Do you remember what it was like during the Bush years trying to talk with your conservative friends about what the President was doing? Do you remember that glassy look in their eyes, and their evasive answers when you asked about the evils of Bush’s undeclared wars and torture of prisoners without due process?
And do you remember when Obama was running for office and spoke of transparency in government, the evils of torture and the importance of due process? Do you remember that sense of smug superiority you felt to your conservative friends? Do you remember watching the Daily Show’s revelations of Bush’s crimes and thinking, “this is why I call myself a liberal?”
Now take a deep breath and swig of coffee before you read the next paragraph.
Now let us move the clock forward to January 8, 2013. Today we read that President Obama has just named John Brenner a Bush era figure to head up the CIA. Brenner is perhaps best known for defending Bush era torture and domestic spying, and is remembered as the architect of Obama’s kill list. Why does a nice person like President Obama need to surround himself with assassins? Why would someone who wants to end war crimes punish the whistle blowers, but not the torturers?
Glenn Greenwald, now of the Guardian UK, notes:
…this is worth commenting on because the drastic change between the reaction to Brennan in 2008 and now is revealing. The New York Times article this morning on the appointment claims that “it is uncertain whether the torture issue will now cause any problems for Mr. Brennan.” Of course, there is nothing at all uncertain about that: “the torture issue” won’t cause any problems for Brennan, as it did in 2008, because Obama has buried that issue with his “Look Forward, not Backward” decrees; because most people who claimed concern over such issues back in 2008 have resigned themselves to Obama’s posture in this area; and because, with very rare exception, there are no more serious campaigns mounted against Obama’s decisions except from the American Right.
Beth Brogan, a staff writer for Common Dreams reports the following warning from Michael Boyle, a former adviser to the President:
“Obama has “been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor” says Michael Boyle, former adviser to the president,
Boyle argues that the administration has been “successful in spinning the number of civilian casualties” because it has reportedly begun counting all military-age men in the strike zone as militants unless the administration has clear evidence to the contrary, the Guardian reports. As a result, the standards the US uses to select targets has been “gradual(ly) loosening.”
I am writing this open letter to my liberal friends knowing it may fall on the same numbness that overcame my conservative friends. But we, as human beings, have a duty to be bigger than our nation, much less our political party. We have a duty to stand up for all people everywhere. Glenn Greenwald is one of the few voices willing to weigh his liberal friends on the same scale he used to weight his friends on the right:
It is a perfect illustration of the Obama legacy that a person who was untouchable as CIA chief in 2008 because of his support for Bush’s most radical policies is not only Obama’s choice for the same position now, but will encounter very little resistance. Within this change one finds one of the most significant aspects of the Obama presidency: his conversion of what were once highly contentious right-wing policies into harmonious dogma of the DC bipartisan consensus. Then again, given how the CIA operates, one could fairly argue that Brennan’s eagerness to deceive and his long record of supporting radical and unaccountable powers make him the perfect person to run that agency. It seems clear that this is Obama’s calculus.
Not a pleasant topic I realize, but a critically important one. I am asking you, my liberal friend, when human rights activists point that Bush and Obama’s foreign policies amount to much the same thing for the wretched of the earth, will your eyes glass over? Will you defend your candidate no matter what? Or will you take up the painful task of being truly ethical, which means weighing the claims of friend and foe alike on the same scale?