I'm so upset about this, and I don't see how any progressive, or supporter of liberty of any kind, can support President Obama, turn a blind eye to these policies yet call themselves politically aware. My article "Cult Politics" was published at OpEdNews.com about a week ago, and I will post that as well below, but read Glenn Greenwald's article, then listen to this poor kid and what happened to him.


U.S. Teenager Tortured in Kuwait



My Op-Ed:


Cult Politics


From 2000-2008 the government of the United States of America used fear, strong arm tactics, and a coordinated campaign of misinformation to promote a war that led to the deaths of 100,000 innocent civilians, thousands of coalition soldiers, and the almost complete erosion of at least two of the original ten civil liberties outlined in the Bill of Rights. Our collective memory of these events is so short, I have already begun to see odious bumper stickers asking if we've missed number 42 yet.

Yet even under a new Democratic administration, the American people remain largely indifferent to the collapse of basic constitutional protections. The current President of the United States, who, during his campaign, vowed to end the thuggish Nixon/Kissinger-like practices that had occurred over the previous two terms, has engaged in a secret war in Pakistan and Yemen, extended Guantanomo Bay and the complete suspension of Habeas Corpus , publicly authorized assassination of American Citizens, stripped whistle blowers of any recourse to expose corruption in government, and worked together with the Republican party to exert diplomatic force to quell a criminal case (original link in Spanish here ) being built against Bush's senior officials who falsified intelligence and set up a torture network around the globe! And yet, when these facts are brought up in discussion with certain liberals, their immediate reaction is to act as apologists for the administration. Their response to the facts at hand, invariably, is to point out how globally and domestically destructive the Bush/Cheney doctrine was. If we are to believe this fallacious, strawman reasoning, then we are to be grateful for the modest change we have experienced under Obama's new covenant, and mute any criticism or misgivings about his apparent embrace of Bush era executive abuses.

It seems Democratic sycophants are as dexterous at employing the fear technique as their Republican counterparts were. In 2004, the Republicans expertly manipulated public opinion with empty jingoistic and xenophobic rants from Washington. Democrats were "soft on terror," and if Republicans left office, Americans would be at the mercy of Al Qaeda. Only Republicans would and could keep America safe. In 2010, Democrats have turned that argument on its head: give power back to those wackos and watch the stock market crash again, watch your liberties disappear! Mention the fact that those same civil liberties lost during the Bush years have yet to be restored during the Obama years, and you may be labeled "some kind of tea bagger," or just unrealistically impatient.

Neither side can bear to hear any criticism of their leaders, and debates over alleged criminal or unconstitutional behavior typically devolve into a childish pissing contest of "I'm rubber and you're glue." This willful ignorance and blind deference to party dogma is akin to the behavior of another type of group: religious cults.

It should come as no surprise that, with the fusion of religion in politics, political parties themselves have taken on the same sociological phenomenons as religion itself. Cult like allegiance to political leaders is nothing new, and has, in fact, been the hallmark of many modern political movements. Even the "Atheist" regime of Stalin mirrored the messianic fanaticism exhibited by religion. In a recent debate, Daniel Dennett, a Philosophy professor at Tufts University and the Co-director at the Center for Cognitive Studies, argued a similar point.

"Let's think about Stalin for a moment. Was he an Atheist? At first you might think, 'well of course he was an Atheist,' but on the contrary, I think in a certain sense, he wasn't an Atheist at all. He believed in God. He believed in a god whose will determined what right and wrong was, and he was sure of the existence of this god. And the god's name was: Stalin."

The first step in merging religious fervor and political ideology is to create a climate of fear, necessitating a messianic savior. Frightened people are easily manipulated. As Naomi Klein points out in her book The Shock Doctrine , there is no better way for a government to enact or prevent radical policies than to terrify its populace. Religious cults promise paradise, but rely on fear to cow the congregation into obedience. The town hall hysteria surrounding the raging healthcare debate of last year was certainly reminiscent of the "fire and brimstone" sermons of pentecostal churches.

Like religions, the two major political parties in the United States exist to subvert each other and dominate with their own talking points, on talking shop media outlets with talking heads, and build up a frenzy of their own base to extend the battle to civilization: to the streets, to the dinner table, to the water cooler, to the bar, to our relationships, to our community centers, to our homes; our family to distract us from realizing their control over our daily lives. Their facts and rhetoric given to us to repeat like Gospel, or a prayer. Main lines of political ideology memorized like a creed. Satellite organizations like MoveOn.org or CPAC operate as their Jesuits, proselytizing to newcomers and their already hooked. Facts ignored, gross human rights abuses ignored, as long as everyone can chant "Four More Years!" in two, nobody breaks party discipline and points out the constitutional defilement by the current party popes.

Democrats are right to fear a Republican return to power. This past election you had individuals running for office on the Republican ticket that were giving vague hints towards physical violence, or whose campaign volunteers aggressively perpetrated brute squad techniques to silence opposition at a rally, but does that mean the current President gets a pass? Obama has not just continued, but has escalated the same policies that enraged Democrats and liberal media for 8 years; that sparked massive protests outside the RNC in New York in 2004; that were cause for keynote speeches in primary elections in 2008.

Do we now excuse the president for these hideously unconstitutional and criminal transgressions because he is a Democrat? If the answer to this central question is "yes" or some weak rationalization for this behavior, then, as a culture, we have landed in a place that is not so much ironic as anomic. Mum is the word in Washington among Democrats in these matters. Equally mum are the Republicans outside of the five minute moral stands of Ron Paul, but I suppose that's to be expected: they cannot really cry foul when they instituted the policies in the first place.

How can anyone call him or herself "liberal-minded", and yet blind themselves to the perversion of all of our hopes for a brighter future of restoration to constitutional civil liberties? How can anyone call him or herself "conservative" and not admit the massive expansion of government under a "conservative" president? And how can anyone deny that the American political system has degenerated into a modern day power struggle between two cults with no other interest than to maintain dominance?

Views: 26

Comment by Bill on January 6, 2011 at 3:16pm
What have they done to Mannings so far, besides charging him for transferring classified data? I understand that this lad is in serious trouble. His actions could be considered treason at a time of war, a crime for which he could be shot based on the results of a military tribunal alone. However, I'm sure the military's ultimate actions will be much more considered and fair than that.
Comment by Ryan E. Hoffman on January 6, 2011 at 6:37pm



Has PFC Manning been charged with a crime? No. Has he had a trial? No. Has he had a court martial? No. Has he been privy to any sort of due process whatsoever? No. You have no idea what his actions actually were. You are taking the word of what a megolomaniac hacker (Adrian Lamo) is relating to the press about what is supposedly in the chat logs. However, Wired's editor and Chief already publicly threw Lamo under the bus for everything he said that was NOT published already in those said chat logs. So we have a young man that is being psychologically tortured in order to build a case against Julian Assange.


@Jean Marie


Regarding Gulet Muhammed: he has since been released from what he describes as his torture conditions, and is awaiting the ability to return to the United States, but since he has been placed on a no-fly list, what it amounts to is involuntary exile.


Regarding your support for Obama:


I never said that you, or any other Democrat, see him as a messiah. The fact that you actively support him is enough to prove my point, which is that you ignore the massive civil liberties violations, and heinous foreign policy doctrine in favor of modest domestic change. You can't just write off starting a secret war as a disappointment,  or the escalation of suspension of habeas corpus to include assassinations, or imprisonment of government whistle blowers. These aren't mere disappointments, "nobody's perfect," "he's only human", "can't please everybody" arguments. This is a direct expansion of unconstitutional executive authority- the exact kind of behavior he built his campaign around being against! Maybe I'm being picky, but the word disappointment does not convey the type of extreme betrayal to core values, both personal, and American that I think he has committed, and because of that, has earned himself a place next to George W. Bush in history.

Comment by Gaytor on January 7, 2011 at 2:28am

Even before he went into office he was recognized as conservative on foreign policy. Sure, you can say that you are pulling out of Iraq and the base cheers but hears nothing else.

The As Advertised Obama has moved right since being in office. "I will close Gitmo in one year." (para) and here we are, it continues. A prison empty in Montana with people out of work and you leave it there. Afraid of US law sir?

I certainly agree with the spirit of pointing out that his failures. I'm no cheerleader. My job is to push him to do better and demand more, always. Your blog seems to be in the spirit of true patriotism, which has to do with improving and supporting the country's ideals, not the president.   

Comment by Ryan E. Hoffman on January 7, 2011 at 2:18pm



Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I think there is a great deal that I need to clarify.


We are in agreement on Habeas Corpus and Assassinations, although your comment about "battle" really irks me, since the people being arrested and held without trial are U.S. citizens.


The Whistleblower protections has nothing to do with Obama overturning, but rather signing a bill that strips most of them away. The framework for the protection bill that started in the House was completely stripped away by the Senate and then signed by President Obama. I'll use the same site you gave me as a source.



Regarding Pakistan:


Bombs are immoral. I, like most humanists, and probably like you (I don't want to speak for anyone), don't think that bombs accomplish much in the way of advancing our race. However, bombs are not the point, here, in this specific case. This also ties in to Wikileaks, coincidentally. A Wikileaks cable revealed that President Obama has been sending troops over the border to invade these countries. You cannot tell me that you knew about this beforehand. There is a big difference between sending an aerial strike to assist a government fighting Al Qaeda and sending ground troops over the border to invade without congressional approval. That is a secret war that puts American soldiers lives at risk and further entrenches us in a region where we do not have a willing partner in building democracy.


Also, coincidentally linked with WikiLeaks, another cable revealed that Obama squashed a UN probe into torture and war crimes. This is NOT an Obama investigation. This was a UN investigation that Obama ACTIVELY obstructed, reaching United States muscle into an international investigation. He could have easily stepped back and made a perfect political statement, "I will not investigate President Bush," which he did, and left it there. The fact that he used his weight to squash it after his "YES WE CAN" is enough to make me vomit. I understand the dangerous precedent argument and all I can say right now is I disagree, and that it is an argument for doing nothing rather than something.


Regarding the Kuwait teen: it seems to me like you're tackling the man and not the ball. It comes back to Habeas Corpus, which you agree with me on. He's a U.S. citizen. He is entitled to due process. He should not be held without probable cause, never mind tortured. There are certain things that I think are non-negotiable, and, taking a page out of Christopher Hitchens' "Letters to a Young Contrarian," live 'As If' everybody else does too. I cannot, and will not allow the United States Government to strip away due process from its own citizens without passing public, loud, annoying, consistent moral judgment, even to the annoyance of my friends.


You should really read more about Bradley Manning. Adriana has a great discussion going at Atheist Morality which she linked above.

Comment by Bill on January 7, 2011 at 9:25pm
@Ryan, I am basing my opinions on my experience as a First Sergeant of a combat military police company in Iraq, not on the words of Adrian Lamo.
Comment by Bill on January 7, 2011 at 10:33pm



I guess in that way, the military is like the civilian, with delays between the court date and first being charged???  I can't think of a case ever, that went straight to court.  Maybe is so lawyers can gather evidence and witnesses????


This is true in military courts just as it is in civilian courts.

Comment by Ryan E. Hoffman on January 8, 2011 at 5:43pm



Trying to figure out what to answer first. I guess I'll spend more time on the messiah thing first. I'm going to try and keep it as brief as possible as I feel like my op-ed states my position clear enough.

You were right on the last part about having a cult like mentality, hence "Cult Politics", but messiah is not a charge I levied amongst current Democrats. I meant it exactly how I said it, pardoning unconscionable foreign policy as a disappointment because of modest domestic change. Is it as bad as former modern movements ala Stalin? No. But it is, in my opnion, unconscionable.


Re: Manning

I wasn't aware that he had been charged. I don't see how I could have overlooked that. That's rather silly of me. I must have gotten the situations crossed. I still think his treatment is unnecessarily cruel until he has been proven or pleads guilty. Either way, Manning was not part of my article, even though I disagree with his treatment.


Re: Obama's presidential historians and civil liberties


He gets atta boys from me for the things he has done. in my opinion that's doing his job. The test is regarding Executive Power, and that is a test of which he is miserably failing. I am going to link the ACLU, but to be fair, I'm going to hold passing at 50% of their resolutions. As of last year he was at 30%. I have looked for an updated list, but can't seem to find it. After two years with a Democrat supermajority, I do not think he's made much further progress. http://www.aclu.org/files/pages/americaunrestored_11_20100119.pdf


Regarding presidents in modern time:


The short answer is no. My first presidency in which I was really politically aware was Bush. I'm not that big of a fan of Clinton's either. I don't feel it's write to comment on presidents before me, but Bush senior and Reagan can suck it too.

Comment by Ryan E. Hoffman on January 8, 2011 at 5:45pm



Sorry I didn't realize that Manning had been charged. I still disagree, but I was of the wrong impression.

Comment by Bill on January 8, 2011 at 7:35pm
@Ryan, no problem. I respect your opinions. I do believe that if people pay attention to these kinds of procedures it will help insure a fair trial, and that is a good thing. The military is more sensitive to public scrutiny than you might imagine. The purpose of the military is always to carry out political objectives. As part of a democracy, we need to participate vigorously, like you are doing, to insure the right objectives stay on the agenda.


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