Those who think that the election of Barack Obama will save the nation from its many foreign-policy/civil-liberties woes got smashed and dashed with a cold dose of reality. Flip-flopping in the finest political tradition, Obama voted in favor of President Bush’s wiretap/immunity bill, after promising to filibuster it before he secured the Democratic Party nomination.
Presumably, Obama’s thinking goes like this: “Now that I’ve secured the nomination of my party, liberals will vote for me regardless because they won’t want John McCain in power. So, I can now flip flop and taken different positions on foreign policy and civil liberties so that John McCain won’t be able to tell people that I’m soft on terrorism.”
Reminding people of what happened in 2002, when the Democrats unconstitutionally and cowardly delegated the power to declare war on Iraq to President Bush because of fear that the president would accuse them of being soft on Saddam Hussein, congressional Democrats voted to give Bush everything he wanted plus more in the wiretap/immunity bill, including civil immunity to private telecom companies for apparent felony offenses committed against their customers.
For an excellent analysis of the cowardly and craven cave-in by Obama and his fellow Democrats, see Glenn Greenwald’s blog and Jonathan Turley’s television interview, which is included in Greenwald’s June 9 blog. (Both Greenwald and Turley delivered terrific speeches at our recent conference “Restoring the Republic 2008: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties.”)
Meanwhile, the president and his associates continue to threaten Iran with a military attack without even pretending that they’re going to first ask for a declaration of war from Congress, which the Constitution requires. Keep in mind that the Constitution is the law that we the people impose on the president and the Congress. That’s the law that the president feels that he can violate with impunity.
The fact is that Americans are living under a lawless regime, one in which the president feels that constitutional constraints are illegitimate during his “war on terrorism,” which he says will last indefinitely given that there are still so many terrorists and potential terrorists in the world. Never mind that the U.S. government’s own policies generate the terrorist threat against the United States, which is then used as the excuse for the president to operate in an omnipotent and extra-constitutional manner.
That’s what his signing statements, illegal wiretaps and other searches, enemy-combatant designations, torture and sex abuse camps, cancelation of habeas corpus, wars of aggression, indefinite detentions, and kangaroo military tribunals are all about — the power to ignore constitutional restraints — omnipotent power.
The battle over the wiretap/immunity bill demonstrates a critically important point, one that every lover of liberty must ultimately confront: It is not sufficient to fight every assault on civil liberties that comes down the pike. The infringements are endless. Even if one civil-liberties battle is won, there are always three more battles to wage.
Suppose, for example, that civil libertarians succeed in getting the Pentagon’s torture and sex abuse camp at Guantanamo Bay closed down. Would that end the torture and sex abuse? Of course not. They’ll simply start sending detainees to torture and sex abuse camps in Afghanistan or to friendly terrorist regimes, such as Syria (which they still claim they don’t talk to despite the fact that the CIA somehow or another made the arrangements with Syrian torturers to torture an innocent man on its behalf).
Thus, what every American who thirsts for the restoration of a normal, free society must recognize is that there is one — and only one — solution: the dismantling of America’s standing army, especially the military-industrial complex and the CIA, which are the center of the rot of the U.S. Empire. This is what should have been done when the Berlin Wall fell and it’s what should be done today.
That’s the root of the weed. That’s what needs to be pulled out of the ground. It’s not sufficient to simply continue trimming its branches.
That would mean the closing of every U.S. military base around the world — Europe, Asia, South America, and everywhere else. It would entail bringing all those troops home and discharging them into the private sector. It would entail closing the multitude of military bases all across the United States. It would entail the abolition of the CIA. It would include the repeal of the deadly and destructive war on drugs. It would entail the end of all foreign aid. It would mean the end of the U.S. government’s meddling in the affairs of other nations. It would entail the repeal of all the taxes that fund these people and their deadly, destructive, and nefarious operations.
Barack Obama’s cowardly flip flop should remind every American that the key to our future lies not in electing different people to public office. Instead, the key to our future lies in a shift in paradigms — from one of big government in foreign (and domestic) affairs to one of limited government in foreign (and domestic) affairs.
The time has come for the American people to do what Americans in 1787 were doing: reflecting upon the principles of liberty and limited government on which this nation should be based. The time has come to end the U.S. government’s role as the world’s policeman, intervener, interloper, aggressor, welfare provider, and sole remaining empire. The time has come for the American people to restore the principles of liberty and limited government that our ancestors bequeathed to us.