Friday, August 2, 2013

Privacy and Pecadillos

“I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”—E. Snowden

Privacy is a requirement of freedom. I think maybe like freedom of speech and freedom of the press, privacy is a right we have to protect, even when it protects repulsive behavior. Do we want a world where a squeaky-clean ideal Protestant marriage is a requirement for public office? That shuts out a lot of people. I don't have a brief for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who seems to be a criminal masquerading as a humanitarian, and Anthony Wiener seems to have a sexual obsession. But why are these things taken more seriously than the war-mongering and all the multiple sorts of corruption we see in our politics? Is it necessary to dig through anyone's sex life to find out that they're doing their job badly? Really?

Why do we try to elect saints rather than politicians?

Oathbreakers 3

(This is the one I finally posted in comments.)

I think, in punishing Manning, the administration is punishing the messenger.

Would we even be having this debate if administration officials had not broken their oaths? Would Manning have had anything to leak? Does anyone here really believe that President George W. Bush, with his signing statements, his secret prisons, his torturers, was keeping his oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?" And by continuing and extending many of Bush II's policies, President Obama has become a participant.

You argue that Manning could have gone through channels. But many people have already gone through channels, done it by the book. When we voted Bush II out by a popular landslide, we were were doing it by the book. But the surveillance state and the wars just kept rolling. We've done all the right things, all the by-the-book things--not just the general public, but many military and civilian officials. And the surveillance state and the wars still roll.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Oathbreakers 2

(Another partial answer to Jim Wright on Bradley Manning. [Added] I didn't post this one there, either.)

All the US service oaths I know contain a paradox: they are oaths to uphold the constitution, some laws, and obey one's superiors. But how when one's superiors are corrupt, all the way to the top? Where does loyalty lie?

Do you really believe that going through channels would have worked for Manning? In a time when we have to defend the idea that torture is illegal? In a time when the Secretary of State of the United States stood up in front the United Nations General Assembly and lied to justify a war? None of the Bush administration officials who made the war, who have made torture policy, who argued that it was legal, have been disciplined in any way. There has been no action to set matters straight in any way by the Obama administration—the war criminals of the Bush administration keep their pensions, their private lives, their war profits—yes, I'm looking at you, Mr. Former Vice President.

You know this. What, exactly, could PFC Bradley Manning do against so much corruption? As far as I can see the only effective action he could take was the action he did take. We can argue the law and the merits of the law endlessly. But what is the point?  We need to step back and ask ourselves what we have become and why we have become it. And, if we feel very brave, we might ask ourselves why Bradley Manning faces decades in prison while the people who killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq, who are making the USA enemies worldwide with their dirty wars and their killings of civilians, go free and are lauded as great men.  What harm could Bradley's revelations do compared to that? 

I think we are like the extended family that is run by violent fathers and uncles, and who beats up the son who goes to the police, whose members say that everything was all right until someone blew the whistle.  No.  Everything was not all right.  Everything that went before is not irrelevant, is not to be ignored.  No-one lets bygones be bygones when someone has died, let alone the hundreds of thousands who have died.  And—the people you have rightly criticized for tearing the country apart—they are the ones who have done this, who are doing this.  Not Manning's defenders on the left.  Not the moderate conservatives like you.  The people who made the dirty wars, who looted the banks, who wrecked the global economy. 

Let us fight the real enemy, not the poor schmuck who cries out, "My god, what have we done?"

Oathbreakers 1

(A partial answer to Jim Wright on Bradley Manning. [Added] I didn't post it there; my wife thought it was too inflammatory.)

My impression, as an outsider, is that all the official channels Manning might have used to raise the issues he encountered were closed during the Bush II administration, and have not been re-opened. If this was to come out, it would have to have come out as a leak.

None of the warmongers of the Bush administration have so much as lost their pensions.  Instead, their abuses have become settled policy.  So, Manning embarrasses the USA, and possibly weakens some programs, and gets, probably, decades in jail.  But top Bush administration officials start a series of wars that make a huge number of enemies in Central Asia and the Middle East, inaugurate policies of torture and assassination that make even more enemies, go free and are lauded as great men.

They also took oaths.