But, it doesn't. And it's only because he's wrong.
Balko argues, and I summarize, that Osama bin Laden has won. That his goal - to embroil the US in a death grapple with Islam while fundamentally altering who were are - has been met, and all this in spite of his recent battlefield execution at the hands of men trained to sneak, skulk, murder and disappear enemies of the State.
Let's ignore for a moment the national jingo gluttony of self-congratulation which has followed on the mere announcement, sans proof, that Obama Got It Done.
Let's assume that new national narrative is true: two manly patriarchs had themselves a swinging dick off and Father Obama got the better of Badfather Osama by way of the instrumentality of sneaky, skulking, underhanded murder. Oh, and Osama was so unmanned by Obama's instrument that his final moments were spent hiding behind a woman. Mustn't forget that detail.
Balko offers a list of reasons supporting his claim, and at first review they seem a fair catalog of transformative redefinitions of the fabric of American being:
- We’ve sent terrorist suspects to “black sites” to be detained without trial and tortured.
- We’ve turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they’d be tortured.
- In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
- We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
- The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are complicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.
- The government illegally spied and eavesdropped on thousands of American citizens.
- Presidents from both of the two major political parties have claimed the power to detain suspected terrorists and hold them indefinitely without trial, based solely on the president’s designation of them as an “enemy combatant,” essentially making the president prosecutor, judge, and jury. (I’d also argue that the treatment of someone like Bradley Manning wouldn’t have been tolerated before September 11.)
- The current president has also claimed the power to execute U.S. citizens, off the battlefield, without a trial, and to prevent anyone from knowing about it after the fact.
- The Congress approved, the president signed, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a broadly written law making it a crime to advocate for any organization the government deems sympathetic to terrorism. This includes challenging the “terrorist” designation in the first place.
- Flying in America now means enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual that does little if anything to actually make flying any safer. Every time the government fails to catch an attempt at terrorism, it punishes the public for its failure by adding to the ritual.
- American Muslims, a heartening story of success and assimilation, are now harassed and denigrated for merely trying to build houses of worship.
- Without a warrant, the government can search and seize indefinitely the laptops and other personal electronic devices of anyone entering the country.
- The Department of Homeland Security now gives terrorism-fighting grants for local police departments across the country to purchase military equipment, such as armored personnel carriers, which is then used against U.S. citizens, mostly to serve drug warrants.
Seems like a salient, heady and fundamentally true record and indictment of the criminal alteration of the American character.
Seems, that is, only in comparison to the wholly fictional national mythology in which some three hundred million persons have had their heads officially swaddled for one seventh of their expected lifespans, under the guise of liberating, standardized and mandatory education.
The myth of the once noble republic. Or, updated most recently by monsieur Balko*, the Fallen Republic.
It's a powerful myth, I'll readily admit. I certainly once accepted its relative veracity, and this despite an inoculation against it, by way of tribal identity and youthful involvement with Native activists, the skeleton remnant of AIM and my own teen aged desire to "be more Indian."**
It's just not true, so to fisk a good man half and half again heartedly, let's have at it:
- The original Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Red Cloud and countless other Natives were transferred to "black sites" to be detained without trial. Thousands were murdered. They were tortured. Their children were stolen and raised to behave like their mortal enemies. They were coerced into signing away people and land they did not own. Thousands of Natives and black slaves were routinely disappeared to the plantations of the Caribbean, where they were tortured and worked to death. During the Seminole War, thousands of human persons were terrorized in night time raids which culminated in a nearly genocidal pogrom of extermination, all justified by virtue of the protection of good white folks of property and standing.
- During the heyday of the CIA and United Fruit's cooperative ruling venture in Central, South and Caribbean America, hundreds and thousands of people were handed over to torture regimes and corporate backed petty feudal fiefs. Using US money and operational support, the juntas in Chile, Paraguay and Argentina took opponents of US, regional and local hegemony and made them disappear. They were handed over, in some cases with US assistance, for the purpose of being murdered.
- Black men are and have been routinely prosecuted and incarcerated on the flimsiest of evidence, especially in the conduct of the limitless and increasingly over budgeted Drug War. Long after they ought to have been exonerated by exculpatory evidence, the recanting of coerced witness statements, admissions of police brutality and revelations of prosecutorial misconduct - or even after they are executed and can make no more stink about their wrongful imprisonments and judicial murders - they are routinely, literally as a matter of routine, denied the opportunity to clear their names and regain their freedom.
- Agents and officials of the US government, over its wretched two hundred some odd years of unrelenting and expansive continuity, have abducted tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of slaves, wobblies, unionizers, civil rights activists, Natives, suffragettes, resisters, conscientious objectors and dissidents who were innocent of the charges leveled against them - in the name of security, civilization and better living through compliance.
- The US government has launched substance criminalization campaigns linking sloth, national betrayal and unsanctioned violence to invasive Mexicans, Blacks and Indians for more than a century. Paiute and the Ghost Dance. Marijuana and the nigger rape of white ladies. Cocaine and the latino plague. Heroin and the yellow peril. Pills and the terrible and unchristian things that sodomites do to each other. Alcohol and the defense of female virtue.
- The government illegally spied upon its own subjects throughout both "world wars," during the red scare, when fighting unions fought to a standstill and bought a breather for the working class, when women got uppity, when blacks discovered their numbers and strength and when Natives again dared reclaim their heritage, their land, their defiance and the title to Alcatraz.
- Native leaders and Indian children, escaped or rebel slaves, wobbly and union agitators, foreigners suspected of disloyalty, anarchists, communists and migrant workers have been hunted and capture, held as enemies of the State, subjected to torture and other indignities, and detained and held on the orders of the Executive for the breadth and span of American history.
- American presidents have ordered the fiat death sentences - off the battlefield and without trial - of Indians and blacks for as long as there have been American presidents.
- Congress has repeatedly approved, and Presidents have repeatedly signed, various iterations of the Sedition, Alien and Treason Acts, going all the way back to the first term of the second American president.
- Traveling in America long meant enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual, for anyone without the proper skin color or male chaperon, and which did little if anything to actually make traveling safer. But, that was never the point anyway. The point has always been to intimidate.
- The various local, state and federal government enforcement arms have been seizing property, communications and possessions without procedure or warrant for as long as there has been an American government. It's just now that they're doing it to affluent white dudes who have reporter friends.
- The federal government did not invent targeted grants to police agencies with the onset of the War on Forever. Hello? Drug war. COINTELPRO cooperation money. Red busting. Labor busting. DNA databases. Et cetera ad nauseam ad infinitum.
And in summation:
Welcome to the Indian Wars, to Jim Crow, to union busting and to red baiting, you comfortable, educated white dudes. There was a never, ever a noble Republic. The Republic has not fallen. It's the same as it ever was. It's just that now - and we're very sorry to have to inform you of it this way - you occasionally have to deal with everyone else's sloppy police state seconds.
* - but also the mainstay of Birchers, Birthers, Buchananites, Christian nationalists, "classic liberals," most every nationally prominent libertarian, Antiwar.com, redemptionist liberals such as Feingold, Franken and Kucinich, Michael Moore and now the Greenies and the restoration chartists with their fiat sovereign money theories.
** - having not had it revealed to me that my biological father was an Indian until I was half way into puberty, I clumsily and self-consciously undertook the painfully inept attempt to become something I was not, culturally, by way of a feverish adoption of all that I did not know, until that moment, I was or could be. It was a book I bought for my wife's birthday gift that finally allowed me to see myself as "Neither Dog Nor Wolf." A book. Talk about a characteristically civilized, routinized, acceptable European path to it, eh?