Glenn Greenwald has just been hitting it out of the park lately. It makes me doubly honored that I was his warm-up act on Antiwar Radio today with Scott Horton. (If someone has a direct link please post it in the comments.)
Anyway, GG wrote this post while I was on the road in Michigan, but I bears quoting extensively:
Prior to last night’s GOP foreign policy debate, the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Think Progress blog — which has several good and independent commentators who do excellent work — announced that it had compiled a list of “what you won’t hear at tonight’s GOP foreign policy debate: Obama’s successes.” It is very worth reviewing what this self-proclaimed progressive site now — under a Democratic President – considers to be a “foreign policy success,” beginning with this:
[Image from ThinkProgress touting the killing of Awlaki, “Senior Al Qaeda Leader.”–RPM]
As I pointed out just yesterday, many Democrats not only passively acquiesce to Obama’s continuation of core Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, but enthusiastically cheer it as proof that they, too, can be Tough and Strong (manly virtues demonstrated by how many human beings their leader kills from afar). So here you have Think Progress heaping praise on Obama for seizing what is literally the most radical power a President can seize: the power to target — in total secrecy and with no checks or due process — their fellow citizens for execution: specifically, assassination-by-CIA. Worse, to justify what Obama has done, TP spouts a blatant falsehood (that Awlaki was “a senior Al Qaeda leader”), even though actual Yemen experts have mocked that claim mercilessly and the administration itself refuses to reveal any evidence whatsoever about what it did or why. Revealingly, TP trumpets the claim that “Al Awlaki’s death brought a damaging blow to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)”; its link to justify that claim goes to the blog operated by the right-wing Heritage Foundation: that, quite understandably, is who TP must now cite as authoritative to justify Obama’s foreign policy conduct.
But what’s most notable here is how inaccurate TP’s prediction was: it turned out to be completely wrong that the Awlaki assassination was something “you won’t hear at tonight’s GOP foreign policy debate.” In fact, we heard a lot about it — from the GOP candidates who heaped as much praise on Obama as TP did for murdering this American citizen. Indeed, among the most vocal cheers of the night from the GOP South Carolina crowd — second only to its vocal swooning for the virtues of waterboarding — was when their right-wing candidates hailed Obama’s decision to kill Awlaki.
Michele Bachmann gushed about Obama’s decision this way: “Awlaki, who we also killed, he has been the chief recruiter of terrorists, including Major Hassan at Fort Hood, including the underwear bomber over Detroit, and including the Times Square bomber. These were very good decisions that were made to take them out.” Here was the exchange with Mitt Romney on this issue:
CBS’ SCOTT PELLEY: Governor Romney, recently President Obama ordered the death of an American citizen who was suspected of terrorist activity overseas. Is it appropriate for the American president on the president’s say-so alone to order the death of an American citizen suspected of terrorism?
MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely. In this case, this is an individual who had aligned himself with a– with a group that had declared (CHEERING) war on the United States of America. And– and if there’s someone that’s gonna– join with a group like Al-Qaeda that declares war on America and we’re in a– in a– a war with that entity, then of course anyone who was bearing arms for that entity is fair game for the United States of America.
And here was one of most revealing exchanges of the year, which Pelley (whose questions were quite good on this topic) had with Newt Gingrich:
SCOTT PELLEY: Speaker Gingrich, if I could just ask you the same question, as President of the United States, would you sign that death warrant for an American citizen overseas who you believe is a terrorist suspect?
NEWT GINGRICH: Well, he’s not a terrorist suspect. He’s a person who was found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of Americans.
SCOTT PELLEY: Not– not found guilty by a court, sir.
NEWT GINGRICH: He was found guilty by a panel that looked at it and reported to the president.
SCOTT PELLEY: Well, that’s ex-judicial. That’s– it’s not–
NEWT GINGRICH: Let me– let me– let me tell you a story– let me just tell you this.
SCOTT PELLEY: –the rule of law.
NEWT GINGRICH: It is the rule of law. (APPLAUSE) That is explicitly false. It is the rule of law.
SCOTT PELLEY: No.
NEWT GINGRICH: If you engage in war against the United States, you are an enemy combatant. You have none of the civil liberties of the United States. (APPLAUSE) You cannot go to court.
Of course, whether someone is an “enemy combatant” and has “engaged in war against the United States” is exactly what is in question in these controversies. But, critically, this mindset — that the President has the power to secretly and unilaterally decree you guilty of being an Enemy Combatant and then take whatever steps he wants against you (warrantless eavesdropping, indefinite detention, consignment to Guantanamo, execution) — was until very recently the hallmark, the defining crux, of right-wing Bush/Cheney radicalism. That’s why Newt Gingrich — Newt Gingrich — defends Obama’s actions by claiming with a straight face that Awlaki was “found guilty” — meaning “found guilty” by a secret White House committee and thus “has none of the civil liberties of the United States.” Thanks to Barack Obama, this twisted mentality about what the “rule of law” means and how treason is decreed (not by a court, as the Constitution requires, but by the President acting alone) has now been enshrined as bipartisan consensus. That’s why Think Progress, Bachmann, Romney and Gingrich all find full common ground in embracing it as a “success” to be celebrated.
It took Ron Paul — whom every Good Progressive will tell you is Completely Crazy and Insane — to point out to the GOP the rather glaring inconsistency between, on the one hand, distrusting government authorities to run health care, but on the other, wanting to empower the President to kill whomever he wants with no transparency or due process.