A member if the studio audience made the following comment:
Noam Chomsky made a salient point in an interview with RT: "Bush tortured people, but Obama just kills them." Moreover, Obama has changed virtually none of the Big Government, anti-civil liberty policies that Bush put in place. Killing Awlaki, an American citizen, rightly ought to raise many eyebrows.
I am no fan of Noam Chomsky - but it is an ad hominem fallacy to reject a proposition simply because of the name attached to it.
However, this comment brought to mind the fact that, though I have written a great deal about the wrongness of torture and the moral requirement of trials by an impartial jury to prevent abuses of power, I also claimed even before the 2008 Presidential election that Obama would not be able to reverse these policies.
Any attempt to do so would result in his being removed from office and replaced by somebody more like Bush/Chaney - willing, even eager, to torture not only for information, but for vengeance.
The reason rests in the fact that America itself has morally degenerated. The moral aversion to torture, to denying the right to a fair trial, to ignoring the principle that people have a right to be secure in their persons, papers, homes, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures, and to cruel and unusual punishment that used to be a part of the social morality that defined America had greatly diminished.
Those who still hold these values can complain all we want about how the government is responsible and blame the President. However, the fact is that of a President were to try to secure these rights and live by these standards, the American people will see that he is properly punished for his actions and removed from office at the earliest possibility. We will then replace him with somebody who shares and enforces our immoral inclinations in these respects.
Clearly, not all Americans have suffered from this moral degeneration - but a sufficient number has to make it impossible for the government to respect these rights for long.
It is particularly ironic that we still have people saying, "Gasp! We can't elect an Atheist! An atheist does not recognize that our rights come from God and will destroy those rights at the first convenience."
Yet, look at who has become the enthusiastic supporters of torture, of taking people off the streets and holding them indefinitely without a trial, of cruel and unusual punishments, of corporate nobility destroying the life, health, liberty, and property of others through pollution with impunity and without compensation?
No doubt, future generations will say, "Look at the rise of atheism in the first part of the 20th century - the same time that America reverted back to a nation of torture, unjust imprisonments, and cruel and unusual punishments. Obviously, atheism is to blame." This will be in spite of the fact that the people in the past century who were the strongest supporters of these policies also happened to be the most religious.
Obama tried to give the Guantanamo Bay detainees fair trials in a civilian court. Congress passed legislation prohibiting that any federal money be spent on this - forcing him to keep Guantanamo Bay open and its people imprisoned without trials.
If Obama were to give even a hint that he is soft on terrorism, his opposition will immediately employ fear tactics to tell the American people that "they" will come and inflict untold harms if we do not get somebody into office more sympathetic to torture, killing, and cruel and unusual punishments. I am pretty sure that Obama has taken these reforms - restoring America to its previous standards of decency - about as far as he can get away with.
It calls to mind an element in the Star Wars movie Revenge of the Sith that has always struck me as particularly noteworthy. As the Emperor gains his emergency powers to the cheers of the Senate, Padmé (one of the Senators opposing the Emperor) says, "So this is how liberty dies: With thunderous applause."
Do not look to Obama to change things. These changes have to come from us. More to the point, the change has to be within us.