a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Drones, civil liberties, and other stuff only a white person would write about

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 28th, 2012

So Conor Friedersdorf wrote “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama” and Erik Loomis at the well known, sensible, liberal blog “Lawyers, Guns & Money” called that “An Essay Only a White Person Could Write,” explaining that Mr. Friedersdorf’s essay was “all about drones, civil liberties, and such,” which Mr. Loomis manfully admitted “Obama has indeed sucked on,” but “given that Friedersdorf probably doesn’t have to worry much about his next paycheck or be concerned about having an unwanted fetus in his body, it’s a luxury for him to be a one-issue voter on this particular issue.”

Actually, Friedersdorf raised not one, but a bunch of issues, and while yes, they mainly come back to human rights “and such,” he also says this:

Obama ran in the proud American tradition of reformers taking office when wartime excesses threatened to permanently change the nature of the country. But instead of ending those excesses, protecting civil liberties, rolling back executive power, and reasserting core American values, Obama acted contrary to his mandate. The particulars of his actions are disqualifying in themselves. But taken together, they put us on a course where policies Democrats once viewed as radical post-9/11 excesses are made permanent parts of American life.

Put a little more bluntly, by now you know you can’t really believe a word Obama says, which seems like a fairly substantial “meta-issue” to add to the little bitty human rights ones.

Give me some examples, you say?  Well, going to war in Libya without a declaration of war, for one.  In his otherwise excellent post “Is It Moral for Lefties to Vote for Obama?” Henry Farrell waves this one off, but he shouldn’t; Obama expressly said in the 2008 campaign that he wouldn’t do that,* a lot of people believed him, it mattered because lots of Americans wanted some pretty high barriers between us and the next unnecessary war, and (foolishly, it turned out) hoped Obama would be better than rivals such as, say, Hillary Clinton in this respect.

Just as Obama seemed to promise a less wartorn future, he also seemed to herald a future unsullied by the ethnic witchhunts of the Bush years.  As early as 2004, in his famous convention keynote speech, he warmed my heart and others by saying, “If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties”; he returned to the theme again in his inaugural speech: “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’ sake.”

But give them up he did — and not just in some “Whereverstan” halfway around the world, but right here.  Among the top examples:

(1) With the help and encouragement of the CIA, the New York Police Department conducted blatantly racist, unconstitutional, unfounded surveillance of entire Muslim-American communities — without finding a single terrorist, though they did manage to photograph some suspicious child care centers.

(2) There’s a deeply disturbing pattern of “preemptive prosecutions” of Muslim-Americans, a practice in which young Muslim-American males are coaxed and baited into considering wrongdoing, are merely arguably in the process of doing so, or have simply found themselves in the crosshairs of some overzealous prosecutor.  I attended an event last January in which the desperate families of such men spoke up on behalf of young men like Ziyad Yaghi, arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison for decades for what amounted to loose talk and paintball practice:  32 years in Supermax prison.  Or like Ahmed Abu Ali, for studying Islam in Riyadh and having a terrorist “confession” beaten out of him by Saudi police: life sentence in a Supermax prison.

(3) Meanwhile, another Muslim-American, Tarek Mehanna, was sentenced to 17.5 years in a Supermax prison for… wait for it… simply translating a document written by Al Qaeda members from Arabic to English.  The case led ACLU’s Nancy Murray to write, “It’s official. There is a Muslim exemption to the First Amendment.

Not surprisingly, these kinds of things have deepened a chilling climate of fear for Muslim-Americans — my fellow Americans — right here in the U.S.  It’s becoming a matter of self-defense to train on what to do and what *not* to do when the FBI knocks on your door (do ask them for a card to give your lawyer, do not invite them inside).  Combine what the Obama administration is doing officially with the ceaseless, shameful drumbeat of Islamophobic episodes like the “Mosque at the World Trade Center” brouhaha of 2010, or the recent subway ad campaign by Pam Gellar, and we have a country more reminiscent of pre-Kristallnacht Germany than any America I used to know.

So the heck with Erik Loomis and his Obama-apologist ilk saying I should shut up and ignore that.  And the heck with them acting like they’re the ones sticking up for America’s poor and downtrodden, or that I’m engaging in vanity politics.  Far from taking up some kind of “white man’s burden” on this, I know it’s simple self-defense to stand with any fellow American facing this kind of persecution.  Sooner or later, each of us could be next.

Barack Obama should be ashamed to be the president he’s become, and for my part, I can not vote for him.  I get that there are other issues, but he’s not so hot on many of those either — and bitter experience tells me he’ll say anything to get me to believe he is.  Vote for him if you feel you must, but do. not. ever. come the high and mighty about that with me.



* “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”  Barack Obama response to  Boston Globe candidate survey, 12/22/07.

2 Responses to “Drones, civil liberties, and other stuff only a white person would write about”

  1. » Blog Archive » Lockstep liberals police the field Says:

    […] Drones, civil liberties, and other stuff only a white person would write about […]

  2. » Blog Archive » Greens: reject Ellsberg’s advice, or don’t – just don’t run away from it Says:

    […] think they’re well worth considering, and though I think critiques have generally been of the familiar, bullying, spluttering “policing the left” quality I saw in responses to Conor […]

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