Noam Chomsky: America, Moral Degenerate
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The question of due process actually did arise, since the US does have a constitution and it says that no person shall be deprived of their rights without due process of law -- again, this goes back to 13th-century England -- so the question arose, “What about due process?” The Obama Justice Department's Attorney General, Eric Holder, explained that there was due process in these cases because they are discussed first at the Executive Branch. That's not even a bad joke! The British kings from the 13th century would have applauded. “Sure, if we talk about it, that's due process.” And that, again, passed without controversy.
In fact, we might ask the same question about the murder of Osama Bin Laden. Notice I use the term “murder.” When heavily armed elite troops capture a suspect, unarmed and defenseless, accompanied by his wives, and then shoot him, kill him, and dump his body into the ocean without an autopsy, that's sheer assassination. Also notice that I said “suspect.” The reason is because of another principle of law, that also goes back to the 13th century -- that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Before that, he's a suspect. In the case of Osama Bin Laden, the United States had never formally charged him with 9/11 and part of the reason was that they didn't know that he was responsible. In fact, eight months after 9/11 and after the most intensive inquiry in history, the FBI explained that it suspected that the 9/11 plot was hatched in Afghanistan (didn't mention Bin Laden), and was implemented in the United Arab Emirates, Germany, and of course, the United States. That's eight months after the attack and there's nothing substantive that they've learned since then that does more than increase the suspicion.
My own assumption is that the suspicion is almost certainly correct, but there's a big difference between having a very confident belief and showing someone to be guilty. And even if he's guilty, he was supposed to be apprehended and brought before a court. That's British and American law going back eight centuries. He's not supposed to be murdered and have his body dumped without an autopsy, but support for this is very nearly universal. Actually, I wrote one of the few critical articles on it and my article was bitterly condemned by commentators across the spectrum, including the Left, because the assassination was so obviously just, since we suspected him of committing a crime against us. And that tells you something about the significant, I would say “moral degeneration,” running throughout the whole intellectual class. And yes, Obama has continued this and in some respects extended it, but it hardly comes as a surprise.
The rot is much deeper than that.
Bailey: It has been just over 10 years since the publication of the Bush administration's “torture memos.” These memos provided a legal justification for the torture of detainees held by the CIA in connection with the “war on terror.” The contents of the memos are chilling and have created new debate on torture internationally. Despite all of the promises given by President Obama to close those illegal detention centers, it seems that “black site” activities still occur. What are your views on these detention centers and CIA torture? Also, what do you think about Obama's promise of CIA reforms in 2008 and how has the reality of his presidency stacked up to those promises?
Chomsky: There have been some presidential orders expressing disapproval of the most extreme forms of torture, but Bagram remains open and uninspected. That's probably the worst in Afghanistan. Guantanamo is still open, but it's unlikely that serious torture is going on at Guantanamo. There is just too much inspection. There are military lawyers present and evidence regularly coming out so I suspect that that's not a torture chamber any more, but it still is an illegal detention chamber, and Bagram and who knows how many others are still functioning. Rendition doesn't seem to be continuing at the level that it did, but it has been until very recently.