Outrage Over Hagel’s Nomination Highlights U.S. Foreign and Domestic Policy Failures

President Obama’s appointment of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel is the latest in the bizarre kabuki theater of modern U.S. politics. Virtually every media outlet in the nation has highlighted arguments in defense of, and opposition to, Hagel’s nomination (including Central Florida Future’s Ana Eskamani). Despite the outcry from LGBT groups and the hardline Israeli lobby (the latter for not being sufficiently humble to Israel’s influence within Washington), the appointment of Chuck Hagel doesn’t really mean much. As a senator Hagel faithfully supported increases to an already unsustainable defense budget, supported the Patriot Act (and it’s reauthorization in 2006), and generally acted within the acceptable bounds of a mainstream American politic whose views on it’s military are thoroughly warped. In short, Hagel was a largely average American senator who will likely do little to change American defense policy or our relationship with other countries.

The problem with the outrage over Hagel’s nomination is that it is thoroughly misplaced. As Obama nominates Hagel for Defense secretary, he has also nominated the current Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and former Bush official John Brennan. Brennan was considered for the same post last year, but withdrew his name from consideration after public pressure due to his support for the Bush administration’s policies of torture and extraordinary rendition. In his current position Brennan has been involved in some of the most odious policies of the Obama administration abroad including “signature strikes” (killing unknown targets because they might be associated with forces engaged with the U.S.), indiscriminate use of drones on civilian populations (including mourners at funerals and rescue workers), and the power to assassinate anyone, at anytime, anywhere in absolute secrecy.

This time around there has been a much more muted reaction to Brennan being considered for the powerful post of CIA director, apparently overshadowed by the overwrought condemnation of a thoroughly average former senator. In addition there has been a deafening silence from liberals and members of the Democratic party. These once staunch opponents of executive overreach and loyal supporters of American civil liberties seem to have lost their nerve on these issues now that the White House is occupied by an erudite liberal instead of a cartoonish caricature of Texan conservationism. It is galling hypocrisy on the part of the Democratic party and Obama supporters that they are unwilling to oppose policies they would have launched rightful indignation toward simply because they now are the ones implementing them. Imagine the outrage of liberals had it been revealed that George W. Bush and Karl Rove (instead of David Axelrod, Obama’s Rove who attends the meetings to decide who to assassinate) had secretly decided to assassinate an American citizen without trial or even charges of a criminal act. The backlash would have been so powerful it could have been felt from the moon.

The leadership this country desperately needs on issues of defense and national security will not come from the likes of Hagel and Brennan. Both nominees seem unwilling to accept that the U.S. attempt to actively inject its military throughout the globe is suffering from the same kind of overreach encountered by previous empires such as Great Britain and Spain. The policies spawned by the likes of Brennan are not only immoral, but ultimately inflame anti-American sentiment world-wide. Furthermore, the aforementioned policies and the secrecy surrounding them are a severe danger to American democracy and our basic legal rights.

An Urgent Appeal to All Members of U.S. Democratic Party Clubs

             The events of the last year have been quite dramatic even in the context of the last decade.  With the unexpected rise of the Occupy movement we have seen another powerful indication that the American people will no longer stand idly by while multinational corporations and their allies corrupt the basic tenets of our democracy.  At the same time we have also witnessed some of the most profound challenges to our most basic political liberties.  With the passage and signing of sections 1031 and 1032 of the National Defense Authorization Act, America has now been declared a “battlefield” and the standing practice of the president to indefinitely detain any individual without trial has been codified into law.  Furthermore, it has been revealed that the executive branch is now overseeing a secret committee which is ordering the assassination of U.S. citizens without trial or so much as formal charges.

            It should be evident that such provisions and practices are anything but trivial matters.  These extraordinary presidential powers are nothing short of dictatorial and entirely unwarranted.  Despite president Obama’s signing statement in regards to the aforementioned provisions of the NDAA, the simple legal existence and general acceptance of these practices by the highest powers in the U.S.is the death knell of democracy.  The response from every true progressive and loyal Democrat must be a resounding, “This shall not stand!”

            What I am to ask of you is no simple matter, but it is desperately necessary.  I am calling on all U.S. Democratic Party Clubs to send formal resolutions denouncing the signing of the NDAA, and the twin evils of indefinite detention and execution without trial.  This call in and of itself should never be difficult, indeed it should be something that should be done regardless of any impediment if one is truly dedicated to the principles of self-rule and political liberty.  However, it is unfortunately the case that this will require you to rebuke a president who is popular within your party during an election year.

It is highly unfortunate that such a trivial matter should stand in the way of doing what is right and necessary.  For whatever reason, the abuses which were so widely and justly criticized by the party during the Bush administration are now ignored under the present.  While it is understandable that it is difficult to criticize an individual who has achieved so much, while facing opponents so depraved as those in the Republican party, neither should impede the necessary defense of the core tenet of our Democracy.  No individual in our nation should have the ability to deprive any of us of our liberty or our lives without a fair trial by a jury of our peers.

For those party organizations which are noble enough to take up this call, know that you will receive sharp opposition from all corners of your party.  When this happens be sure to point out how vital it is that these issues be discussed immediately.  Ask your comrades in the party what a president Romney, Santorum or Gingrich would do with such unrestricted power.  It is likely that you will face opposition so vehement that the question of the membership of your club may come in to question.  If this is to happen, it is at this point that the question must be asked as to why it is worth supporting a party that would sacrifice its most core principles to have a member residing at a house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  I would hope that this is a conversation that no one within the party will have to undertake.

I urge those members of the party reading this appeal to reject the petty partisan concerns of electability in a presidential election season.  Is the campaign for one political office so important as to sacrifice the freedom of the common man and woman?  The office of the president is vastly out of reach to those who are not rich and powerful.  What hope do we stand if we sacrifice all our liberties for the hope that those elite who vie for the office will respect our petty concerns such as to be held innocent before proven guilty?  Can we trust our present and future presidents to responsibly wield ultimate power?  I would hope that you realize the answer to these questions, and I beg you all to do what is right.