Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tipping point

Glenn Greenwald, outdoing himself yet again, has a fantastic rundown on the "New York Times is a traitor" story currently raging across the airwaves. I certainly couldn't do better.

The Bush Administration now has the power to monitor your bank records and phone calls. They can designate you an illegal combattant and imprison you indefinitely without charges, and without access to counsel. While in custody, you can be tortured for information you may or may not have. (And by "you" I don't mean some abstract person. I mean YOU.) They can bypass the federal court system whenever they determine it's necessary. Now, they are seriously flirting with imprisoning journalists who attempt to expose the adminstration's power grabs.
The clear rationale underlying the arguments of Bush supporters needs to be highlighted. They believe that the Bush administration ought to be allowed to act in complete secrecy, with no oversight of any kind. George Bush is Good and the administration wants nothing other than to stop The Terrorists from killing us. There is no need for oversight over what they are doing because we can trust our political officials to do good on their own. We don't need any courts or any Congress or any media serving as a "watchdog" over the Bush administration. There is no reason to distrust what they do. We should -- and must -- let them act in total secrecy for our own good, for our protection. And anyone who prevents them from acting in total secrecy is not merely an enemy of the Bush administration, but of the United States, i.e., is a traitor.
The defining ethos of our country is a distrust of government power -- or at least it always used to be. The entirety of the Constitution is devoted to imposing safeguards against government abuses because our country was founded upon the principle that we do not place blind faith in political officials to act properly. But the argument being peddled now is that we can place blind trust in the Bush administration and we need not worry ourselves about anything. At the very least, such a dramatic reversal of how we think about our government ought to be the subject of debate.
I think it's time to pick a side. And if you pick the administration's side, I think you ought to be able to answer a simple question: what more are you willing to give up in the name of fighting terrorism? Where is the line? Because up to now, the President himself has been able to define that ever-shifting line for all of us.

Pick a side.

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