Thursday, May 11, 2006

Diminishing Returns

If our leaders only realized how much they diminish us. Every time they parse and prevaricate and wiggle to rationalize torture, or near torure, they diminish us. Every time they stand before an audience and proclaim that they cannot think of any mistakes they have made, any regrets they have, they diminish us. Every time we persecute and prosecute not out of a sense of justice, but vengeance, every time we let ideology trump evidence, it diminishes us. Every time the President allows for illegal or dubiously legal wiretapping or searches or surveillance, every time he proclaims that he is not subject to Congressional laws or oversight, every time he claims extraordinary rights and invokes war or 9/11 to justify the most galling grab for power, he diminishes us. Every time Donald Rumsfeld, well, every time Donald Rumsfeld speaks, he diminishes us.

There is a reason for us to wage war against despots and tyrants, to fight terror and terrorists, to stand as a beacon of hope for the world. And that reason is that our values are better than those of our enemies. I believe this. It is the foundation for my love of my country, and it is why despite America's flaws, I still see us as a city on a hill.

These thoughts came to mind tomight as I was reading this Milton Viorst article (subscription required) in the Atlantic Monthly. It makes a fairly compelling case for how our prosecution of alleged Jihadist mastermind Ali Al-Timimi might be born more of religious and ethnic descrimination than legitimate evidence that he was part of a conspiracy. If Viorst's case is correct (and I am not certain that it is) what we have here is a case of a justice department so desperate to look as if it is waging successful battle against enemies real and perceived that it cares not a whit either about being effective or about the very principles that we are supposed to be defending. These days it seems that incompetence merely re-enforces arrogance which is buttressed by self-righteousness in a downward spiral.

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