There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.
It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.
The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.
Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.
But keep in mind:
Glenn Greenwald reminds us the Democrats have been complicit in the Administration’s illegal spying, in waging illegal wars, in creating a CIA monster, in sanctioning torture, in destroying the 4th Amendment, in illegal kidnappings and detentions and the assault on habeas corpus, and in creating kangaroo courts. As much as the Administration’s arrogant defiance and contempt for the rule of law, the Democrat’s meek protests and their refusals time and again to stand up to these outrages dismayed their supporters and created a sense of helplessness, a feeling there is nothing our political institutions can or will do to do cure this sickness.