In these last days before the massively important, world-historical off-year election, as all our good progressives are out there rallying the troops for the beleaguered Democrats, trying to hold the racist, tyrannical, warmongering Tea Party at bay, Scott Horton at Harper’s provides us with yet another reminder of just what kind of governance these poor, beleaguered Democrats are delivering with the power they received in 2008.
Horton reports that Barack Obama has won a great victory for the power of the state to falsely imprison innocent citizens, subject them to repeated abuse, tell slanderous lies about them — then absolve itself of any responsibility for this systematic series of crimes … crimes committed in the name of racist, tyrannical warmongering.
Yes, Obama is back on the front lines in the legal battle to defend, uphold, entrench and expand the worst abuses of power carried out by his loathed predecessor. His Yoo-like legal minions have convinced the Supreme Court to consider quashing a case that has been upheld by several lower, conservative courts as one worthy to be heard in court. As Horton notes:
The case involves Lavni Kidd, a star football player at the University of Idaho who converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah al-Kidd. He was seized as he boarded a flight to pursue religious education in Saudi Arabia in 2003. Justice Department officials claimed that he was needed as a material witness in a case against another University of Idaho student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, who was charged with visa fraud. It does not appear that Kidd knew anything relevant to the visa fraud case, federal authorities never called him to testify, and the prosecution of Hussayn, which rested on a feeble evidentiary case to start with, failed before an Idaho jury. The claim appears now to have been a shabby pretext for arresting Kidd, whose offense apparently consisted of converting to Islam and espousing views critical of the Bush Administration and its plans to invade Iraq under false pretenses.
Over a period of 16 days, Kidd was moved to three separate detention facilities in three different states. He was treated brutally, according to procedures that the Justice Department approved for use on terrorism suspects. He was subjected to a withering interrogation by FBI agents who demanded to know why he had converted to Islam. He was stripped naked, subjected to body cavity searches, shackled hand and foot, and incarcerated with violent convicts.
To secure Kidd’s detention as a material witness, the Justice Department made a series of false statements to the magistrate who issued a warrant—claiming that he had purchased a one-way, first-class ticket to Saudi Arabia, when in fact the Justice Department knew he had purchased a return economy class ticket, for instance. It also withheld such information as the fact that Kidd was a U.S. citizen who had cooperated with authorities. The record strongly suggests actual malice and bigotry. These facts no doubt played a strong role in persuading judges at the district court in Idaho and on the appeals court in California of the merits of the case. They therefore denied the Justice Department’s vigorously argued efforts to have it dismissed.
But Obama is tireless in his protection of tyranny. He seeks to defend it from any and all challenges, small or great. It would be the easiest thing in the world to simply step back and let this case be heard in court, let it be argued on its own merits and decided accordingly. It would not require some harsh denunciation of his predecessors, since he finds such things so distasteful. It would not require him to support his predecessors. It would not require the White House to do anything at all except to let justice takes its course.
But we know that our brave progressive paladin never takes the easy way. No, he will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with George Bush and John Ashcroft, he will stand up boldly, yea proudly, for jailing young students for voicing dissent, for rigging up false charges based on deliberate lies, for stripping innocent people and subjecting them to body cavity searches — and for ensuring that no minion of the state who so abuses innocent citizens need ever face the slightest disturbance in his cushy, comfortable life. So he has fought it convince the Supreme Court to hear his earnest pleas for throwing out al-Kidd’s case and protecting all those who abuse and pervert the power of the state.
This is what you support when you support Obama and the Democrats. And if we are about to get another gaggle of rapacious rightwing geese flapping into the corridors of power, it is precisely because the Democrats long ago sold out, lock, stock and millions of smoking barrels, to the corporate-militarist elite, leaving no genuine institutional outlets of opposition to corporate rapine, continual war and state tyranny within the American political system.
Chris Hedges has much to say on this point:
The liberal class, which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible, functioned traditionally as a safety valve. During the Great Depression, with the collapse of capitalism, it made possible the New Deal. During the turmoil of the 1960s, it provided legitimate channels within the system to express the discontent of African-Americans and the anti-war movement. But the liberal class, in our age of neo-feudalism, is now powerless. It offers nothing but empty rhetoric. It refuses to concede that power has been wrested so efficiently from the hands of citizens by corporations that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty are irrelevant. It does not act to mitigate the suffering of tens of millions of Americans who now make up a growing and desperate permanent underclass. And the disparity between the rhetoric of liberal values and the rapacious system of inverted totalitarianism the liberal class serves makes liberal elites, including Barack Obama, a legitimate source of public ridicule. The liberal class, whether in universities, the press or the Democratic Party, insists on clinging to its privileges and comforts even if this forces it to serve as an apologist for the expanding cruelty and exploitation carried out by the corporate state.
As long as the liberal class had even limited influence, whether through the press or the legislative process, liberals were tolerated and even respected. But once the liberal class lost all influence it became a class of parasites. The liberal class, like the déclassé French aristocracy, has no real function within the power elite. And the rising right-wing populists, correctly, ask why liberals should be tolerated when their rhetoric bears no relation to reality and their presence has no influence on power.
The death of the liberal class, however, is catastrophic for our democracy. It means there is no longer any check to a corporate apparatus designed to further enrich the power elite. It means we cannot halt the plundering of the nation by Wall Street speculators and corporations. An ineffectual liberal class, in short, means there is no hope, however remote, of a correction or a reversal through the political system and electoral politics. The liberals’ disintegration ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and the middle class will find expression in a rejection of traditional liberal institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy. The very forces that co-opted the liberal class and are responsible for the impoverishment of the state will, ironically, reap benefits from the collapse. These corporate manipulators are busy channeling rage away from the corporate and military forces hollowing out the nation from the inside and are turning that anger toward the weak remnants of liberalism. It does not help our cause that liberals indeed turned their backs on the working and middle class. …
The corporate state, by emasculating the liberal class, has opted for a closed system of polarization, gridlock and political theater in the name of governance. It has ensured a further destruction of state institutions so that government becomes even more ineffectual and despised. The collapse of the constitutional state, presaged by the death of the liberal class, has created a power vacuum that a new class of speculators, war profiteers, gangsters and killers, historically led by charismatic demagogues, will enthusiastically fill. It opens the door to overtly authoritarian and fascist movements. ….
The liberal class was permitted a place within a capitalist democracy because it also vigorously discredited radicals within American society who openly defied the excesses of corporate capitalism and who denounced a political system run by and on behalf of corporations. The real enemy of the liberal class has never been Glenn Beck, but Noam Chomsky.
The purging and silencing of independent and radical thinkers as well as iconoclasts have robbed the liberal class of vitality. The liberal class has cut itself off from the roots of creative and bold thought, from those forces and thinkers who could have prevented the liberal class from merging completely with the power elite. …
Once the liberal class can no longer moderate the savage and greedy inclinations of the capitalist class, once, for example, labor unions are reduced to the role of bartering away wage increases and benefits, once public education is gutted and the press no longer gives a voice to the poor and the working class, liberals become as despised as the power elite they serve. The collapse of liberal institutions means those outside the circles of power are trapped, with no recourse, and this is why many Americans are turning in desperation toward idiotic right-wing populists who at least understand the power of hatred as a mobilizing force.
The liberal class no longer holds within its ranks those who have the moral autonomy or physical courage to defy the power elite. The rebels, from Chomsky to Sheldon Wolin to Ralph Nader, have been marginalized, shut out of the national debate and expelled from liberal institutions. The liberal class lacks members with the vision and fortitude to challenge dominant free market ideologies. It offers no ideological alternatives. It remains bound to a Democratic Party that has betrayed every basic liberal principle including universal healthcare, an end to our permanent war economy, a robust system of public education, a vigorous defense of civil liberties, job creation, the right to unionize and welfare for the poor.
… As Wall Street steals billions of taxpayer dollars, as it perpetrates massive fraud to throw people out of their homes, as the ecosystem that sustains the planet is polluted and destroyed, we do not know what to do or say. We have been robbed of a vocabulary to describe reality. We decry the excesses of capitalism without demanding a dismantling of the corporate state. Our pathetic response is to be herded to political rallies by skillful publicists to shout inanities like “Yes we can!”
The liberal class is finished. Neither it nor its representatives will provide the leadership or resistance to halt our slide toward despotism. The liberal class prefers comfort and privilege to confrontation. It will not halt the corporate assault or thwart the ascendancy of the corporate state. It will remain intolerant within its ranks of those who do. The liberal class now honors an unwritten quid pro quo, one set in place by Bill Clinton, to cravenly serve corporate interests in exchange for money, access and admittance into the halls of power.
The Democratic Party has become the enabler — and the eager, avid enactor — of the same sinister, inhumane, corrosive and murderous policies that liberals, progressives, dissenters, true patriots (call them what you will) once fought so hard to resist.
Now you can seek to close the “enthusiasm gap” (‘Hey, did ya see that Big Dawg Bill is out there on the hustings for us again? Yeehaw!’) for the Democrats, you can tremble in fear at the corporate-owned Tea Partiers (as if the Democrats are not also corporate-owned by war profiteers, community eviscerators and rapers of the land) — but all you are doing is perpetuating the dynamic that has brought the Tea Partiers and their ilk to prominence. All you are doing is guaranteeing the further drift — or rather, stampede — of American politics toward the openly fascist, brutal, barbaric future that Hedges describes above.
You are standing with tyrants, with those who strip and abuse innocent citizens, with those who wage ceaseless, needless war, who kill the innocent, torture the captive, and drive millions of innocent people from their homes.
As Arthur Silber has said so many times, why do you support such things? Will you go on “making friends with evil“? Will you give your support to it yet again? Or, in Silber’s words: “Will you say, ‘No”?” Will you, at last, say No to this bipartisan cycle of horror?
There will be no end to the horror, and not the slightest possibility of healing this broken society, and turning it, painfully, fitfully, toward something more holistic and humane, until you speak that word.