18 Nov 2011

Glenn Greenwald on ThinkProgress

Foreign Policy, Ron Paul 11 Comments

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.


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.

11 Responses to “Glenn Greenwald on ThinkProgress”

  1. Christopher says:

    There was a time when America had enough self-confidence to win a war and then be gracious to the defeated. There was a time when America felt so strong as to uphold its ideals even looking into the eyes of a million red army soldiers with nuclear weapons ready to destroy every American city within 15 minutes. There was a time when America had a good reputation amoung foreign countries around the world. When it was an appealing country to young people from other countries like me.
    Look what you have become…
    When will I get that country back that could let me hope for the better. The country that allowed me to think “If I am fed up with the Socialists here, I can always go there”? When will you guys start being America again?!

  2. UnlearningEcon says:

    There is something wrong with your blog for me. I can see your site and individual posts but if I try to access http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog it says the site has been suspended.

    Just letting you know.

  3. joshua says:

    Brilliant final paragraph, there.

  4. English Bob says:

    So is Glenn saying he does not trust government authorities to run healthcare?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Heh good point.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      It’s the essential point and it’s the point that flies right over the heads of our “progressive” critics. It’s what makes “arguing” with them so pointless other as a practice exercise performed for the purpose of learning the latest statist spin.

      What the 20th Century should have taught everyone about the “progressive” era was that state sponsored war, murder, genocide, torture, theft and pillage are the main enemies of mankind. Mankind does not suffer from unemployment or a “lack of aggregate demand” in a free market. Keynesian policies must eviscerate basic concepts of private property, limited government, the rule of law and freedom of contract which will lead straight to the abominations reported by Greenwald.

      It is no coincidence that the government that is presently engaging in the illegal extra-judicial murder of American citizens is the largest, most monstrously devastating Keynesian government in the history of the world.

  5. Gee says:

    If you still get an error when visiting the home page, it’s might be because your browser is pulling the webpage from cache. All I had to do was click refresh and it worked again.

  6. Cody S says:

    Bob, you’re probably not watching it, but the new comedy show on Beck’s fledgling network did a fun bit on this thing on Friday.

    Having done a re-think on this, consider the movie Casablanca.

    In it, the Nazis refuse even to arrest a man they deem a terrorist (or terrorist recruiter, or what have you) in a country allied to them, simply because he hasn’t committed a crime there or tried to escape. The really villainous twist is that they are threatening to have him arrested by the locals if he tries to leave!

    What horror!

    And, how far we have come since then.

  7. Edwin Herdman says:

    Shock and horror that Newt Gingrich could be right about something! Anything. He’s very frugal with those judicial panels.

    This needs to be said: While Gingrich, and Obama for that matter, could be wrong about whether it is a sufficiently rigorous process for judging whether an American citizen can be found liable for execution, there are two points worth bearing out:

    1.) Gingrich already touched on this, but these guys had very nearly explicitly revoked their citizenship. The only reason they hadn’t delivered the message in hand to the President was that it was rather inconvenient for them to do so.

    2.) There is nothing stopping secret courts from scrutiny and following the law. The argument strikes me as confusing quantity (and timeliness) with quality.

    Personally, I’ve been troubled by the recent batch of secret courts dating back to the FISA court revelations in the late Bush era, and the problem there wasn’t that the FISA court existed, but that it wasn’t being respected by the sitting Administration at the time.

    And what this has to do with Keynes is beyond me – maybe you misread “in the long run, we’ll all be dead (of a secret monetarist cabal secretly pulling the strings of government)?” Looked simple enough to me even with that oft-forgotten parenthetical.

    In the end, the absurd reality is that we’re all wasting our time arguing about how theoretically nice it would be to apply domestic American judicial process to somebody who isn’t even here, but is no less dangerous as a result. Say what you will about the glories of isolationism but we still have a responsibility to other nations (and ourselves) when deranged individuals from our land foment murders around the globe.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Edwin wrote:

      …but we still have a responsibility to other nations (and ourselves) when deranged individuals from our land foment murders around the globe.

      And you know that these people “foment murders around the globe” because…the government assures us so.

      Edwin, why do we have trials in the first place? Is it because we don’t care about locking up killers?

    • Rick Hull says:

      > There is nothing stopping secret courts from scrutiny and following the law. The argument strikes me as confusing quantity (and timeliness) with quality.

      Of course *secret courts* might apply scrutiny and the rule of law. But how are we to know whether they do or not? And if they don’t, what would be the consequence? Is this really something you are comfortable with?