Politics & Policy

Where Have We Heard This Before?

A strange feeling of déjà vu.

It detains almost 200 people at Guantanamo Bay, the facility that Amnesty International calls “a global symbol for injustice and abuse.”

It will resort to military tribunals for those detainees it chooses to try. Dozens of the rest will simply be held indefinitely — international opinion be damned.

It relies on Gen. David Petraeus to turn around a difficult war of counterinsurgency. He’s “an extraordinary warrior for the American people,” it insists.

#ad#It surges American troops into the field, disregarding American public opinion and the opposition of the Left. It persists even though the war has been dragging on for years in a country beset by ethnic divisions, a long history of war and repression, and weak, corrupt political leadership.

It warns that this is “tough business” and “progress goes slow” but is stalwart nonetheless: We are “going on offense” in a war that is part of a global effort “to disrupt and dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda and its extremist allies.”

It refuses to heed the protests of antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan.

It fails to forge a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, or even stop the Israelis from building settlements.

It is not talking to North Korea or Iran.

It believes it has the right to kidnap people in the tactic known as “rendition,” without due process.

It targets people for assassination, without due process.

It rains missiles down on countries, Pakistan and Yemen, with which we aren’t at war and profess to be friendly.

It reserves the right to assassinate American citizens, and has targeted one U.S. citizen for killing in Yemen. He’s a Muslim religious leader not indicted for any crimes, let alone convicted of any.

It embraces the Patriot Act and its repeated reauthorization without hesitation. It ignores critics of the law like former Amnesty International USA chair Chip Pitts, who warns of “the institutionalization of this and other egregious infringements on freedom.”

It relies on the National Security Agency for a sweeping program of terrorist surveillance and brushes aside all legal challenges to it.

It bristles at congressional interference with, as the attorney general puts it, “the authority of the executive branch to determine when or where to prosecute terror suspects.”

It is prone to what advocates of government transparency criticize as the overclassification of government documents.

It won’t tolerate unauthorized leaks, prosecuting a host of whistle-blowers.

It invokes the “state secrets doctrine” to get court cases it finds inconvenient dismissed, including one by former U.S. detainees alleging abuse.

It issues signing statements challenging parts of laws passed by Congress, in a practice that lawmakers of both parties have criticized and the American Bar Association calls unconstitutional.

It outrages civil libertarians. They denounce it for “making impunity for torture the law of the land” (the ACLU). They inveigh against it for asserting that “the government shall be entirely unaccountable for surveilling Americans in violation of its own laws” (Electronic Frontier Foundation). They lament its policies for their “repressiveness” (Glenn Greenwald of Salon).

While it is attacked by the Left for its robust assertions of executive power in a global war on terror, it is defended by Dick Cheney for the same.

It advocates democracy and human rights in sweeping terms: “Societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful, and the world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being.”

It prods the Arab world to reform, issuing a blunt warning that its “foundations are sinking into the sand.” And it lectures China for violating of the rights of its people.

It flatly boasts that we are “the greatest nation on Earth.”

But enough about the Obama administration . . .

— Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail, comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. © 2011 by King Features Syndicate.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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