Mr. Orwell Would Have Shivered

Those willing to sacrifice a little freedom for a little security will soon find they have neither.– Ben Franklin (attributed)

Those who still held out hope that Mr. Obama might yet fulfill his promises of change must have had their expectations dashed by now as the new administration continues, one after another, to confirm and even expand the worst policies of the Bush era. Yes, he’s promised to stop the torture, close Guantanamo and give detainees trials, where possible. That is something, at least. But in May Mr. Obama unfolded his plan for “preventive detention,” in which foreign suspects could be detained indefinitely even on suspicion that they might do something. He has also upheld the previous administration’s contempt for law, checks and balances and the judicial process by withholding evidence deemed a “national security risk” (read “anything we don’t feel like handing over or that might embarrass us”). If that wasn’t bad enough, at a Senate hearing this week, the Defense Dept. General Counsel stated that the President also reserves the right to continue detention even of those acquitted at trial, completely ignoring the judicial system. It reminds one of the famous quote by Andrew Jackson when the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional his heavy-handed treatment of Native Americans: “[Chief Justice] Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!”

So let’s recap. You’ve done nothing wrong, but someone thinks you might. Then you just might spend the rest of your life in a cage. Or let’s say you’re one of the fortunate detainees actually granted a trial. You’re acquitted, since the court felt there was insufficient evidence to convict you. But the Administration doesn’t like that verdict and continues to detain you, without charges, without appeal.

Under the new Obama regime, only detainees who are sure to be convicted will receive some kind of trial. And of course, in the event that one or two slip through the net through acquittal, the verdict can always be ignored. Does the term “show trials” come to mind?

What makes these policies even more monstrous is the many stories emerging from detainees who were innocent but imprisoned and even tortured because of some false intelligence or even just one unfounded accusation, never investigated, never proven. We were told that Guantanamo was reserved for the “worst of the worst.” But that was not true, as the wide dragnet of American intelligence continues to entangle the innocent as well as the guilty. And with such a diabolical deck stacked against them, how can any obtain real justice this side of heaven?

Yet, it is not just the administration’s policies themselves that are evil; they are after all designed to protect us, or so we are told. Rather, it’s that they give the presidency such unbelievable power as to leave the door wide open for abuse and error, tragic error. Tyranny.

Despite Mr. Obama’s claims to the contrary, these are the policies of a dictatorship, not a republic that values justice, fairness, and the rule of law. I am ashamed of my government and its leaders. While we the public are being entertained with news of the Obama’s new dog and Michelle’s fashion choices, American justice, which has long rested on the Western principle that justice is blind, has been perverted in the interests of “national security” (read “power of an increasingly imperial presidency”).

Folks, we must speak out. Dissent, after all, can be the highest form of patriotism. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.” And “What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

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2 Comments

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  1. I was watching Real Time with Bill Maher tonight, and he had a most interesting to say about both political parties."We don't have a left and a right party in this country anymore. We have a center-right party and a crazy party.""Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital."

  2. Yes. It does feel like we are living in a mental institution and we have a choice of who runs the show: Nurse Ratched or the patients.

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