Regular readers of my contributions to this blog, from back in the days when I used to regularly contribute to it (the which days may be returning, perhaps, I feel a slight surge of scribbling juices which could easily fade but you never know) will be aware that I had a long running obsession with the tragedy that I saw befalling the United States under the leadership of George W Bush and the cabal of radical neo-liberals that made up his administration.
America, leader of the ‘free world’, the global economic powerhouse and, for better or worse, hegemon, had in eight short years been reduced to an epic ‘fail’. Failure in Afghanistan, failure in Iraq, failure in New Orleans, a failure of leadership on (or even understanding of) climate change and of course the GFC, these are the big five in a mind-numbing series of ‘fail’ moments.
For those of us watching the Bush administration closely, the horrors of dubiously justified bad policies delinquently deployed were shocking and unforgivable in their own way, but scarier still was watching the rapid erosion of the very freedoms, rights and protections, implicit in its own Constitution and numerous international conventions, that America was apparently, and unsuccessfully, attempting to export to other countries.
Not to disregard the massive hypocrisy, my main concern was that America seemed to be on a path to dictatorship, a totalitarian plutocracy if you like. What can one think when the US government claims the right to spy on its own citizens with no judicial oversight, or to detain people indefinitely, without any recourse, in prisons beyond scrutiny? When it declares a war seemingly without end, assuming extraordinary Presidential (and Vice-Presidential) powers in the process, and politicises its own Department of Justice to the extent that it could justify torture? These are the foundation stones of a one party state.
Fortunately, under President Obama, America seems to be reversing course. But while he has begun tearing down the infrastructures of spying, torture and detention with alacrity, Obama has so far been reluctant to pursue his predecessors. I’ll admit that I, like many, would take great pleasure in seeing these guys go down. I have an abiding hatred of stupid bullies and little is as satisfying as seeing them getting their comeuppance. But there are more rational arguments for bringing the Bush administration to account, not least because its crimes were legion and utterly transparent, and justice, if it is to thrive, must apply, and be seen to apply, to all, no matter their station in life.
It is with some joy then that I read this article in the New York Times suggesting that Obama is changing tack and, at the least, will not stand in the way of any inquiry into, in this case, the legal justifications of the use of torture. It’s a small beginning but it provides some hope that the US will finally and utterly repudiate the ideology and criminality of a bunch of thugs who pretty much brought the US to its knees while hollowing out its moral centre.