My time being limited today, I just wanted to highlight three apt quotes included in Greenwald’s article.
1.Teju Cole in Mother Jones
Killing a bunch of people in Sudan and Yemen and Pakistan, it’s like, ‘Who cares – we don’t know them.’ But the current discussion is framed as ‘When can the President kill an American citizen?’ Now in my mind, killing a non-American citizen without due process is just as criminal as killing an American citizen without due process – but whatever gets us to the table to discuss this thing, we’re going to take it.
2. Thomas Jefferson
In questions of power . . . let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
3. Frederick Douglas
Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.
Simon Owens’ Clash of the Blogosphere Titans sees Glenn Greenwald’s relentless (and entirely justified) criticism of Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg as a useful yardstick with which to measure “the effect of media criticism in a Web 2.0/3.0 age.”
The journalistic catastrophes that made Goldberg’s name synonymous with spectacular wrongheadedness, a pair of long pieces about the Iraq threat for the New Yorker (the first one titled “The Great Terror”), came back in 2002.
Times have changed. Today, Greenwald, a “blogger” (a term of utter contempt once, now losing its bite) has a featured column at Salon, a site that gets far more online readership than the Atlantic, according to Owens, as well as a New York Times bestseller to his credit. Owens says Greenwald now possesses the clout to compel Goldberg to respond to criticism, especially as regards “The Point of No Return,” his attempt to replicate his scare/war-mongering success, this time with regard to Iran.
Goldberg declined Owens’ invitation to discuss his disputes with Greenwald; Greenwald did not. Responding to the suggestion that his singular focus on Goldberg might be perceived as an “obsessive feud,” Greenwald tells Owens that Goldberg’s stature demands close scrutiny:
“[T]here are two things that distinguish this case. One is the consequentiality of it and the centrality [Goldberg] played. It wasn’t like he was just kind of wrong about something, he was one of the leading people validating the war. The thing that happened in the Iraq War is that obviously the right got behind it because the people on the right — the leaders on the right — were clearly behind it. But in order to make it a majoritarian movement, they had to get centrists and liberals behind it. So they needed liberal validators … There’s probably nobody that you can compare in influence to getting Democrats and liberals to support the war than Jeffrey Goldberg. It wasn’t just that he was for the war, he was using his status as a reporter to feed lies. I mean he didn’t just write one New Yorker piece but a second one too, and he was all over the television with this stuff saying that Saddam had a very active nuclear program and most importantly that Saddam had an enthusiastic alliance with al-Qaeda.”
The second distinguishing characteristic of Goldberg, Greenwald argued, is that he’s one of the few mainstream reporters who hasn’t issued a mea culpa on the facts he got wrong. Greenwald pointed out that though Judith Miller paid a career price for her Iraq reporting at the New York Times, Goldberg — who Greenwald considers equally culpable — continues to gain prominence despite doubling down on his past reporting. In fact, Goldberg recently used his blog to argue that there truly was a strong connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda.
It’s true that Goldberg has responded to Greenwald multiple times over the Iran piece, both on his blog and as a guest on NPR, but these responses have been perfunctory at best, mendacious at worst:
“It’s almost like his responses are three or four years behind. When I first started writing about criticizing media figures — establishment media figures — that was very much the reaction. It was a very lame sort of not-really-attentive response, just dismissive or plain mockery. Like, ‘I don’t have to respond because in my world he’s nobody and I’m somebody so the most I’m going to do is be derisive about this.’ That’s a journalist/blogger cliché from 2005, and most journalists know they can no longer get away with it. He’s living in a world where he thinks it doesn’t affect his reputation. Among his friends it doesn’t. I’m sure he calls [TIME writer] Joe Klein or whoever else I’ve criticized and he’s like ‘he’s an asshole and a prick, don’t worry about that.’ But I guarantee you that there are a lot more people reading the stuff I write than the stuff he writes, in terms of sheer number. And the level of impact that that kind of level of critique has is infinitely greater than it was three years ago. So I’m sure he tells himself and convinces himself that it doesn’t actually matter but it does. And it’s hurting his credibility.
True, but my more cynical take is that Goldberg’s credibility is not the point. Or at least it isn’t anymore. In fact, his willingness to use his credentials as a correspondent for the New Yorker (liberal! fastidiously fact-checky!) to stretch the case for war with Iraq, at the cost of his journalistic reputation in the “reality-based community,” was what got him to the pinnacle of the blogging profession.
This sort of failing upwards is not a new thing, especially given Goldberg’s journalistic focus.
If you make a case for a militaristic solution to a perceived problem, and possess even a middling capacity for persuasion, and if you make that case boldly and loudly enough, you are well on your way a successful career in punditry in America.
Why should Goldberg apologize? Reckless accusations that lead to war, in the face of contrary facts and likely catastrophic consequences, are a feature, not a bug.
Glenn Greenwald’s The Lynch Mob Mentality observes that we have gotten to a very bad place, in fact a certifiable crazy-place, to use Dahlia Lithwick’s phrase, where the government’s claim that someone is a terrorist is reason enough for said person (along with anyone nearby) to be vaporized anywhere on the planet, even if that person is an American citizen.
Terrorists have no rights, and being accused is the same as being convicted.
Greenwald compares our current the irrational blood lust of our age to that of the Salem Witch Era, and finds it compares unfavorably to what had been the paradigm of superstitious arbitrary lawlessness.
[I]n fairness to the 17th Century Puritans, at least the Salem witches received pretenses of due process and even trials (albeit with coerced confessions and speculative hearsay). Even when it comes to our fellow citizens, we don’t even bother with those. For us, the mere accusation by our leaders is sufficient: Kill that American Terrorist with a drone!
Glenn Greenwald notices that now the Obama Administration doesn’t distinguish between U.S. citizens and non-citizens when it comes to targeting them for assassination. From the Post (italics are Greenwald’s):
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said. . . .
The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. If a U.S. citizen joins al-Qaeda, “it doesn’t really change anything from the standpoint of whether we can target them,” a senior administration official said. “They are then part of the enemy.”
I almost always agree with Greenwald but I don’t quite share the outrage over the U.S. citizen part.
I mean, really, once the President declares he has the right to order someone killed, without anything resembling due process, in a country with which we may or may not be “at war”, the citizenship of that poor misfortunate bastard (or the equally misfortunate bastards who happen to be in the vicinity when the Hellfire missiles come screaming down) seems like a quibble.
The issue is that the President and some anonymous spooks can, as a matter of everyday routine business, get together and say “Today, we are going to smoke some guy in Yemen, who may be what we call a terrorist, and anyone standing near him. And if we miss him this time, we will keep trying to kill him WITH ROCKETS until we do.” Also, if you’re a major drug lord, but NOT one of OUR major drug lords, you’re on the list, too. Got that?
According to Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article last October there are ten–ten!–collateral damage kills for every successful murder of an intended target, and that’s taking the Government’s word that the target was indeed worth targeting. (Imagine a SWAT team blowing away ten women and children in a gunfight with a suspected terrorist, and then high-fives all around because they got the guy. Actually, not that hard to imagine….)
This has not always been OK. You can go back to Ronald Reagan, that high-minded man of peace, or even further to Abraham Lincoln. Targeted assassinations, extrajudicial murders, have always been forbidden (at least officially).
A 1981 Executive Order signed by Ronald Reagan provides: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” Before the Geneva Conventions were first enacted, Abraham Lincoln — in the middle of the Civil War — directed Francis Lieber to articulate rules of conduct for war, and those were then incorporated into General Order 100, signed by Lincoln in April, 1863. Here is part of what it provided, in Section IX, entitled “Assassinations”:
The law of war does not allow proclaiming either an individual belonging to the hostile army, or a citizen, or a subject of the hostile government, an outlaw, who may be slain without trial by any captor, any more than the modern law of peace allows such intentional outlawry; on the contrary, it abhors such outrage. The sternest retaliation should follow the murder committed in consequence of such proclamation, made by whatever authority. Civilized nations look with horror upon offers of rewards for the assassination of enemies as relapses into barbarism.
Glenn Greenwald has a pretty much spot-on look at the deepest underlying issue in the health care debacle, the blurring of the lines between the corporate and public sectors. With the exception of party loyalists (both Republican and Democrat), it’s pissing off just about everyone in a major way, both those who identify as conservatives and as progressives. Each group has a different name for the problem:
Whether you call it “a government takeover of the private sector” or a “private sector takeover of government,” it’s the same thing: a merger of government power and corporate interests which benefits both of the merged entities (the party in power and the corporations) at everyone else’s expense. Growing anger over that is rooted far more in an insider/outsider dichotomy over who controls Washington than it is in the standard conservative/liberal ideological splits from the 1990s. It’s true that the people who are angry enough to attend tea parties are being exploited and misled by GOP operatives and right-wing polemicists, but many of their grievances about how Washington is ignoring their interests are valid, and the Democratic Party has no answers for them because it’s dependent upon and supportive of that corporatist model. That’s why they turn to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh; what could a Democratic Party dependent upon corporate funding and subservient to its interests possibly have to say to populist anger?
Rahm Emanuel has managed to convince enough of the people that any inadequacies in this bill will be forgotten if the Dems can claim a “w” and pass any piece of shit health care bill. And that if Congress just spends 2010 naming post offices, any objections that Americans might have to paying 8% of their incomes to private corporations who will use the IRS as their collection agencies will just disappear.
It’s scary to think that people this obscenely stupid are running the country. All the while, the painfully obvious left/right transpartisan consensus that is coalescing against DC insiders of both parties appears to be taking everyone by surprise.
I am not going to defend Rahm Emanuel. He’s never been more than a corrupt, self-interested, low-life would-be hard guy who’s not even really that hard. His role model, that pudgy lump o’ Rove, is the real deal, a completely psychotic fire-breather who would do anything for his party. Rahm has convinced many that he puts the party’s fortunes above everything. Leaving aside the larger question of whether that’s a good thing, lately even those who think he’s a necessary evil have had to reappraise a. his commitment to his party, and/or b. his competence.
So all I really wanted for Christmas was a Karl Rove of our own who would make all of our Obama wishes come true, even if he had to kick Evan Bayh’s mushy skull in to accomplish them. Someone who, I had hoped, would make Joe Lieberman’s life something akin to a hemorrhoidectomy gone horribly terribly wrong.
The White House wants Reid to hand Joe Lieberman the farm.
An aide briefed on discussions with the White House says that there would be no story if Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel hadn’t interceded. The aide confirmed an account, reported by Huffington Post, that Emanuel visited Reid personally, telling him to cut a deal with Lieberman.
Then the aide provided more detail.
Emanuel didn’t just leave it to Reid to find a solution. Emanuel specifically suggested Reid give Lieberman the concessions he seeks on issues like the Medicare buy-in and triggers.
“It was all about ‘do what you’ve got to do to get it done. Drop whatever you’ve got to drop to get it done,” the aide said. All of Emanuel’s prescriptions, the source said, were aimed at appeasing Lieberman–not twisting his arm.
If Rahm Emmanuel is all he was supposed to be, we can safely assume that the Obama White House either never gave a shit about health care reform, or they managed health care reform so horrifically and incompetently that they are now willing to settle for a “win”, no matter how meager.
For more of the same, see “Rahm’s making the White House look terrible,” especially the impassioned comments section. So many former true believers think this is the last straw, but so many are still acting like Rahm’s a maverick operative acting against the wishes of his benign boss, who really does have the best interests of the country at heart.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), among the most vocal supporters of the public option, said it would be unfair to blame Lieberman for its apparent demise. Feingold said that responsibility ultimately rests with President Barack Obama and he could have insisted on a higher standard for the legislation.
“This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don’t think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth,” said Feingold.
In essence, this reinforces all of the worst dynamics of Washington. The insurance industry gets the biggest bonanza imaginable in the form of tens of millions of coerced new customers without any competition or other price controls. Progressive opinion-makers, as always, signaled that they can and should be ignored …. Most of this was negotiated and effectuated in complete secrecy, in the sleazy sewers populated by lobbyists, industry insiders, and their wholly-owned pawns in the Congress. And highly unpopular, industry-serving legislation is passed off as “centrist,” the noblest Beltway value.
And, in an update, he comes up with this classic dissection of Obama/Emanuel excuse-making:
It’s also worth noting how completely antithetical claims are advanced to defend and excuse Obama. We’ve long heard — from the most blindly loyal cheerleaders and from Emanuel himself — that progressives should place their trust in the Obama White House to get this done the right way, that he’s playing 11-dimensional chess when everyone else is playing checkers, that Obama is the Long Game Master who will always win. Then, when a bad bill is produced, the exact opposite claim is hauled out: it’s not his fault because he’s totally powerless, has nothing to do with this, and couldn’t possibly have altered the outcome. From his defenders, he’s instantaneously transformed from 11-dimensional chess Master to impotent, victimized bystander.
Glenn Greenwald muses on the fervor of personal feeling that is behind so many opinions — pro and con — about the current president. Yes, there are kooks who venerate Sarah[!] for no good reason. But what about… um, you know, the president?
This week Andrew Sullivan has highlighted numerous rants from Obama loyalists who are disappointed, nay, disgusted that people “on the left” are daring to criticize their president. As Greenwald asks, should we just ignore all of this:
[A]re the criticisms that have been voiced about Obama valid? Has he appointed financial officials who have largely served the agenda of the Wall Street and industry interests that funded his campaign? Has he embraced many of the Bush/Cheney executive power and secrecy abuses which Democrats once railed against — from state secrets to indefinite detention to renditions and military commissions? Has he actively sought to protect from accountability and disclosure a whole slew of Bush crimes? Did he secretly a negotiate a deal with the pharmaceutical industry after promising repeatedly that all negotiations over health care would take place out in the open, even on C-SPAN? Are the criticisms of his escalation of the war in Afghanistan valid, and are his arguments in its favor redolent of the ones George Bush made to “surge” in Iraq or Lyndon Johnson made to escalate in Vietnam? Is Bob Herbert right when he condemned Obama’s detention policies as un-American and tyrannical, and warned: “Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House”?
Greenwald asserts that these reactions are “grounded almost exclusively in (a) a deep-seated conviction that President Obama is a good and just man who means well; (b) their own rather intense upset at seeing him criticized; and (c) a spitting ad hominem fury of the type long directed by Bush followers at any critics of their leader, and generally typical of authoritarian attacks on out-groups critics.” So, the big question this raises: WTF is up with America and politics??? Is it all about an innate national inclination to favor judging the person over scrutinizing policy? I guess. Along with a massive media industry that works exactly along the lines of some arcane symbolism, judging the president’s body language, his failure to wear a flag pin, his pre-empting the Charlie Brown Christmas!
Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are similar in kind to those whose reaction to Obama is dominated by their view of him as an inspiring, kind, sophisticated, soothing and mature intellectual. These are personality types bolstered with sophisticated marketing techniques, not policies, governing approaches or ideologies. But for those looking for some emotional attachment to a leader, rather than policies they believe are right, personality attachments are far more important. They’re also far more potent. Loyalty grounded in admiration for character will inspire support regardless of policy, and will produce and sustain the fantasy that this is not a mere politician, but a person of deep importance to one’s life who — like a loved one or close friend or religious leader — must be protected and defended at all costs.
You know, this doesn’t really bode well for democracy. And somehow, I don’t see us pulling out of this personality-driven shite anytime soon.