Friday, October 05, 2007

Losing the Moral High Ground

Get ready for a rant. It's been a while...

Here are some quotes for the day. As a person who voted for Bush in 2004, I will be anxious for a change--hopefully, a change that restores some of what we have lost on the world stage: the moral high ground.

As a fiscal conservative, social moderate, and pro-military/anti-Iraq-war supporter, these quotes pretty much sum it up for me:

Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.
- James F. Byrnes


from Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, "What Bush has Thrown Away":

I served in the Marines as a young man. I was stationed in Japan and saw duty in Okinawa, the Philippines and throughout the Caribbean. I was willing at that time to sacrifice my life for the country if called upon (hoping, of course, that such a call would not come.) My willingness was predicated upon a belief that America was different, not only different, but better than other countries and that we offered the people of the world a vision which they could follow to a better way of doing things.

The other day I heard the president's press secretary condemning the Burmese dictators for holding people in secret jails without charges. I was saddened to think that we were no better than them. What would I think now if I were in the Marines? What do we offer the world that is different than any benighted country?

Tragically, Andrew, it is not just Bush but Congress and the federal courts that folded the tent on what was right about the country.


also from Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, "Betrayal":

It's perhaps worth reminding some readers that my first response to reports of abuse and torture at Gitmo was to accuse the accusers of exaggeration or deliberate deception. I simply didn't believe America would do those things. I'd also endorsed Bush in 2000, believed it necessary to give the president the benefit of the doubt in wartime, and knew Rumsfeld as a friend. It struck me as a no-brainer that this stuff was being invented by the far-left or was part of al Qaeda propaganda. After all, they train captives to lie about this stuff. Bottom line: I trusted this president in a time of war to obey the rule of law that we were and are defending. And then I was forced to confront the evidence. He betrayed all of us. He lied. He authorized torture in secret, and then, when busted after Abu Ghraib, blamed it on low-level grunts. This was not a mistake. It was a betrayal.

Jack Balkin adds:

An essential component of the rule of law is transparency. The laws must be knowable, not only so that people can structure their behavior with fair warning, but also to prevent government officials from engaging in abuses of power. The Bush Administration has used the shibboleths of terrorism and national security to violate this basic principle.

The Administration said, "Trust us." And then this is what they did in secret.

Hilzoy nails it:

The techniques in question are repugnant. But in many ways, the administration's disregard for the law is worse. When your policies violate treaties you have signed and laws that are on the books, you are not supposed to come up with some clever way of explaining that appearances to the contrary, what you're doing is not illegal at all. You're supposed to stop doing it.

If you haven't read the full NYT expose of the secret enforcement of torture and butchering of the rule of law long after Abu Ghraib, don't miss it.

I don't pray for much, but I pray that we get back our country's foundation of liberty and justice, and not let the fear alone of terrorism drive us to become a much lesser nation:

  • Warrantless wiretapping
  • 45 year-old American mothers dying in TSA custody
  • Secret prisons
  • Torture
  • Unsupervised and unchecked cowboy mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Imbalance of power in the Executive branch
  • Etching away of our most precious Constitution

Right now, the terrorists are winning, and we're doing it to ourselves.


Chuck said...

Unfortunately it is not just the moral high ground has been squandered. It will take more than an election and some pretty words for the US to regain any semblance of respect in the rest of the world. But it is worse than that, as the US has lost its position of preeminence: a recession in the US is now shrugged off by the rest of the world as inconsequential, given growth in China, India, and Russia, and the consolidation of Europe. By closing off the rest of the world, destroying its institutions and harassing its own people it has abandoned the notion of progress. It nice to be loved and admired, and it still good to be hated and feared. But I'm afraid the US has just about carved out another category for itself: despicable and irrelevant.

I'm still hopeful, but I think it's going to take a generation to fix this mess.

gaz said...

I'm still hopeful, but I think it's going to take a generation to fix this mess.

at the very least a new president that the people can 'trust' to do what's right, and who behaves in an honourable way.

Scott said...

Gaz: That's what I'm hoping for. I plan to do my part to see that it happens.

Barry said...

The administration has a attempted to rule through fear to get past any political or legal impediment in their path. Unfortunately, in to a large extent they have succeeded. It is no coincidence that whenever the Pres is in trouble, or now even in the potential Republican nominees, the old refrain of "remember 9/11" is recycled.

Whatever happened to "we have nothing to fear but fear itself"

Scott said...

well said.

JamesF said...

Hate to break it to people, but we're in the toilet for a good while as of about a year ago when Alito was appointed to the Supreme Court. A change in administration might help short term and with worldwide perception issues, but long term the damage has been done. The Supreme Court is currently lopsided and will be for the foreseeable future. I expect there to be more 5-4 votes in the future rather than less and it's those votes that shape the future of the country.

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