Sunday, March 13, 2011

What civil liberties?

CNN is reporting that State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley has resigned as a result of his critical comments regarding the inhumane treatment of accused Wikileaker Bradley Manning. This incident is yet another that reflects badly on the moral compass of the Obama administration. Civil liberties seem to be out of style in the world of the governing elite of both parties. I shouldn't have to point out just how right Crowley is about this:

But Crowley has told friends that he is deeply concerned that mistreatment of Manning could undermine the legitimate prosecution of the young private. Crowley has also made clear he has the Obama administration's best interests at heart because he thinks any mistreatment of Manning could be damaging around the world to President Obama, who has tried to end the perception that the U.S. tortures prisoners.
That puts aside the obvious moral problems with treating a prisoner who stands accused of something but convicted of nothing in such an inhumane way. This isn't a dangerous killer or child molestor, this is a guy who put some documents on a CD and handed them to Julian Assange. Now, to be sure, he broke the law, and he should be held accountable. But right now he's in holding until he goes on trial. His conditions are perilously close to what many people would term "torture." This is not the way America should treat prisoners of any kind. 

Yglesias calls it a "perversion of justice." I like Kevin Drum's reaction: "Jesus Christ." David Frum tweeted: "Crowley firing: one more demonstration of my rule: Republican pols fear their base, Dem pols despise it." Glenn Greenwald is unsurprisingly incensed

As pissed as I am about all this, I don't know what I can do about it. Right now this country has two parties that are both complicit in perpetuating civil liberties violations. I don't really know what leverage those of us who care about civil liberties really have. I am still certain that this support for torture and indefinite detention will eventually be looked upon the way the Alien and Sedition Acts are now. For now, however, the arc of history is still bending away from justice, to paraphrase the president. 

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