Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More on the Detainee Bill

From the lack of comments and general disinterest expressed by friends and colleagues over the detainee bill, I thought that I was perhaps making a bit too much of it. Clearly my observation that Americans are embracing fascism at the cost of civil liberties hasn’t gone completely unnoticed. From an article in Slate today which compares the Bush hijacking of the constitution to the Nazi’s enabling act:

“In an interview on MSNBC the day the bill was signed, Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University, declared the date one of the most infamous in the history of the republic, (my emphasis) and amazed at the "national yawn" greeting this "huge sea change for our democracy." Where was the public consternation about this reversal of our founding principles? That interested me more than the brazen coup of the administration—which Carl Schmitt might argue was a categorical imperative. Why had the decent people of the country mounted no serious protest even against something as on-its-face objectionable as the bill's sanction of torture?

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a recent speech to an American audience, summarized (in a different context) the formula by which social evil gains mass acceptance: vilification of an enemy (file under fear-mongering) and habituation to incremental barbarities. Evidence of America's proficiency at this dual process is no more distant than the era of Southern apartheid, even if our own state-sponsored racism was a psycho-sociopolitical genocidal purgatory as opposed to a final solution. While we may prefer to believe that the Good German institutions capitulated to Hitler under the black boot of the SS, current scholarship confirms that Nazification, like segregation in America, was largely voluntary, even in the free press. “

And this:

“We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.”


Anonymous said...

I think it is great you keep drawing attention to this. By no means are you making too big of deal of it and your comments and willingness to continue to talk about it are not ignored even if they are not commented on. As for the disinterested friends, all I can think of are these two great quotes: The first, by Pastor Martin Niemöller, "First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me; the second, by B. Franklin, "Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither." I think both these quotes sum up the general unmoved masses of us americans, of which I am apart and no better. If we think this measure is good, it makes us active participants in abandoning all that is just and decent about this country and in the world. If we don't like the measure but are apathetic about it, don't care b/c it doesn't mean me, then we are flabby devils, as Joseph Conrad said, and just as dangerous as those who make these laws and those actively supporting them. But what to do? Basically the other shoe has to drop b/f anyone will truly care and put an end to it. White people in NYC didn't complain about Guiliani until they started getting harassed like black people have for centuries. B/f Sept. 11th, a friend sent out an email about the Taliban's treatment of women and destruction of religious statues. Another friend sent out a perfect reply which said, I'm so american I don't even care. We can be a near-sighted & vain people, willing to do the right thing but only as our last choice.

Mark said...

Thank you crack-ass, I can always depend on you for insightful comment, albiet few of them. Give me a call some time and we can go get a beer.

J said...

Human rights lawyers noticed... I was doing research to help overturn it before it had even been signed. So don't lose faith in the American people. Yet.