Adam Serwer (who is awesome, by the way) has a good (and depressing!) post up about the new developments with the detention of Bradley Manning, as does Glenn Greenwald. I am disappointed to see Obama’s descent into condoning maltreatment of prisoners and then firing civil servants who complain about the policy, although it’s one of those shocked-but-not-surprised things. Serwer is worried that the left might start defending Obama and “embrace the moral legitimacy of torture,” thus making inevitable “this country’s voyage to Dick Cheney’s Dar Side,” which I find wrongheaded in three ways: 1) I doubt it matters whether or not leftish pundits condemn Obama as far as public opinion goes, and, more importantly, as far as the national security apparatus’s actions go; 2) as far as I can tell, liberals who haven’t spoken out are either choosing not see what’s going on or trying to get Obama off the hook, which is willful apathy and blindness but at least acknowledges that torture is a bad thing (let me be clear, this is a damn low standard); and 3) the US has always abandoned some forms of civil liberties during (actual and perceived) national crises, from the Alien and Sedition Acts through the Espionage Act all the way through to today. The country isn’t descending anywhere; the potential for abuse of civil liberties has been and always will be there. And that’s why, looking back, this whole episode seems inevitable; but of course it wasn’t, it was a result of deliberate choices of the ruling class, Obama included. And how we’re going to climb out of this hole, I have to admit I have no idea.
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