Posted by: quiscus | June 12, 2009

June 12, 2009

1.  Ludicrous and unbelievable:

“Britain: Town halls hire citizen snoopers as young as SEVEN to spy on neighbours and report wrongs”

2.  “It’s a defining attribute of early adolescence to be incapable of seeing the world through any lens other than total self-centeredness, self-absorption and empathy-free self-obsession.  If you watch for it (principally though not only) in right-wing discourse, you will see that this is really the central theme animating most of what they write:  My group is superior.  My group (political, national, religious, ethic, gender) is victimized and treated unfairly.  The misery and suffering my group inflicts on far less powerful groups is irrelevant and always justifiable. Even those societies we bomb, occupy, devastate and destroy — even those we lock in cages without trials — are the ones victimizing us. They never advanced beyond the adolescent stage of tribalistic self-absorption and it’s amazing how completely that lies at the core of most of what they believe and argue.

Here is what Liz Cheney — who, like Jonah Goldberg, undoubtedly opposes affirmative action because it unfairly allows people to advance for reasons other than merit (such as family connections) — thinks that Obama should be saying to the world (h/t A.L. via email):

We’ve now seen several different occasions when [Obama]’s been on the international trips, where he’s not willing to say, flat out, ‘I believe in American exceptionalism. I believe unequivocally, unapologetically, America is the best nation that ever existed in history, and clearly that exists today.’ Instead we’ve seen him do what we saw him do in the speech in Cairo, which is sort of, ‘on one hand this, on the other hand that,’ and then attempt to put himself sort of above it all. I think that troubles people.

Just ponder how psychologically disturbed — how deeply self-absorbed — is the need to announce to the world, let alone to believe:  We are not only better than all of you – we’re better than everyone who has ever existed for all of human history!!” Imagine if you heard someone saying that about themselves; wouldn’t you conclude that there was something deeply wrong with that person?  And speaking of inflaming anti-American sentiment, do you think constantly announcing that to the world might do so a bit more than releasing some detainee photos?   But — as is so often true — Liz Cheney’s statement is a perfect distillation of the core right-wing view of the world:  our group is better than every other — not just that exists now but that ever existed — and it’s terribly unfair to us when our superiority is not recognized and affirmed. That’s just pathological.

I obviously don’t know what the truth is about this latest incident, but let’s assume just for the sake of argument that — as has been true so many times before — it is the claim of local Afghan officials, rather than the U.S. military, that is accurate, and Afghan civilians, once again, really were killed by our airstrike.

Using the standard that is now so accepted across the political spectrum in Washington — information that will inflame anti-American sentiment should be suppressed rather than disclosed so at to not endanger our troops — isn’t it better if we just cover-up, rather than learn the truth about, the civilian deaths we caused in Afghanistan?  After all, news reports of dead Afghan women and children at the hands of American bombs obviously inflame anti-American sentiment and Endanger Our Troops at least as much as the disclosure of some additional torture photos would.  By the prevailing reasoning of Washington, shouldn’t we want our government to hide the truth about what we did — lest anti-American anger and the risk of attack on Our Troops increase?  Isn’t that the noble anti-transparency principle we’re now endorsing?

Disclosure and transparency are the linchpin of meaningful, informed debates.  By contrast, suppressing information is what uniquely enables a government to lie and deceive.  Dick Cheney can run around making claims about the legality of the torture and rendition programs only because the current administration continues to engage in such extreme measures to block any judicial review or disclosure.  Identically, Cheney is free to claim that the abuses of Abu Ghraib were isolated aberrations because the current administration continues to suppress the photographs of detainee abuse that prove the opposite:   the abuse seen at Abu Ghraib was anything but isolated, asthe tactics used at there were used at virtually every American “War on Terror” detention facility because they were the by-product of policies approved at the highest levels of government.  That is why principles of transparency generally and FOIA specifically are so vital:  as Sen. Whitehouse said, they are the only checks against the sort of rank deceit that has dominated debates over Bush-era policies and accountability for them.

In a separate column today, Froomkin — one the favorite media writers of progressives during the Bush era — noted the numerous steps the Obama administration has taken to bring greater transparency to domestic policy-making, but then observed:

Obama’s approach to disclosure issues is turning out to be profoundly schizophrenic. On national security issues, Obama has been intensely disappointing. Most notably, I now consider him a willing and active partner in the cover-up of the Bush torture legacy.

One can debate the relative merits of Obama’s positions, but Froomkin’s factual statement about Obama’s transparency policies seems very difficult to dispute.  Disclosure is the pre-requisite for accountability. Covering-up evidence of crimes, at some point, does indeed make one complicit.  The podcast discussion I hosted on these matters today can be heard here, and the new ACLU website for its accountability project is here.”

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