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Libya Is Nothing for Obama to Be Proud Of

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A fascinating example of the mindset of American mainstream journalists is provided by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote a glowing piece this week praising the U.S. government’s humanitarian intervention in Libya. It’s entitled “Thank You, America!

Kristof’s article comes across as a glorious paean to the U.S. government — how good and wonderful the government is — how it has made tremendous sacrifices to bring freedom to this one small part of the world. And how the Libyan people are so ecstatic and grateful for the intervention — well, at least those who weren’t killed in the operation.

Kristof’s mainstream mindset is absolutely astonishing. It’s as if he lives in a self-contained universe that views the federal government as all-good, all-caring, all-knowing, and all-powerful, a government that exists to spread freedom, peace, and harmony around the world through its military empire. Oh, sure, sometimes it runs into obstacles in spreading its good will around the world but now is not the time for dwelling on such things. According to Kristof, now is time to celebrate the government’s great humanitarian success in Libya.

Now, consider this article by former Human Rights Watch attorney Joanne Mariner, which appeared on the Internet on a website called justia.com. The title of her piece is “When Gaddafi Was Our Friend.”

Mariner’s article details how the CIA rendered at least six prisoners to Libya for purposes of torture between 2004 and 2006. Yes, the same Libya that was ruled by Gaddafi, the dictator who was just ousted from power.

The CIA is a principal agency of the U.S. government. When the CIA does things, the U.S. government is doing them. When the CIA renditioned people to Libya for purpose of torture, it was the U.S. government doing it — yes, the same U.S. government that Kristof glorifies for its wonderful, selfless sacrifice in ousting Gaddafi from power.

Now consider this Internet piece by Salon.com commentator Glenn Greenwald, which critically analyzes the Kristof article, along with those of other mainstream commentators praising the “success” of the Libyan intervention.

Does there not seem to be a disconnect here? When you read Kristof’s piece and then Mariner’s and Greenwald’s articles, you almost get a sense that we’re living in two simultaneous, completely different universes.

Mr. Kristof, the U.S. government — the same government to whom you’re singing your praises — cut a deal with the dictator Gaddafi to torture people!

How was that deal negotiated? We don’t know. Who negotiated the deal? We don’t know. Did President Bush approve the deal? We don’t know.

In fact, we still don’t know the answer of any of those questions with respect to the CIA’s torture deal with Egypt’s dictatorship and the CIA’s torture deal with Syria’s dictatorship.

Why don’t we have answers to such questions? Well, one reason is because of the mainstream press. They just don’t like asking those questions. The questions either don’t occur to them or they make the mainstream commentators uncomfortable.

Think how great it would have been if Kristof had used his column to at least ask, “President Obama, can you please order the CIA to reveal all the facts and circumstances behind the U.S. government’s torture partnership with the brutal dictatorships in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere?”

What’s amazing is how Kristof can write such an article without being at least a bit suspicious of the motives of U.S. officials in effecting a regime-change operation in Libya. Did the U.S. government have a road-to-Damascus experience on the way to Tripoli? Did U.S. officials recently wake up and exclaim, “Golly, we’ve shouldn’t have been partnering with that dictator. We shouldn’t have gotten him to torture people on our behalf. We’ve got to help the Libyan people to oust him”?

It doesn’t seem that such questions even enter the minds of mainstream journalists. They just continue in their little bubble of innocence, one that views the federal government as a good, grand, and glorious god, one that does no wrong, not even when its CIA is entering into agreements with dictators to torture people.

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    Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.