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      The War on Whistleblowers

      Robert Greenwald’s documentary, “War on Whistleblowers,” provokes an important question as to why President Barack Obama, a constitutional lawyer, has gone to the lengths he has to suppress whistleblowers, especially those providing important questions about torture and national security policies which the president himself has at times questioned.

      At a discussion following a recent Los Angeles screening, Greenwald quoted the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer as suggesting Obama has become “too close” to the Washington national security elite, the familiar idea that outside critics change fundamentally once they are in power. I believe such explanations are too psychological rather than structural. History, I think, proves the case.

      The problem is more systemic than personal. The National Security State in particular, and all bureaucracy – according to Robert Michel – have inherent tendencies of self-perpetuation, denial, and to discredit any questioning of their decisions. This is especially the case during times of war, Cold War, or the present Global War on Terrorism.

      During the American Revolution, many thousands of British loyalists were tarred, feathered and driven off to Canada. The Alien and Sedition Acts were passed in a climate of fear of immigrant subversion. In the American Civil War, President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and imprisoned many thousands of Confederates – he himself was killed by a Confederate conspiracy based in Canada.

      During the period of the Russian Revolution and World War I, it was open season on immigrants, labor activists and anarchists who were repressed in the Palmer Raids and deported by the thousands.

      During World War 2, the government outlawed strikes and ordered the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans. During the Korean War, McCarthyism ignited and artists went to prison. During the Vietnam War, the FBI, CIA and local police instigated domestic spying and the COINTEL program, and reacted with irrational fury to the release of the Pentagon Papers.

      And, of course, with the Global War on Terror and 9/11, there has been domestic spying and a crackdown on whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and others depicted in the Brave New Foundation documentary.

      A common thread through this long history is the notion that “alien” or secretive conspiracies represent an “enemy within” in the form of actual spies, foreign agents and “well-intended” liberals. As far as I know, American public opinion has been either supportive or tolerant of these repressive policies when they were rationalized as preventing real or hypothetical threats. At the same time, the massive expansion of official secrecy and classification system has continued to grow – even in peacetime. Put another way, Empire and Democracy are incompatible.

      Why does this matter? For one thing, it is an alternative analysis to the model of demonizing the President or individualizing the analysis of blame. For another, it points to war as the cause of curtailing civil liberties, which is opposite the view often taken by many civil liberties and human rights groups, unfortunately. For example, the National Lawyers Guild was born partly in a split from the ACLU over whether to oppose the Vietnam War. Many years later, neither the ACLU nor Human Rights Watch – both defend whistleblowers – have been willing to oppose the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. They believe whistleblower protections should be treated as stand-alone issues.

      But surely the Global War on Terrorism and the rise of a new Imperial Presidency have everything to do with the administration’s harsh treatment of whistleblowers. In my view there is no justification for the Obama administration’s policies, but they are most likely to be ended only when the wars – and the political atmosphere they have inspired since 9/11 – come to an end. We should oppose the current wars, not simply the “war against whistleblowers.”

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      Reader Comments (2)

      I agree. I would also note that both the liberals and the right-wing and conservatives are guilty of having a political analysis focused solely on Barack Obama, with only minor attention to the actual issues which are destroying our civil liberties, and destroying much of the world through war, economic plundering by Wall Street, and climate change.

      You hear from the right all Obama all the time: he's a socialist, he used the wrong word after the Americans were killed in Libya, he's not really an American, he's a Muslim and lies about being a Christian, he's going to take away everyone's guns.

      Then from the liberals we hear almost the opposite, oppositional disorder limited to rebuking the right. According to many liberals, Obama is a constitutional scholar (not just a lecturer, like everyone else who graduated from law school); he has a deep and abiding commitment to ending poverty and racism, as evidenced from his community organizing stint (which appears more likely to have been a strategic calculated move to allow him to run for Bobby Rush's seat in Chicago); he's committed to ending global warming (as opposed to the complete failure of his administration to do anything significant, and their apparent decision to approve the Canadian pipeline). The Obama cultests are horrified at any criticism of the current administration's policies, and they enthusiastically support the elimination of our civil liberties because they "trust" Obama, and he wouldn't do these things unless it was necessary. They're like a bunch of children believing Superman is going to solve the problems.

      Both sides are so obsessed with Barack Obama, like Yankees and Red Sox fans, that they fail to address the fundamental questions: where are our jobs; where is the jobs program; where is justice; when will Guantanamo be closed and the wars ended; why does Obama keep starting new wars; why and how can he refuse to enforce the law and prosecute international war crimes; why not use anti-trust laws to bust up Wall Street and the banks; why $85 Billion/month of our money pumped into the banks and Wall Street to keep them flush while public schools are shuttered and Obama proposes cutting social and security and medicare; why cut the WIC and food stamps programs to help hungry poor kids.

      And to make things worse, when people should be outraged at the billions of dollars spent on the disgraceful circus we call elections, many people are already focusing their attention on 2016, Yeah Hillary, Yeah Whoever, because they refuse to recognize that elections do not solve the problems. Issues-related demands by organized citizens is the only way to make progress in our current corrupt system in which all the politicians are on Wall Street's payroll.

      People really need to stop obsessing over Obama. There is no politician who is going to rescue our nation, solve our problems. And people need to stop trembling every time the politicians use the T word (terrorism). Ask the veterans and the boomers, whose suicide numbers have escalated, whether the domestic policies being used to destroy working people are a form of terrorism, deadly. Because they are just that. People need to start looking at our disgraceful reality, and demanding the politicians (both parties) end the crusades and help the American people.

      May 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNABNYC

      One possible way to end the war on terrorism framework, which governs so much of US foreign and domestic policy, is to demand a full and independent investigation to determine what actually happened on 9/11. The entire war on terror is predicated on acceptance of the OFFICIAL conspiracy theory, that 19 Moslem men associated with al-Qaeda and armed with box cutters brought down three WTC buildings with two hijacked airplanes and rammed a third hijacked airliner through a small hole in the Pentagon. There are more holes in this official conspiracy theory than a chunk of swiss cheese. A mass of evidence accumulated by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth indicates that the towers fell by demolition, that deposits of nanothermite, a highly explosive incendiary developed by the US military, were found on the ground all around the WTC, and that no airliner could have crashed into the Pentagon without leaving jet engines, seats and bodies within. Why did President Obama appoint Cass Sunstein, the author of "Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures," as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, if not to squelch the 9/11 truth movement? (See David Ray Griffin's book, Cognitive Infiltration: An Obama Appointee's Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory.) The rationale for the War on Terror rests on the government's OFFICIAL conspiracy theory. An independent investigation is needed.

      May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlice Leuchtag
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