Glenn Greenwald writes: During the Bush years, Guantanamo was the core symbol of right-wing radicalism and what was back then referred to as the “assault on American values and the shredding of our Constitution”: so much so then when Barack Obama ran for President, he featured these issues not as a secondary but as a central plank in his campaign. But now that there is a Democrat in office presiding over Guantanamo and these other polices — rather than a big, bad, scary Republican — all of that has changed, as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll today demonstrates:
The sharpest edges of President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, including the use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists abroad and keeping open the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have broad public support, including from the left wing of the Democratic Party.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to close the brig at Guantanamo Bay and to change national security policies he criticized as inconsistent with U.S. law and values, has little to fear politically for failing to live up to all of those promises.
The survey shows that 70 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s decision to keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay. . . . The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, even though it emerged as a symbol of the post-Sept. 11 national security policies of George W. Bush, which many liberals bitterly opposed.
Repulsive liberal hypocrisy extends far beyond the issue of Guantanamo. A core plank in the Democratic critique of the Bush/Cheney civil liberties assault was the notion that the President could do whatever he wants, in secret and with no checks, to anyone he accuses without trial of being a Terrorist – even including eavesdropping on their communications or detaining them without due process. But President Obama has not only done the same thing, but has gone much farther than mere eavesdropping or detention: he has asserted the power even to kill citizens without due process. As Bush’s own CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden said this week about the Awlaki assassination: “We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him but we didn’t need a court order to kill him. Isn’t that something?” That is indeed “something,” as is the fact that Bush’s mere due-process-free eavesdropping on and detention of American citizens caused such liberal outrage, while Obama’s due-process-free execution of them has not.
Beyond that, Obama has used drones to kill Muslim children and innocent adults by the hundreds. He has refused to disclose his legal arguments for why he can do this or to justify the attacks in any way. He has even had rescuers and funeral mourners deliberately targeted. As Hayden said: ”Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel.” But that is all perfectly fine with most American liberals now that their Party’s Leader is doing it:
Fully 77 percent of liberal Democrats endorse the use of drones, meaning that Obama is unlikely to suffer any political consequences as a result of his policy in this election year. Support for drone strikes against suspected terrorists stays high, dropping only somewhat when respondents are asked specifically about targeting American citizens living overseas, as was the case with Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni American killed in September in a drone strike in northern Yemen.
The Post‘s Greg Sargent obtained the breakdown on these questions and wrote today:
The number of those who approve of the drone strikes drops nearly 20 percent when respondents are told that the targets are American citizens. But that 65 percent is still a very big number, given that these policies really should be controversial.
And get this: Depressingly, Democrats approve of the drone strikes on American citizens by 58-33, and even liberals approve of them, 55-35. Those numbers were provided to me by the Post polling team.
It’s hard to imagine that Dems and liberals would approve of such policies in quite these numbers if they had been authored by George W. Bush.
Indeed: is there even a single liberal pundit, blogger or commentator who would have defended George Bush and Dick Cheney if they (rather than Obama) had been secretly targeting American citizens for execution without due process, or slaughtering children, rescuers and funeral attendees with drones, or continuing indefinite detention even a full decade after 9/11? Please. How any of these people can even look in the mirror, behold the oozing, limitless intellectual dishonesty, and not want to smash what they see is truly mystifying to me.
As Greenwald’s regular readers know, he never holds back in screaming his indignation. It’s guaranteed to be a crowd please. But to go on a rant about the hypocrisy of Obama’s supporters and then stall by saying that it is mystifying, seems to me like a cop-out.
That critics of Bush’s counter-terrorism policies would refrain from criticizing Obama as he extends the reach of many of those policies is indeed hypocritical, but where does the hypocrisy come from?
From what I can tell, it is rooted in America’s collective response to 9/11. What the attacks demonstrated was the ease with which Americans can be terrorized. The willingness with which Americans of all political stripes swallowed the terrorism narrative from that day onwards was the license that guaranteed to whoever was in power, the ability to expand government power with minimal challenges so long as this was done in the name of combating terrorism.
Democrats have no more interest in questioning the imputed entities, terrorism and terrorists, than do their Republican counterparts. Why? Because to do so is to lower a barrier whose strength must be maintained if Americans want to persist in avoiding coming to terms with the humiliation of 9/11. Terrorism, we would rather believe, is a mighty force which must be boldly challenged.
The affront to American pride on that day came not from the force of the attacks but from the fact that this country could be brought to its knees by a small bunch of somewhat ordinary young men.
This is not to deny that what those young men did on that day was indeed terrible, inhumane and unjustifiable, but the massive overreaction they provoked revealed the political and social breadth and depth of American cowardice.
It is cowardice that sanctions wars, torture, assassinations, indefinite detention, and the suspension of civil liberties and that cowardice has never been less evident among Democrats than among Republicans.
But here’s one of the biggest ironies: the revival of the truism that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter is now coming from Republicans.
After this week’s revelation that Israel is training and deploying terrorists from Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) in Iran, Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin responds:
The MEK are allies of convenience and, just like many wartime allies in other conflicts, share only a common enemy with Israel. But however nasty they may be, Israel need not blush about using them. For a democracy at war, the only truly immoral thing to do would be to let totalitarian Islamists like those in Tehran triumph.
Those who look favorably on this particular alliance of convenience also have a convenient solution for the political problem of being seen to support a designated terrorist organization — they argue the designation should simply be removed.
I would go one much larger and more radical step further and argue that the designation “terrorist” has no play in law.
The function of law is to regulate behavior — not ontological status. No one gets convicted of being a murderer. They can only be found guilty of murder, attempted murder, or conspiracy to commit murder. These are all actions — not mere thoughts, intentions, or affiliations.
It’s time that more individuals in this country stood up and expressed a truth that has long been widely understood: terrorism is nothing more than a political technique employed for a psychological effect. If we separate security from politics, all we do is ensure that the political causes for the use of violence will neither be thoroughly examined nor effectively addressed.