It is not desirable or fulfilling to realize that one does not trust one's own government and must disbelieve its statements, and I tried, along with scores of others, to avoid making that choice until the facts no longer permitted such logic.
Soon after our invasion of Iraq, when it became apparent that, contrary to Bush administration claims, there were no weapons of mass destruction, I began concluding, reluctantly, that the administration had veered far off course from defending the country against the threats of Muslim extremism. It appeared that in the great national unity the September 11 attacks had engendered, the administration had seen not a historically unique opportunity to renew a sense of national identity and cohesion, but instead a potent political weapon with which to impose upon our citizens a whole series of policies and programs that had nothing to do with terrorism, but that could be rationalized through an appeal to the nation's fear of further terrorist attacks.
And in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion came a whole host of revelations that took on an increasingly extremist, sinister, and decidedly un- American tenor. The United States was using torture as an interrogation tool, in contravention of legal prohibitions. We were violating international treaties we had signed, sending suspects in our custody for interrogation to the countries most skilled in human rights abuses. And as part of judicial proceedings involving Yaser Esam Hamdi, another U.S. citizen whom the Bush administration had detained with no trial and no access to counsel, George W. Bush began expressly advocating theories of executive power that were so radical that they represented the polar opposite of America's founding principles.
With all of these extremist and plainly illegal policies piling up, I sought to understand what legal and constitutional justifications the Bush administration could invoke to engage in such conduct. What I discovered, to my genuine amazement and alarm, is that these actions had their roots in sweeping, extremist theories of presidential power that many administration officials had been advocating for years before George Bush was even elected. The 9/11 attacks provided them with the opportunity to officially embrace those theories. In the aftermath of the attack, senior lawyers in the Bush Justice Department had secretly issued legal memoranda stating that the president can seize literally absolute, unchecked power in order to defend the country against terrorism. To assert, as they did, that neither Congress nor the courts can place any limits on the president's decisions is to say that the president is above the law. Once it became apparent that the administration had truly adopted these radical theories and had begun exerting these limitless, kinglike powers, I could no longer afford to ignore them.
The 9/11 attacks were not the first time our nation has had to face a new and amoral enemy. Throughout our history, we have vanquished numerous enemies at least as strong and as threatening as a group of jihadist terrorists without having the president seize the power to break the law. As a nation, we have triumphed over a series of external enemies and overcome internal struggles, and we have done so not by abandoning our core principles in the name of fear but by insisting on an adherence to our fundamental political values.
In response to the many controversies and scandals concerning its misconduct, the Bush administration has invariably dismissed them, focusing instead on deliberately spreading an all-consuming, highly exploitative fear of terrorists. No matter what the accusation, the administration trots out its favorite tool: manipulative fear-mongering. Public appearances by senior Bush officials over the last four years have rarely missed the opportunity for a calculated and cynical invocation of mushroom clouds, homicidal dictators, and a never-ending parade of new and destructive weapons. The language of fear is the Bush administration's lingo.
Copyright by Glenn Greenwald. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe transmitted in any form by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Working Assets Publishing (www.workingassetspublishing.com).
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