Noam Chomsky: America, Moral Degenerate
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Noam Chomsky and Eric Bailey of Torture Magazine discuss America's human rights record under President Obama, and the military intervention policies that have seen increased use during the Arab Spring.
Eric Bailey: The last four years have seen significant changes in American federal policy in regards to human rights. One of the few examples of cooperation between the Democratic and Republican parties over the last four years has been the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. This bill has given the United States military the power to arrest American citizens, indefinitely, without charge, trial, or any other form of due process of law and the Obama administration has and continues to fight a legal battle in federal court to prevent that law from being declared unconstitutional. Obama authorized the assassination of three American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, admittedly all members of Al Qaeda -- all without judicial review.
Additionally, the Guantanamo Bay prison remains open, the Patriot Act has been extended and the TSA has expanded at breakneck speeds. What is your take on America's human rights record over the past four years and can you contrast Obama's policies with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush?
Noam Chomsky: Obama's policies have been approximately the same as Bush's, though there have been some slight differences, but that's not a great surprise. The Democrats supported Bush's policies. There were some objections on mostly partisan grounds, but for the most part, they supported his policies and it's not surprising that they have continued to do so. In some respects Obama has gone even beyond Bush. The NDAA, which you mentioned, was not initiated by Obama (when it passed Congress, he said he didn't approve of it and wouldn't implement it), but he nevertheless did sign it into law and did not veto it. It was pushed through by hawks, including Joe Lieberman and others.
In fact, there hasn't been that much of a change. The worst part of the NDAA is that it codified -- or put into law -- what had already been a regular practice. The practices hadn't been significantly different. The one part that received public attention is what you mentioned, the part that permits the indefinite detention of American citizens, but why permit the indefinite detention of anybody? It's a gross violation of fundamental human rights and civil law, going all the way back to the Magna Carta in the 13th century, so it's a very severe attack on elementary civil rights, both under Bush and under Obama. It's bipartisan!
As for the killings, Obama has sharply increased the global assassination campaign. While it was initiated by Bush, it has expanded under Obama and it has included American citizens, again with bipartisan support and very little criticism other than some minor criticism because it was an American. But then again, why should you have the right to assassinate anybody? For example, suppose Iran was assassinating members of Congress who were calling for an attack on Iran. Would we think that's fine? That would be much more justified, but of course we'd see that as an act of war.
The real question is, why assassinate anyone? The government has made it very clear that the assassinations are personally approved by Obama and the criteria for assassination are very weak. If a group of men are seen somewhere by a drone who are, say, loading something into a truck, and there is some suspicion that maybe they are militants, then it's fine to kill them and they are regarded as guilty unless, subsequently, they are shown to be innocent. That's the wording that the United States used and it is such a gross violation of fundamental human rights that you can hardly talk about it.