The crime behind hope and change

Sam Smith

By the standards of the US Constitution as well as American and international law, Barack Obama is a criminal – as are many of his recent predecessors.

The fact that most Americans don’t see him as such reflects the degree to which we have come to accept the ad hoc policies of those in power as superior to established principles reached by democratic decision over more than two hundred years.

Here are some of the crimes which our recent presidents have committed

– They have repeatedly gone to war without the formal approval of Congress.

– They have steadily and illegally eroded the human space covered by the Fourth Amendment to the point the TSA was planning to do viral strip searches with scanners not just in airports but on ordinary streets and other public places. And, in the view of the president and the courts, the Fourth Amendment no long protects many private activities including phone calls and internet use.

– The CIA and other government agencies have engaged, with the president’s explicit or implicit approval, in torture and abuse of prisoners,

– This includes U.S. citizens such as Private Manning According to George Bush and Barack Obama, you or any American citizen can, without criminal charges, be placed in an isolation cell, denied sleep (with no clothes, mattress, blanket, sheet, or pillow) and painfully shackled.

– Under two presidents, the unconstitutional Patriot Act has been passed and extended.

– According to Obama, his administration has the right to kill you when you’re overseas

– Obama supports warrantless tracking of US citizens via cellphone location

– His administration does illegal border computer searches

– He approves of illegal secret searches of library and bookstore data files

The contempt that Obama and his predecessors have shown for the law has created what in Latin America is called a culture of impunity. In a culture of impunity, rules serve the internal logic of the controlling system rather than whatever values typically guide a country, such as those of its constitution, church or tradition. A culture of impunity varies from ordinary political corruption in that the latter represents deviance from the culture while the former becomes the culture.

In a culture of impunity, what replaces constitution, precedent, values, tradition, fairness, consensus, debate and all that sort of arcane stuff? Mainly greed. We find ourselves without heroism, without debate over right and wrong, with little but an endless narcissistic struggle by the powerful to get more money, more power, and more press than the next person. In the chase, anything goes and the only standard is whether you win, lose, or get caught.

And when they feel personally threatened, those in power react with paranoia under the false name of national security, stripping away more rights, mistreating more citizens and expressing their fear with still more cruelty.

The government of such a culture is inevitably dictatorial, whether founded on ideology, such as fascism or communism, or upon personal power. And essential to such a culture is the willingness of the populace to give up most of its former values.

The fact that we have accepted so much illegal behavior by our recent presidents – including Obama – has been the surest sign to them that they were safe in continuing to do as they wish. After all, the impunity they enjoy was granted them by our indifference, ignorance and fear.

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