As the Bush administration comes to a close, one overarching question is this: how were the transgressions and abuses of the last eight years allowed to be unleashed with so little backlash and resistance? Just consider -- with no hyperbole -- what our Government, our country, has done. We systematically tortured people in our custody using techniques approved at the highest levels, many of whom died as a result. We created secret prisons -- "black site" gulags -- beyond the reach of international monitoring groups. We abducted and imprisoned even U.S. citizens and legal residents without any trial, holding them incommunicado and without even the right to access lawyers for years, while we tortured them to the point of insanity. We disappeared innocent people off the streets, sent them to countries where we knew they'd be tortured, and then closed off our courts to them once it was clear they had done nothing wrong. We adopted the very policies and techniques long considered to be the very definition of "war crimes".
Our Government turned the NSA apparatus inward -- something that was never supposed to happen -- spying on our conversations in secret and without warrants or oversight, all in violation of the law, and then, once revealed, acted to immunize the private-sector lawbreakers. And that's to say nothing about the hundreds of thousands of people we killed and the millions more we displaced with a war launched on false pretense. And on and on and on.
Prime responsibility for those actions may lie with the administration which implemented them and with the Congress that thereafter acquiesced to and even endorsed much of it, but it also lies with much of our opinion-making elite and expert class. Even when they politely disagreed, they treated most of this -- and still do -- as though it were reasonable and customary, eschewing strong language and emphatic condemnation and moral outrage, while perversely and self-servingly construing their constraint as some sort of a virtue -- a hallmark of dignified Seriousness. That created the impression that these were just garden-variety political conflicts to be batted about in pretty conference rooms by mutually regarding elites on both sides of these "debates." Meanwhile, those who objected too strongly and in disrespectful tones, who described the extremism and lawlessness taking place, were dismissed by these same elites as overheated, fringe hysterics.
Glenn Greenwald Dishes Out Blame for the Last 8 Years
GG is getting a bit shrill lately for my taste, but he still manages to hit the nail on the head in this recent column: