My assessment of the likeliest next Democratic nominee can be read here.
HOW TO HELP IRAN’S DEMOCRATS: Some suggestions here.
PERSPECTIVE: Yes, it’s important. The vast majority of coalition soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere are doing extremely tough jobs in unimaginably difficult circumstances. Photo essays like these and this are a vital part of the truth of our endeavor. Let’s get more of these images out there. Let’s not forget the great work we have done and are doing in reconstructing Afghanistan and Iraq. We owe these troops our deepest gratitude and support. But part of that support is also exposing what the civilian and military leadership has led many other troops into: a netherworld of sick, twisted detention policies that have shamed this country and undermined the war. The emphasis has been on what some have seen as a few bad apples, rather than on the real architects of this p.r. debacle and moral morass in the White House and Pentagon. The following is not, I think, true:
We know what went on at Abu Ghraib. We’ve seen the photos. We’ve heard the stories. We’ve punished the offenders.
Most Americans do not know what really went on at Abu Ghraib; and have little idea that the same kind of things have gone on in many other interrogation centers run by the U.S. The very carefully selected and released photos were brilliant news-management, designed to foster the idea that what happened there was more in the lines of “frat-house” humiliation, rather than rape, beating, humiliation and murder. We haven’t punished the real offenders, those who crafted new policies that enabled and facilitated the very abuse we have seen. In fact, those architects have been rewarded, while low-level grunts have been scapegoated. When the public gets a fuller grip on the extent of the abuse, and begins to understand that such practices have occurred throughout the U.S. detention system, they may rouse themselves out of their slumber and ask the hard questions of their political leaders. My view is that all of this – the very good and the appalling – should be disseminated in a free society. My view is that this administration has let our troops down by crafting policies that have enabled the kind of abuse that is now an indelible stain on the reputation of the United States. Supporting the troops also means holding those who have forced them into moral nightmares responsible.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: You wrote:
“Many claim that there is no such thing as neutrality, that law is always and everywhere the imposition of one set of values over another, and that the question is merely ‘whose values?’ Although this has a kind of late night college dorm plausibility, it essentially abandons the entire Western attempt to conceive of law as something that aims, in so far as it is possible, to provide neutral limits on human activity in order to protect the freedom of individuals to live as they see fit. Even if this will have cultural consequences, even if this may make some feel discriminated against (even if they aren’t), it is an essential goal of the liberal state to at least aspire to fairness, equal treatment of all citizens and tolerance of value-pluralism. In that sense, liberalism’s ‘value’ is fairness, consensus and equality.”
Bingo. Paint it in gold-leaf and hang it on your wall. It is exactly right.
The major political battle of our time is between liberalism, which you so well describe above, and various fundamentalists who oppose it.
Now, here is the important thing: The attack on liberalism is now the core ideology of the GOP. It is precisely the idea of liberal society that they are attacking when they decry the separation of church and state, when they talk about family values, when they seek to inject more faith into governance, when they call for a belief in absolutes, when they turn every political issue into an opportunity for moralism, when they organize politically active pastors, when they castigate everyone from Clinton to Sagan for the dread sins of secularism and moral relativism. The GOP’s domestic agenda is no less than a full assault on liberalism. Our Constitutional democracy, born of the Enlightenment and strengthened during Reconstruction, is now threatened by the reactionaries who opposed both.
It seems to me that the most important task for Americans who believe in liberal democracy is to defeat the GOP. I would not have said that ten years ago, when Republicans more than Democrats got my vote. But the GOP is not just surgent, it has been remade. It is no longer the home of old-fashioned conservatism, but headed instead is headed by our own home-grown fundamentalists. And if they are not as scary as some of the fundamentalists abroad, they are closer, and because of that, more able to wreak dangerous changes in our own government.”