Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Sting

President Obama assured us that once in office we would henceforth take the "high road" in our treatment of terrorist detainees. Under his presidency, he promised, we would return to our "highest values," etc. Unfortunately, we're beginning to learn that what the President promises is often not quite what he does. Consider this example from the New York Times:

The United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to current and former American government officials. The change represents a significant loosening of the reins for the United States, which has worked closely with allies to combat violent extremism since the 9/11 attacks but is now pushing that cooperation to new limits.

In the past 10 months, for example, about a half-dozen midlevel financiers and logistics experts working with Al Qaeda have been captured and are being held by intelligence services in four Middle Eastern countries after the United States provided information that led to their arrests by local security services, a former American counterterrorism official said.

In addition, Pakistan's intelligence and security services captured a Saudi suspect and a Yemeni suspect this year with the help of American intelligence and logistical support, Pakistani officials said. The two are the highest-ranking Qaeda operatives captured since President Obama took office, but they are still being held by Pakistan, which has shared information from their interrogations with the United States, the official said.

The current approach, which began in the last two years of the Bush administration and has gained momentum under Mr. Obama, is driven in part by court rulings and policy changes that have closed the secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency, and all but ended the transfer of prisoners from outside Iraq and Afghanistan to American military prisons.

When George Bush sent terrorists to other countries for interrogation the Left went orbital with outrage. President Obama assured us that he would not accept the "failed policies of the past," but how is what the Times reports any different than what Bush did? Instead of sending the prisoners to foreign countries to have their fingernails pulled out our people just tell their people where to find the bad guys and let their people make the arrest and take the terrorists home to be hooked up to the electrodes.

Further on in the article it mentions the difficulty Obama administration officials are struggling with trying to figure out where high level detainees will be kept now that the president has promised to close down Guantanamo. Of course, just because he promised to close Gitmo ...well, by now you probably get the picture.

Hot Air points out that this is the second Bush policy in the last three days for which the Left trashed Bush but which Obama appears to be continuing. The other one is to continue to hold detainees indefinitely without trial.

What a slickster. His modus operandi is to fire up the opposition to Bush, give everyone the impression that he's the antithesis of Bush, and then continue doing much the same things Bush did while his adoring supporters ooh and ahh over how he's purged us of the evil policies of the past and brought us "change." How long will it be before it dawns on those same supporters in the media and elsewhere that they've been conned pretty much like Paul Newman conned Robert Shaw in The Sting?


While Europe Slept

First Things features a sobering but important essay by Jean Bethke Elshtain titled "While Europe Slept." What she says about Europe is, one fears, equally true of the U.S., or will be in another generation or so. Here's how her essay opens:

In the great cathedrals in Europe, a few people-usually elderly women-can be found at worship. Everybody else is a tourist, cameras hanging around their necks, meandering through. I was recently in Scotland, and I read a newspaper story commenting on three hundred deserted churches dotting the Scottish countryside, asking if they should be destroyed or turned into bars and cafes. Europe herself, in her proposed constitution, refuses to acknowledge the heritage of Judaism and Christianity-although Greece and Rome and the Enlightenment are acknowledged.

Europe cannot remember who she is unless she remembers that she is the child not only of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and the Enlightenment but also of Judaism and Christianity-the child, therefore, of Catholicism and the Reformation. If Europe abandons her religious heritage, the idea of Europe dies. And Europe has abandoned, or forgotten, her religious heritage. Europe is now "post-Christian." What does this mean? What does it portend?

If a culture forgets what it is, as I believe Europe has done, it falls first into an agnostic shrugging of the shoulders, unable to say exactly what it is and believes, and from there it will inevitably fall into nihilism. Detached from its religious foundations, Europe will not remain agnostic. The first result is manifest in those ideologies of multiculturalism that make "difference" a kind of sacred, absolute principle, although no principle is considered to have any such status. Difference tells us nothing in and of itself. Some ways of life and ways of being in the world are brutal, stupid, and ugly. Some a human rights-oriented culture cannot tolerate. A culture must believe in its own enculturating responsibility and mission in order to make claims of value and to institutionalize them in social and political forms. This a post-Christian Europe cannot do.

Multiculturalism is then, in practice, a series of monoculturalisms that do not engage one another at all; rather, the cultural particulate most enamored of gaining and holding power has an enormous advantage: One day, it proclaims, we will bury you. A sign carried by radical Islamist protestors in London during the fracas over the Dutch cartoons proclaimed, "Europe is a cancer / Islam is the answer." A perverted idea of Islam confronts a Europe that has lost a sense of who she is and what she represents.

For that Europe, the window to transcendence is slammed shut. Human values alone pertain. But these human values are shriveled by a prior loss of the conviction that there is much to defend about the human person, and they are seen as so many subjectivist construals without any defensible, objective content. Unsurprisingly, what comes to prevail is a form of reduced utilitarianism that rationalizes nihilism.

The territory as one's own property is the self itself, or an understanding of the self shorn of any encumbrances of the past, any shackles of old defunct moralities. The self blows hither, thither; it matters not, if it blows my way. The question of what the self is, and whether it has any transcendent meaning, is answered with a shrug.

The late John Paul II saw the result of the belief that we are sovereigns of ourselves, wholly self-possessing. In Evangelium Vitae he writes: "If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself." Society "becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds."

Someone may attach a value to us - we may have a market price, so to speak - a price, but not a dignity. Should no one attach value to us and we be too bereft or wounded to attach it to ourselves, we become dispensable. The final triumph of this notion will be a world in which the powerful have their way simply because they can and because the ethical and moral barriers to taking what they want have all been lost. The final fate of the disabled in a liberal society will not be a happy one. We champion "access" even as we redraw the boundaries of humanity to exclude wide swaths of human persons from this access.

Over time human rights, now almost universally accepted among Europeans, will themselves come to be seen as so many arbitrary constructions that may, on utilitarian grounds, be revoked-because there is nothing intrinsic about human beings such that they are not to be ill-treated or violated or even killed. Even now, many do not want to be bothered with the infirm elderly or damaged infants, so we devise so-called humane ways to kill them and pretend that somehow they chose (or would have chosen) to die. Elderly patients are being killed in the Netherlands without their consent. A new protocol for euthanizing newborns with disabilities is institutionalized in the Netherlands, and the doctor who authored the protocols, Eduard Verhagen, tells us how "beautiful" it is when the newborns are killed, for, at last, they are at peace.

Read the rest of this prophetic article. It's crucial that moderns and post-moderns alike see clearly the hell to which post-Christian assumptions are leading us. Very nearly every paragraph Elshtain writes is worth underlining.


Obamaman Can

This has apparently been all over the internet, but I just came across it recently at Hot Air. Comedian Greg Morton does a riff on Candyman that's been viewed over a million times on You Tube.

Funny and disturbing at the same time.

My favorite Obama song, though, is still this one: