Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Velvet Gloves

This morning Ari Shapiro talks with Benjamin Wittes (of the Brookings Institute - ugh) about the "need" for new laws to codify detention in the eternal GWOT. It's a brilliantly repulsive interview in which the entire sham of the "War on Terror" is accepted and extolled - and in which the US is the exceptional nation, blessed with the responsibility for waging this "war" exclusive of any international laws or obligations.

Here's a taste of the interview:
  • Shapiro: "So it needs to be a new set of laws crafted by Congress. Describe what those laws would look like."
  • Wittes: "In a military conflict in which, you know, Congress has authorized the use of force against an enemy that has declared war against the United States, the nature of that conflict necessitates some kind of a detention authority, that is a detention power that is not connected to necessarily a pending indictment in US Federal court."
  • Shapiro: "And so when you say a detention authority, you mean conceivably for that person's lifetime."
  • Wittes: "You know one would hope that it would never have to go on that long but you know there are a certain group of people that you're going to be holding for a very long time."
  • Shapiro (interjecting one vague critique): "If as you propose, Congress creates a system of military commissions or national security courts...human rights groups say that opens the door to harsh interrogations, secret evidence, and things that the US really doesn't and shouldn't condone."
  • Wittes: Responds that though he has "a lot of sympathy with a lot of human rights groups complaints," he is "a little bewildered" by critiques of his proposals. Given how extremely bad the current system is he just can't understand how his own authoritarian system is "retrogressive."
Listening to these two, you'd never know that there is something called International Law which is meant to prevent just this kind of legal morass in which the most powerful nation makes up the rules that only it is allowed to follow and which only it gets to enforce. It's easy to find information on international laws (unless one is committed to US exceptionalism) : the American Society on International Law, the UN, and the Red Cross for example.

I'm struck by how often NPR turns to these soft-authoritarian types like counterinsurgency promoters and torture apologists. In many ways they are a perfect fit for NPR news which also promotes, celebrates, and justifies the iron fist of US military, economic, and political hegemony in the world, but always with a velvet touch.

1 comment:

Porter Melmoth said...

Thanks for deconstructing this particularly troubling segment. In today's Open Thread I mentioned other imperialistic slants in the same morning show. But this one has the greatest implications of an American fascist imperialism. If that sounds extreme, then, well...