A Feeling of Despair
[Welcome Confluence readers! -- Lambert]
Sorry folks, there is no activism today. I'm still processing my feelings about the shocking developments of last Sunday evening.
What I've ultimately settled upon, after my initial excitement has faded, is a feeling of despair.
What has happened to my country? Didn't we used to be proud of our Constitution? Didn't we used to think we were exceptional not because we killed more people than anyone else (our troops are the best in the world! USA! USA!), but because we didn't treat terrorists and criminals with the lawlessness they had shown to us? Wasn't the Unabomber, Ted Kaczyinski, tried and convicted? Wasn't the blind sheik, Omar Abdel-Rahman, tried and convicted after he attempted to destroy the World Trade Center? Didn't this due process make us all feel good after the murder and mayhem they perpetrated upon us? Didn't our consciences tell us we had, indeed, obeyed our laws and lived in accordance with our own preference for justice over brutal Bronze Age morality?
No more. The Feelings Police have spoken. No "decent" person could possibly do anything but celebrate Osama bin Laden's death. Bullying, swearing and shouting will be doled out to anyone who dares say otherwise. As usual on the Internets, the loudest, least reasonable voices prevail. And so, mindless expressions of unadulterated joy are the plat du jour. It's revolting to me.
How did this happen? I believe our new and NOT improved attitude towards the rule of law comes from the top. For the past ten years, Bush II and Obama (Bush III) have killed and tortured with utter impunity. They have perpetrated wars for oil and minerals, and have kept the American public so confused with endless streams of conflicting propaganda that we don't know what to think about any of it. One thing we know is that, as Rumsfeld famously stated, "there are known unknowns" which are a source of pain, doubt and fear for those of us refusing to be enveloped in nationalistic fervor. For example, we know that we have no idea what really happened to Osama bin Laden, the perpetrator of the event that Bush/Cheney/Obama have used as a bludgeon to coarsen and weaken the fiber of American morality.
Yesterday, it was widely reported that bin Laden "resisted" his capture and "engaged in a firefight" with U.S. forces (leaving most people, including me, to say that his killing was legally justified because he was using force). It was also repeatedly claimed that bin Laden used a women -- his wife -- has a human shield to protect himself, and that she was killed as a result. That image -- of a cowardly through violent-to-the-end bin Laden -- framed virtually every media narrative of the event all over the globe. And it came from many government officials, principally Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan.
Those claims have turned out to be utterly false. From TPM today:
It was a fitting end for the America's most wanted man. As President Barack Obama's Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan told it, a cowardly Osama bin Laden used his own wife as a human shield in his final moments. Except that apparently wasn't what happened at all.
Hours later, other administration officials were clarifying Brennan's account. Turns out the woman that was killed on the compound wasn't bin Laden's wife. Bin Laden may have not even been using a human shield. And he might not have even been holding a gun.
Politico's Josh Gerstein adds: "The White House backed away Monday evening from key details in its narrative about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, including claims by senior U.S. officials that the Al Qaeda leader had a weapon and may have fired it during a gun battle with U.S. forces." Gerstein added: "a senior White House official said bin Laden was not armed when he was killed."
We can choose to believe the official story - that he was killed and buried at sea - or we can choose not to; but we will most likely never find out the truth. And that's what's making me despair: the idea that seminal events that unfold in our country are constantly obscured, massaged and outright manufactured so as to rob them of any joy or justice.
There are so many things that I could have been happy about in the past ten years, had I simply allowed myself to stop thinking and just go with today's Two-Minute Hate. I can't do that, though. I am cursed with the inability to become so seduced by emotion that I become blinded to obvious facts. I didn't cheer when we illegally invaded Iraq. I didn't get excited by Saddam Hussein's capture, fake trial or barbaric execution. I didn't think the economy was "recovering" while tax cuts and war spending eroded our hard-won surplus at the speed of light and jobs streamed overseas at a frightening rate. I don't think old people, unions and women are the reason unemployment is sky-high. My joy at seeing the first black President elected was robbed from me because of the way the Democrats did it, and because I knew who he was (Bush III) and how he would govern (Bush III).
If Osama bin Laden was killed on Sunday (the day was so important that Obama only got in 9 holes of golf instead of 18!!!111!!!) and buried at sea (:roll:), then I take no joy in it. I disagree fervently with both Obama and Secretary Clinton: Killing a man in cold blood is not justice. It is "eye for an eye" revenge, one of the concepts enlightened human beings are supposed to understand is morally wrong. What happened to that understanding?
What a triumph it would have been to take bin Laden out of that compound in Pakistan and try him in the Hague; to see his smug, arrogant face humbled by being forced to wear the orange jumpsuit and chains of the common criminal. Had we chosen that route, we would have shown him, and the rest of the world, that we are still Americans. We still believe in the rule of law and the Constitution. We had been going down so far down the road of lawlessness that we almost lost ourselves; but when the ultimate test came, we redeemed ourselves by taking the road less traveled - the road of morality and justice. How lovely that would have been, and how fiercely I would have cheered the attorneys prosecuting that monster in open court. Surely the evidence against him must be overwhelming, or we wouldn't have been trying to kill him for the past 10 years...right? Right?
Perhaps what makes me despair the most is that Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of Dear Leader will be the new 9/11. It will be used to justify every lawless practice that still makes people uncomfortable and outraged when they think about it. Our war in Afghanistan - it worked! Our torture of Gitmo detainees provided the intellience that led to the assasination of Osama bin Laden! Our drones flying over Pock-ee-ston - they worked! So the government is spying on us, and has declared its ability to kill US citizens at the pleasure of the President, and is imprisoning and torturing whistleblowers like Bradley Manning instead of honoring them. So the Christian Taliban has decided to use the government to prosecute a war on America's women, and the Democrats refuse to stop them (in fact, the House is voting on the dreaded H.R. 3, aka Smith-Lipinski, this week). So what? Obama killed Osama bin Laden!!!!1111!!! Who's next? USA! USA!
I hope that one day, our country will regain its moral center again; but right now, I just want to weep and wail like a woman from the Bronze Age...which is where it seems our country is headed these days.