A Nation of Freedom or a Nation of Soldiers?
It’s a bad sign of how far off track the Obama presidency has gone that some of the most far right Republican politicians in Congress are thanking President Obama for continuing George W. Bush’s attacks against the Constitution. One such noxious thank you came yesterday from U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Blackburn congratulated Obama on his decision to resist a Freedom of Information Act petition, and refuse to reveal photographs that show acts of barbaric torture by the American government.
Blackburn commented, “Releasing those images is not in our national interest. It does not make this Nation more safe. It makes it less safe. It does not help our troops in the field. It makes their job more difficult, more dangerous, and it makes their lives less safe every day.”
There’s an idea implicit in this statement, an idea that Representative Blackburn wants you to accept without it ever being openly stated. Marsha Blackburn wants Americans to accept the idea they can be safe under a government that practices a campaign of widespread, secret torture in defiance of the law. Do you accept that idea? Do you feel safe living under a government that practices torture, regardless of the fact that torture is illegal?
As for me, I don’t. I worry that, if the President is allowed to direct others to torture people in defiance of the law, the circle of torture may expand in ways that have not been anticipated. Once we start allowing exceptions, in which the President is allowed to direct government agents to break the law, and to torture, how can we know where the exceptions stop?
Under George W. Bush, people accused of terrorism were tortured at first, and then people who were suspected of connections to terrorist suspects, and then people who were just picked up off the street, in the wrong place at the wrong time. What’s to stop this circle of expanding torture from growing further, now that the law is seen as an irrelevant inconvenience? What’s to stop the government from torturing you, once anti-torture laws are no longer in force?
Underlying Marsha Blackburn’s celebration of Barack Obama’s torture coverup, there’s another dangerous assertion. Representative Blackburn seems mostly concerned with safety. Not the law, not the Constitution, not with liberty, but safety. She defines this safety in terms of what makes the work of American soldiers relatively easy.
In Marsha Blackburn’s vision, the United States of America is a nation of soldiers, not a nation of freedom. That the Democratic President of the United States seems to agree with her makes me feel profoundly unsafe.