OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: America’s shadow

The ‘good Germans’ among us

We can continue to blame the Bush administration for the horrors of Iraq — and should. Paul Bremer, our post-invasion viceroy and the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts, issued the order that allows contractors to elude Iraqi law, a folly second only to his disbanding of the Iraqi Army. But we must also examine our own responsibility for the hideous acts committed in our name in a war where we have now fought longer than we did in the one that put Verschärfte Vernehmung on the map.

I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq. The war was sold by a brilliant and fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press — the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration’s case — failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top.

As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin. [complete article]

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Editor’s Comment — As Frank Rich notes:

It was always the White House’s plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war. Part of this was achieved with the usual Bush-Cheney secretiveness, from the torture memos to the prohibition of photos of military coffins. But the administration also invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice. A country that knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch was all too easily persuaded there could be a free war.

Yet what is missing in these observations about the multiple ways in which our humanity has been compromised, is an acknowledgment of the degree to which the administration’s policies have been buttressed by a current in American politics and across American culture that provided the bedrock for America’s response to 9/11, namely, xenophobia. This isn’t xenophobia that was triggered by 9/11; it was an already prevailing sentiment that the Bush administration could easily harness in support of its policies.

When GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, recently said, “we ought to double Guantanamo,” he wasn’t sticking his neck out; he knew he was appealing not only to his base but to also to those xenophobic Democrats who fear that a liberal in the White House might make America more vulnerable to the foreign threat.

And when last year the controversy blew up over the outsourcing of US port management to Dubai’s DP World, Democrats in Congress didn’t hesitate to jump on the xenophobic bandwagon.

And after four Blackwater mercenaries were brutally killed in Fallujah in 2004, the Pentagon knew that domestically there would be little significant political fallout from the ensuing Battle of Fallujah in which an estimated 600 Iraqi civilians died. Just as in Mogadishu, when American lives had been lost, any notion of proportionality went out of the window.

And now that in the millions, Iraqis have had to flee their war-torn country, Congress seems more concerned about the Armenian genocide than about America’s responsibility for accepting refugees. While Sweden — a country that has had no role in the war — has accepted Iraqis in numbers which would be the equivalent of the U.S. taking in about 500,000 refugees, politicians in America know that pushing for a similar response here would involve unacceptable political risks. In May, in a token humanitarian gesture, the House of Representatives proposed a four-year plan to accept up to 60,000 Iraqis who worked for at least a year with U.S.- or U.N.-affiliated groups. This reflects the way in which in much of the public debate on the refugee issue, the focus has been narrowed to one of employer-employee obligations.

When it comes to Iraqi refugees, the same America that thought it could have a free war, would rather turn away from its responsibilities than open its doors.

No need for a warrant, you’re an immigrant

Long Island officials protested when federal agents searching for immigrant gang members raided local homes two weeks ago. The agents had rousted American citizens and legal immigrants from their beds in the night, complained Lawrence W. Mulvey, the Nassau County police commissioner, and arrested suspected illegal immigrants without so much as a warrant.

“We don’t need warrants to make the arrests,” responded Peter J. Smith, the special agent in charge in New York for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the agency that conducted the raids.

His concise answer helps explain the friction that the Bush administration’s recent campaign of immigration enforcement has caused. Last week, immigration officials announced that they had made more than 1,300 arrests across the country over the summer when they went looking for gang members. Since the raids were carried out under immigration law, many protections in place under the American criminal codes did not apply. Foreign residents of the United States, whether here legally or not, answer to a different set of rules.

Immigration agents are not required to obtain warrants to detain suspects. The agents also have broad authority to question people about their immigration status and to search them and their homes. There are no Miranda rights that agents must read when making arrests. Detained immigrants have the right to a lawyer, but only one they can pay for. [complete article]

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