::Literate Blather::
Thursday, November 30, 2006
5 Questions About: The Bush Administration

(Glenn Greenwald is an unlikely political pundit. He was a dedicated constitutional law attorney in New York and then 9/11 happened. The terrorist attack galvanized him to action and he started a political blog called "Unclaimed Territory." At first, Glenn was a supporter of the policies of the Bush administration, but that soon changed as he watched the President’s administration begin to undermine the U.S. Constitution.

Glenn’s blog, one of the most read in the world, lead to a book called “How Would a Patriot Act?” released in May, 2006. Glenn has written for American Conservative magazine and appeared on a variety of television and radio programs, including C-Span's "Washington Journal," Air America's "Majority Report" and Public Radio International's "To the Point." His reporting and analysis have been credited in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Salon, Slate and a variety of other print and online publications.

DaRK PaRTY caught up with Glenn shortly after the mid-term elections to discuss the last six years of the Bush administration, 9/11, and the war in Iraq.)

DaRK PaRTY: After 9/11 you were a big supporter of President Bush and the War on Terror, including the invasion of Afghanistan. But since then you have become one of the administration's harshest critics. What happened to cause such a turn around?

Glenn: The first event which caused me to begin seriously questioning the administration's wisdom and motives was the lawless detention of Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen arrested on U.S. soil and then imprisoned incommunicado, with no charges being brought, for the next 3 1/2 years. When the administration argued that it had the power to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely without even so much as charging them with a crime, it was obvious that this administration was quite radical and seeking to expand its powers in unprecedented ways.

The invasion of Iraq, particularly when it turned out that the WMDs were entirely nonexistent, underscored not just the administration's insincerity but also its ineptitude. Its ongoing insistence that things were going well there when it was glaringly obvious that the opposite was true made me conclude that they had no regard for the truth and no connection to reality. And the revelation that they were breaking the law by eavesdropping on Americans with no warrants, followed by the President's insistence that he would continue to do so because he has the power to act outside of the law, led me to conclude that the administration simply does not believe in the founding principles of our country and poses a grave threat to those principles..

DP: The invasion of Iraq went from being a populous war to one that may cause the downfall of the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. You supported the war at first, but have since become very critical of the decision. Why did you support the war early on and what do you think the solution in Iraq is at this point?

Glenn: It is not accurate to say that I supported the war at first. Howard Dean was the first political candidate to whom I ever donated money and that was in 2002 and the beginning of 2003, when he was, far and away, the most vocal and aggressive advocate against the invasion.

I was ambivalent about the war, but ultimately accepted the administration's claims that there was no doubt that (a) Saddam had chemical and biological weaopns and (b) had an active nuclear program. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, believing that such a massive fraud -- they were so categorical that he possessed WMDs -- was beyond their capacity to perpetrate.

I lived in New York for 15 years beginning in 1991 and was in Manhattan on 9/11 and was sympathetic to the idea that a more proactive, anti-Islamic-extremist foreign policy was needed. But I also thought it was clear that there were serious risks to the invasion that were being obscured and that the administration, aided by the media, had created a climate where real dissent and the scrutiny that it entails were precluded. That is why I donated to and supported Dean's candidacy, because I thought it was vital that there be a real adversarial force to the administration's arguments in favor of the war.

DP: As a lawyer, you have great insight and respect for the rule of law. In your book "How Would a Patriot Act?" you eloquently argue that the Bush administration has violated the tenets of the Constitution. What do you think have been the administration's biggest abuses?

Glenn: The detention of U.S. citizens (not just Padilla, but also Yaser Esam Hamdi) with no trial, combined with the administration's claim (which they still maintain) that they have the power, is probably the single most severe betrayal of our country's principles that one can fathom. That is a power which not even the British King possessed, at least not since the Magna Carta.

But the greatest abuse is the administration's general theory of executive power -- that the President has the unilateral and unconstrained power to act in all areas relating to defense of the country, which includes both foreign and U.S. soil, against both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens, and that nothing -- not the American people through their Congress nor the courts applying the law -- can constrain him in any way. That is the defining power of a King. It is what the founders waged war and created a Constitution in order to prevent. And it is the power that this administration not only argues it possesses, but has exercised aggressively and enthusiastically in numerous ways.

DP: What do you think it says about the character of the United States that its citizens have let their civil liberties to be eroded without much of a fight?

Glenn: I don't think Americans are particularly aware of the true nature of the administration's conduct, in large part because the media has so profoundly failed in its role to inform them.

The NSA wiretapping scandal was never presented as what it was -- a law-breaking scandal, a scandal about whether the President has the power to act outside of the law -- but rather as a scandal about whether the President should be able to eavesdrop on terrorists without court approval. The Padilla case was barely talked about at all; I guarantee most Americans are unaware that the Bush administration has imprisoned U.S. citizens on U.S. soil for years without giving them a trial, charging them with a crime, or even allowing them to talk to anyone on the outside, even including a lawyer.

The founders envisioned that citizens would stay informed about what their government was doing by an adversarial media, which would expose governmental deceit and inform citizens if things were going awry with their government. For numerous reasons, many systematic, the media simply do not do that and, as a result, Americans are largely uninformed about the truly radical nature of this administration. Nonetheless, Americans have come to the conclusion on their own that the President is dishonest and corrupt, and that is why his popularity has collapsed and, with this last election, so, too, has his presidency.

DP: You write one of the most read political blogs in the country "Unclaimed Territory." What drew you to the Internet and blogging in the first place and what role do you think blogs played in turning public opinion against Bush policies and the war in Iraq?

Glenn: I began reading blogs during the run-up to the war, in 2002, and found that the blogosphere was the only place where truly critical thinking and informative analysis could be found. Most of the mainstream media was enthralled to the President and his chest-beating war rhetoric. It made them feel strong and safe and powerful, and in exchange, they sacrificed their critical faculties in order to be accepted by this war movement.

The blogosphere was borne out of dissatisfaction with media punditry, and so bloggers were, by definition, more forceful and critical thinkers. The highest level political debates were unquestionably taking place in the blogosphere, and I began my blog in order to participate in those discussions. It is hard to quantify the influence of blogs in turning the public against the war, but blogs clearly play a significant role in keeping the media honest, in forcing them to be critical of government claims and not mindlessly convey information given to them from their favorite sources in the government. More critical reporting by the media of the war effort -- "critical" in both senses of the word - is, more than anything, what led Americans to realize just how duped they were and just how destructive this invasion and occupation has been.

Read our essay on the Iraq War here

Read our essay on the Bush Administration here

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