A presidency rotten at its core

What’s the good of calling yourself a Democrat if you don’t practice democracy? President Obama’s first allegiance has proved not to be the upholding of democracy, but instead the preservation and expansion of secrecy.

It is revealing that a man who in so many other domains often appears like a pushover, unable to find any principle too high to be compromised, when it comes to the issue of secrecy, is utterly uncompromising.

There is only one other practice in which Obama shows equal resolve: assassination.

In response to the killing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16 year-old American son of Anwar Awlaki, Glenn Greenwald writes:

It is unknown whether the U.S. targeted the teenager or whether he was merely “collateral damage.” The reason that’s unknown is because the Obama administration refuses to tell us. Said the Post: “The officials would not discuss the attack in any detail, including who the target was.” So here we have yet again one of the most consequential acts a government can take — killing one of its own citizens, in this case a teenage boy — and the government refuses even to talk about what it did, why it did it, what its justification is, what evidence it possesses, or what principles it has embraced in general for such actions. Indeed, it refuses even to admit it did this, since it refuses even to admit that it has a drone program at all and that it is engaged in military action in Yemen. It’s just all shrouded in secrecy.

Of course, the same thing happened with the killing of Awlaki himself. The Executive Branch decided it has the authority to target U.S. citizens for death without due process, but told nobody (until it was leaked) and refuses to identify the principles that guide these decisions. It then concluded in a secret legal memo that Awlaki specifically could be killed, but refuses to disclose what it ruled or in which principles this ruling was grounded. And although the Obama administration repeatedly accused Awlaki of having an “operational role” in Terrorist plots, it has — as Davidson put it — “so far kept the evidence for that to itself.”

This is all part and parcel with the Obama administration’s extreme — at times unprecedentedfixation on secrecy. Even with Senators in the President’s own party warning that the administration’s secret interpretation of its domestic surveillance powers under the Patriot Act is so warped and radical that it would shock the public if they knew, Obama officials simply refuse even to release its legal memos setting forth how it is applying those powers. As EFF’s Trevor Timm told The Daily Beast today: “The government classified a staggering 77 million documents last year, a 40 percent increase on the year before.”

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2 thoughts on “A presidency rotten at its core

  1. Christopher Hoare

    The sign of absolute evil is the degree of circumspection one must employ to discuss it. Glen Greenwald included the Facebook post from a young Yemeni and totters along on a tightrope as he attempts to reveal and yet disassociate himself from the measured and quite restrained anger of the criticism. People believe what they must, when they must believe it, and Americans are obliged to believe in the most distorted and preposterous lies in order to sleep at night.

    If you believe in American exceptionalism and right to act as it will anywhere in the world to maintain its percieved primacy as arbiter of divine will you are an accessory to mass murder. Hitler’s brood paid for their venture into this charnelhouse with their lives. Do not dismiss anyone who says ‘this will not be forgotten’.

  2. scottindallas

    “It is revealing that a man who in so many other domains often appears like a pushover, unable to find any principle too high to be compromised, when it comes to the issue of secrecy, is utterly uncompromising.”

    Sorry Paul, I appreciate the poetry of the phrase, but the prose is factually off. Secrecy has it’s own inertia, has many advocates, and few forces fighting it. The media doesn’t fight secrecy, but often protects “secrets” that are broadly known. Essentially, the only advocates of openness are the US Constitution and a few small time reporters. Obama has caved on secrecy, not fighting some battle to maintain it. In secrecy we’d see the vast institutional inertia that has us redoubling our efforts of State, despite the better council of Foreign Service officers, and many other fair minded observers and commenters. Only, the American people, by waking up and taking a stand (a doubtful proposition) can end this, and secrecy here feeds itself. Obama is a coward, a hypocrite and derelict in his post, but, I’m not sure we’d tolerate anything else. Dr. Paul has plainly laid out a program to undo many of these sins, contradictions and self-defeating policies–yet he can’t get but 15% of the vote. He can’t get media penetration, he can’t get these ideas discussed with a straight face. I don’t agree with about half of Dr. Paul’s platform, but that is far more than I can agree with either of the two parties.

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