We got punched in the nose 10 years, 3 months, and 24 days ago. We got up, dusted ourselves off, buckled on our armor and went righteously to war against those who had conducted or facilitated that beating, throwing in an untrustworthy rogue regime with a history of manufacturing and using weapons of mass destruction into the bargain.
There were some, chiefly among the civil libertarian left who argued that the modes and methods used to prosecute that war from the home front were threatening to our civil liberties as enshrined in our foundational documents. That the Patriot Act, for example, was a slippery slope to constitutional dismemberment.
Stuff, said I at the time. Hard times call for hard measures, and any loss of liberty – I strained to find even one – would be temporary in nature at best.
Then along came Hamdi vs Rumsfeld, the case involving a Louisiana-born Saudi national being detained as an enemy combatant. It was a tweener, for me: The guy had the great good fortune to be born in the world’s freest country, and attempted to use his birthright to shield himself from the consequences of warring on that country’s freedoms. It didn’t help much that the case was being made by the hysterical Glenn Greenwald(s), and that his effort were being used for chiefly partisan purposes by those on political left in this country. Much was made about “the Great Writ” by those who probably had never heard of it before Bush Stole Florida.
My suspicion of the latter was if anything increased rather than otherwise by the strange silence that settled over them once one of their own had been elected to executive power. From a foreign policy perspective, the only thing that really changed between President Bush’s last days in office and his successor’s stewardship has been the willingness of the latter to escalate drone attacks, including one that killed a US citizen.
To his credit, Greenwald has kept banging his spoon on the high chair, even as his allies on the left remained silent. As has GW law professor Jonathan Turley, writing in the UK Guardian, of all places:
President Barack Obama rang in the New Year by signing the NDAA law with its provision allowing him to indefinitely detain citizens. It was a symbolic moment, to say the least. With Americans distracted with drinking and celebrating, Obama signed one of the greatest rollbacks of civil liberties in the history of our country … and citizens partied in unwitting bliss into the New Year.
Ironically, in addition to breaking his promise not to sign the law, Obama broke his promise on signing statements and attached a statement that he really does not want to detain citizens indefinitely (see the text of the statement here).
Obama insisted that he signed the bill simply to keep funding for the troops. It was a continuation of the dishonest treatment of the issue by the White House since the law first came to light. As discussed earlier, the White House told citizens that the president would not sign the NDAA because of the provision. That spin ended after sponsor Senator Carl Levin (Democrat, Michigan) went to the floor and disclosed that it was the White House and insisted that there be no exception for citizens in the indefinite detention provision.
President Obama said that he was signing the NDAA “with reservations”, and that he intended to limit the incursions on American civil rights to the maximum extent possible. We’d just have to trust him. And yet, the executive privilege of confining US citizens indefinitely based on the whimsies of an unbound president were duly requested and subsequently implemented by our legislative representatives. A collusion, in other words, between two of our three federal branches of government to eliminate our constitutional prerogatives. For the troops.
It would be truly ironic if, having gone abroad to bring unwanted freedom to unworthy masses, the end result will have been tyranny of a different sort, both here and there.