and for fear of the precedents now created for rendering the world order a playground of destructive impulses.

Enter Harold Koh, Yale Law and former State Department councillor, whom the New York Times (May  8) reported now criticizes the Obama Administration for the drone-warfare program, which at State he had favored—and even to this day (hardly earning the Times’s encomiums) finds fault not with the program, including assassination, but with the lack of publicity and candor concerning its legal (?) rationale.  Thus spake the modern liberal—substance is irrelevant, just gussy up the appearance.  Here follows my Times Comment (May 9):

Harold Koh in his Oxford speech cannot undo the harm he has previously done by giving his name and reputation in support of the drone program. I should like to see F. Scott Fitzgerald’s statement inscribed on his Yale School office door: There are no second chances. This is particularly true here, an equivocation, straddle, call it what one likes, which merely continues the practice of drones AND indefinite detention, the torture and denial of habeas corpus rights to detainees, that is Guantanamo, both inseparable–a permanent blight on America’s civil-liberties record.

Koh wants clarification, not abolition, so that illegal practices can be dressed up as legitimate. Rather than outright condemnation of the Obama administration (which necessarily follows from the contempt it demonstrates for the rule of law), he wants to sprinkle flowers on the graves of the victims. Not good enough, by the standards of moral decency and first principles of jurisprudence. A Roberts Court may look on indulgently, but not, I think, the Warren Court and, in particular, Mr. Justice Brennan.

Guantanamo and drones are the forward edge to America’s slide into authoritarianism under Obama (I try to speak in moderation and will avoid the f-word–fascism–for the present), because of the amoral barbarism which has brought them into existence, and because the American people sit passively by, if not in an attitude of complicity and/or condonation, at their very existence and continuation.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

 

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail