Saturday, February 18, 2006
As a longtime libertarian conservative, Roberts glumly surveyed the brand of conservatism on offer at the conference:
Predictable, I guess, but no less troubling when considered along with the unwillingness of the Democratic Party and the federal judiciary to provide any meaningful opposition to the creation of an all powerful presidency unaccountable to anyone. The disclosure of more disturbing photographs of abuse of Abu Ghraib merely serves to highlight the despondent state of politics in America, as Chris Floyd observed the other day:
Last week's annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism. A former Justice Department official named Viet Dinh got a standing ovation when he told the CPAC audience that the rule of law mustn't get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden.
Former Republican congressman Bob Barr, who led the House impeachment of President Bill Clinton, reminded the CPAC audience that our first loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution, not to a leader. The question, Barr said, is not one of disloyalty to Bush, but whether America "will remain a nation subject to, and governed by, the rule of law or the whim of men."
The CPAC audience answered that they preferred to be governed by Bush.
Unfortunately, as Roberts discovered at CPAC, there is another frightening alternative that Floyd did not consider: enthusiastic support.
Of course, these Abu Ghraib photos themselves represent only a small fraction of the atrocities carried out -- in our name -- in secret hell-holes around the globe. The photos depict the raw and brutal dawn of a system that has become progressively more refined, more "professional," now largely removed from the hands of untrained grunts with digital cameras, and instead carried out in secret by CIA agents and other operatives of the America's mammoth "security organs" -- again, acting under presidential orders, and presidential protection.
What shall we say when history asks how such crimes came to be committed in the name of America? Will we say that we stood silently by, shrugging our shoulders, filling our bellies, closing our eyes? Or will we be able to say: We saw. We dissented. We resisted. We condemned.