Joe Klein

Joe Klein

Nothing else needs to be said about the sociopathy of Joe Klein than what Glenn Greenwald describes today. Klein’s justification for drone warfare comes down to “we have to kill their children before they kill our children,” and frankly that’s about as nuancedas our foreign policy debate gets these days.

Greenwald goes into all the reasons why this point of view doesn’t even provide Americans with basic security, which is the ostensible goal. We know enough about blowback to understand why flying robots killing everyone in an area and generating collateral damage does not stop terrorism and hatred as much as it sows it. And there’s the damage of this psychopathy to the national character, as Greenwald demonstrates (though I’m not certain there’s been much degrading over the years; it was ever thus).

But here’s a more subtle way that this kind of “end justify the means” approach to terrorism, which is a vanishingly small threat to the homeland anyway, one that can be counteracted with smart law enforcement as much as bombs. There does exist something called moral authority, and it is possible to lose it.

Prisoners detained without charges. Prisons operating outside the legal system. Limits on free speech and the Internet. Legitimate voters prevented from casting their ballots. Sanctioned kidnappings. Witch hunts and torture.

It’s all part of life, says the Russian government — in the United States.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday issued a 56-page report in Russian and English titled, “On the Human Rights Situation in the United States.”

The report, distributed at hearings held by the International Affairs Committee of Russia’s lower house of parliament, was the first such full examination of the U.S. human rights record issued here since the fall of communism in 1991. In tone, vocabulary and spirit, it was reminiscent of the Cold War-era propaganda counterattacks launched by the Soviet Union on its rival [...]

“Around these [human rights] violations an information vacuum has been created and … as a result we see a distorted picture of all but an exclusive right of the United States to deal with that topic,” Pushkov told the sparse audience of lawmakers, speakers, journalists and a group of political science students invited by the organizers. “On a whole number of issues, I think Russia has a greater moral right to raise questions than our American partners as we don’t have secret prisons, we do not kidnap people, we haven’t had any serious scandals connected with violating international law.”

This comes from a country that recently moved three protesters to a labor camp for the crime of demonstrating against Vladimir Putin. This comes from a country where it’s dangerous to be a journalist if you’re on the wrong side of the state. The report is obviously a propaganda vehicle to deflect attention from the harsh crackdown, often extra-judicial, on dissent.

But the problem is that there’s far too little in the Russian report to criticize. Indeed, over the past decade, the United States has tortured people in off-the-books secret prisons. The United States has detained suspects for years without due process or charges, and with no plans to charge them in the future, warehousing individuals when they cannot secure a conviction because of tainted evidence or detainee abuse. The United States did render suspects off the streets of foreign cities. Indeed the United States does limit its voting in greater ways, particularly with ex-convicts, than anywhere else in the world.

You can argue that some of this has stopped, although the better way to put it is that we leave the dirty work to other countries these days. You cannot argue that this has not damaged US credibility around the world, and given those who want to deflect from their own human rights failings an easy out.

Photo by Doublespeak Media under Creative Commons License