Archive

Archive for September 24, 2009

Same As It Ever Was

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Last night, I wrote about Gary Wills’ piece in the current NY Review of Books describing the US’s permanent national security state and the challenges any president — Obama in particular — has in changing it. This morning Glenn Greenwald addressed a particular one of these challenges, changing US policy on preventive detention. His comments are in response to an article by Peter Baker in today’s NYT reporting that the “Obama administration has decided not to seek new legislation from Congress authorizing the indefinite detention of about 50 terrorism suspects being held without charges at at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, officials said Wednesday. Instead, the administration will continue to hold the detainees without bringing them to trial based on the power it says it has under the Congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the president to use force against forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In concluding that it does not need specific permission from Congress to hold detainees without charges, the Obama administration is adopting one of the arguments advanced by the Bush administration in years of debates about detention policies.”

After discussing the specific issues, Greenwald observes that

when it comes to uprooting (“changing”) the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism and civil liberties — the issue which generated as much opposition to the last presidency as anything else — the Obama administration has proven rather conclusively that tiny and cosmetic adjustments are the most it is willing to do. They love announcing new policies that cast the appearance of change but which have no effect whatsoever on presidential powers. With great fanfare, they announced the closing of CIA black sites — at a time when none was operating. They trumpeted the President’s order that no interrogation tactics outside of the Army Field Manual could be used — at a time when approval for such tactics had been withdrawn. They repudiated the most extreme elements of the Bush/Addington/Yoo “inherent power” theories — while maintaining alternative justifications to enable the same exact policies to proceed exactly as is. They flamboyantly touted the closing of Guantanamo — while aggressively defending the right to abduct people from around the world and then imprison them with no due process at Bagram. Their “changes” exist solely in theory — which isn’t to say that they are all irrelevant, but it is to say that they change nothing in practice: i.e., in reality.

Greenwald brings up Wills’ article later, noting that “Wills makes the point I’ve been emphasizing for some time: as long as we remain a nation in a permanent state of war, devoted to imperial ends, maintaining our National Security State ensures that the core assaults on civil liberties will never end; at best, we can tinker with them on the margins with the types of pretty words that the Obama administration adores, but it will persist and grow on its own accord.”

Pretty bleak. But seemingly true.

Advertisements
Categories: Government, Politics