Political Culture: When Did Americans Become Such Pussies?

I must admit, I had thought the days were over when Republicans could scare the bejeezus out of the citizenry (and force acquiescence from lily-livered Democrats) with bullshit tricks like “threat levels” and smoking gun/mushroom cloud demagoguery. But this week a USA Today/Gallup poll found that Americans now oppose closing the Guantanamo Bay prison by a 2-to-1 margin, and that even more Americans are afraid of Gitmo detainees being moved into prisons in their own states.

This spike in public pants-wetting comes in the wake of the recent 90-6 vote in the Senate forbidding President Obama from spending federal money to close Gitmo until he presents an acceptable plan for relocating the 240 detainees still held there. Democrats, cowed by GOP taunts and ever-fearful of the dreaded 30-second ad painting them as weak on national security, voted for the amendment in droves. And their feckless leader, Harry Reid, went so far as to pronounce that Democrats, like Republicans, would never agree to move the detainees into prisons onto American soil.

Even Obama has begun to backslide from the fortitude he displayed during the campaign, when he demanded that the detention regime (like other unconstitutional elements of Bush’s “war on terror”) be brought under the rule of law. Now Obama suggests that, despite the military’s inability to try and convict these detainees – either because the cases were flimsy to begin with, or because even military judges won’t convict a suspect based on evidence obtained via torture – our inhumane treatment has turned them into such monsters that we can’t afford to release them. After all, if we did they might become involved in the types of terrorist activity we can’t pin on them now! So we’re just going to continue holding them, without trial, until such time as … I don’t have a conclusion to that sentence, and apparently neither does the president. He’s also suggested that he’s willing to perpetuate the Bush Administration’s military commissions, continuing their perfect record: They’ve never secured a major conviction, nor have they once withstood a court challenge.

Simply put, Americans (and their elected representatives) have allowed their balls to retract so far into their pelvises that what was once convex is now concave. Eight years of the Bush Administration’s relentless fear-mongering has succeeded in turning us into a nation of pussies.

The last couple nights, NBC has offered viewers an “unprecedented,” Brian Williams-hosted look inside the Obama White House, from the West Wing to the East and even up into the residence. Perhaps Obama sees the telecast as part of the process of restoring Americans’ perception of “access” to their government, following the secrecy of the Bush years. But if the president really wants to perform a public service, perhaps he should take Brian on a tour of one of these “supermax” prisons – like the one in Hardin, Montana, where the mayor is so desperate to revive the town’s economy (and fill his newly built, nearly empty facility) that he’s offered to lock up a hundred or so Gitmo prisoners there.

What, exactly, is the argument against putting a terrorist in a supermax pokey? That he’ll intermingle with the general prison population, turning two-bit drug offenders (who aren’t housed at supermax facilities anyway) into Osama-beard-wearing, monkey bar-scaling, “Death to America”-chanting al Qaeda members? That he’ll somehow manage to break out of the impenetrable fortifications, Rambo style, armed with an AK-47 and with a nuke strapped to his torso?

Get some stones, people! There is no logical public-safety argument against relocating these detainees onto U.S. soil. That spectacular train wreck that freed Harrison Ford in The Fugitive? That was a movie! All the Raquel Welch posters in all the world aren’t going to hide a hole big enough for a terrorist to crawl through to escape a supermax prison! And as for influencing other prisoners … ever heard of solitary confinement?

No, the real reason Republicans have talked us into fearing a Gitmo shutdown is because they’re afraid that bringing suspected terrorists into our prisons will make it impossible to avoid exposing them to the American criminal justice system. After all, you know what that might mean! These “worst of the worsts” might get access to actual lawyers, and might get to actually hear (and have a chance to refute) the evidence against them! Horrors! Even worse, a real trial might publicly expose the entire lunatic enterprise of rounding up ne’er-do-wells off the “battlefields” of Afghanistan (frequently based on nothing more than the accusations of bounty seekers); exporting them to Egypt, or Eastern Europe, or God knows where for purposes of torture; and finally locking them up at an offshore naval base and throwing away the key.

It’s all an extension of a general right-wing hatred for the American system of jurisprudence, and for the civil liberties recognized by the Constitution. This irrational, inbred anti-Americanism can be traced back at least to Richard Nixon’s “law and order” buffoonery, and probably beyond that to conservatives’ negative reactions to Warren Court rulings favoring equal protection and the rights of the accused at the expense of the existing power structure. But it reached new heights under Bush and Cheney, as they advanced the notions that treating terrorists as criminals rather than “enemies” reflected “a pre-9/11 mentality,” and that opposing torture or indefinite detention meant that you “would rather read a terrorist his Miranda rights than keep the American people safe.”

The trouble with that last argument is that there’s plenty of evidence that national security and constitutional rights aren’t mutually exclusive – that, in fact, it is precisely when the United States lives up to its ideals, and lives by its own rules, that the American people are most safe. The greatest blemishes on America’s record in world affairs – the Japanese internment camps, the CIA’s Cold War-era assassination plots, the My Lai atrocities, Iran-Contra – are not military defeats, but rather incidents in which America forsook its commitment to human rights and its moral authority in favor of security concerns that were illusory at best, criminal at worst. Since 2001, such incidents have become executive-branch policy; the Bush Administration abandoned the Constitution in a panic, cost us our privileged position in world affairs – and made us more susceptible to attack by increasing the number and intensity of people around the world who would do us harm.

In recent weeks Cheney, Condi Rice and other Bushies have taken up the “panic” defense as loudly as they have the “torture works” argument, attributing their pursuit of “enhanced interrogation” options to their mortal fear of another terrorist attack (and of being blamed by the public for such an attack) in the months following 9/11. At least they’re finally being honest about the extent to which they shat their pants in 2001 and ’02; unfortunately for them, the “you would have done it, too, if you were in our shoes” defense usually doesn’t hold up in a war-crimes trial – even if their continued fear-mongering does seem to be working in turning the public against the Gitmo closure.

Assuming that no more torture is going on there, it’s true that closing Gitmo is mostly a symbolic gesture. But it’s a necessary one, just as it was last year when even Bush gave lip service to the idea. Gitmo is our gulag; its usefulness to our nation is, and forever will be, far outweighed by its value to terrorists who want to recruit more terrorists. The detainees currently there should be brought into American prisons, and into the same justice system that deals with every other sort of murderer and criminal conspirator. And if the evidence isn’t there to convict them, they should be released – not in the U.S., but in the countries they came from.

The right wing (and, thanks to its demagoguery, a majority of the public) may no longer think so, but the American system of justice is the envy of the world – and it’s certainly sturdy enough to sort through the dregs of Guantanamo Bay. If doing the right thing by our Constitution results in some number of terrorists being “returned to the battlefield” (wherever that is), as Gitmo defenders put it, then so be it. If Obama’s people can restore a measure of competence to our intelligence gathering, and if the military can continue its recent successes in decimating al Qaeda, I like our chances of keeping Americans safe a lot better in a post-Gitmo world.

Republicans have long accused Democrats as being soft on crime, soft on defense, and/or soft on terror. Yet their idea of being (I suppose) “hard” on these threats seems to require behavior that betrays the most important aspects of the American character. I’ve always thought that exactly the opposite of their accusation is true – and that, as Benjamin Franklin said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Which begs the question: If you don’t think America is capable of defending both its people and its constitutionally enshrined liberties, why are you such a pussy?




  • EightE1

    Supermax prisons are where we incarcerate dangerous Americans who kill Americans. I see no reason why dangerous non-Americans who have killed Americans (or who we suspect of other like offenses) could not be incarcerated in the same facilities. Guantanamo is more than a detention center; it is a symbol throughout the world for Bush-era disregard for our Constitution and the rule of law. It must be shut down, for that reason. Our federal law enforcement mechanisms can deal with these people; those who don't want Guantanamo detainees “in our back yard” are merely playing political games.

  • David

    Speaking of torture, a 60 year old Briton kidnapped in North Africa (doing something as bad as attending a music festival) has been murdered, reportedly beheaded by al Qaeda terrorists. Maybe the evil U.S. could learn something about this…..at least he wasn't waterboaded first; that would have been worse.

  • StandingDamaged

    Did you know one of the reasons Tecumseh was considered such a great man is because he halted the age old practise of torturing captives that had been common among us eastern woodlander natives? It was one of the many reasons the euro-invaders considered him a great man. They saw it as prrof of his being more civilized than the 'savages' they were continually raging about and using as justification for their continual genocide. So I guess now America has slid into the savagery that makes them justifiably worthy of genocide themselves?
    And again – wasn't one of McSames' political selling points during the beginnings of his campaign the fact that he had been a 'tortured prisoner of war'? So MAYBE the puiblic AND the Republicans are simply afraid that bringing those Gitmo guys here would mean we would have to run them for the highest office in 2012? hehehehe
    on a final note – who knew that what Oatrick Henry REALLy said was “give me Liberty, or at least promise you won't hit me too hard….”

  • JonCummings

    Well, by all means, then, let's continue sinking to al Qaeda's level–which is precisely what the Bush administration did. That half-an-argument (“but they just beheaded someone!”) lost all credibility years ago.

  • David

    So douche, I didn't realize waterboarding (which did provide us valuable information and saved lives; while killing no one) is sinking to al-Queda's level of beheading someone. And you are wrong, it''s NOT precisely what the Bush Administration did. Get your fucking facts right.

  • JonCummings

    Oh, sorry, forgot that exact precision is the stock and trade of Bush defenders. No, we didn't behead anyone–far as I know–but let's not forget that prisoners died from our torture at Abu Ghraib and Bagram, and probably elsewhere that we haven't been told about yet. Point is, our level of humanity is supposed to be waaaaaaay above beheading, murder-by-torture or even plain ol' waterboarding (or the other forms of torture and abuse approved and implemented by the Bush Administration). And if you don't think so, you'll never convince me that the problem isn't you.

    I don't give a good goddamn whether waterboarding provided useful information. It's unconstitutional in this country, and illegal worldwide. The “but it worked” excuse is a “Mussolini made the trains run on time” defense. I hope someday the Bushies get to tell that to the International Criminal Court.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Facts? What do you know about facts? Numerous intelligence personnel — you know, people with actual security clearance who have done REAL life-saving, intelligence-gathering work — have repudiated these “techniques” as utterly worthless. The only people still supporting them are belligerent idiots who have never contributed anything to the preservation or growth of democracy. People like Dick Cheney and, apparently, you.

  • Arend_Anton

    Duh, Jeff. He obviously knows his facts, or he wouldn't have resorted to referring to Jon as, “Douche.”

  • Arend_Anton

    Not to stray too far from the point, but that Brian Williams special was awful. Jon Stewart pointed out how similar it was to an MTV Cribs episode. It Obama and his staffers look like the idiots I know they aren't (well, other than Geithner and possibly Rahm), thanks to someone's idea of “edgy” cutting. It's amazing how much editing can distort things.

  • Doodle Dandy

    In the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the information was very valuable, particularly names and addresses of people who were involved with al Qaeda in this country and in Europe. And in one particular plot, which would involve an airline attack on the tallest building in Los Angeles, known as the Library Tower.

  • JonCummings

    You know, I was going to ridicule the name-calling…until I remembered that I headlined this column by calling an entire nation a bunch of pussies. So I'm not exactly holding the moral high ground on that one.

  • Arend_Anton

    Not really. You were trying to call us pussies to action.

    He was just resorting to name calling.

  • JonCummings

    As you can read here: http://www.slate.com/id/2217015/

    or here: http://waterboarding.org/success_story
    (yes, there's a waterboarding.org!)

    KSM's capture and waterboarding occurred in 2003, whereas the Bush administration (including Bush himself, in a 2006 speech) repeatedly claimed that they had foiled the Library Tower plot the year before, in 2002. Other independent investigations have found that if a plot against the Library Tower actually existed at all, it was in its infancy, with no resources and no timeline–in other words, hardly the type of imminent threat that could justify waterboarding if ANYTHING could ever justify it.

    The reporting of ABC's Brian Ross, who “broke” the story of KSM's supposedly valuable information, has been shredded in numerous places. BTW, I like the idea that KSM had American addresses in his head ready to be recited, particularly after he was waterboarded 183 times! Where did they make this stuff up?

  • Larry Fine

    I just love it when liberals show their hatred for America.

  • JonCummings

    Hey, buddy, in case you haven't noticed, we're in CHARGE of America now!!!! And I LOVE that! Take a look around–all the hatred is coming from your direction. And it's not constructive criticism of government policy, the way ours was for eight years. It's just blind, grotesque, spitting vitriol.

  • Arend Anton

    You mean like when Rush Limbaugh says he hopes the President fails?

  • Moe Howard

    “And it's not constructive criticism of government policy, the way ours was for eight years. “

    You're fucking kidding me, right? ALLof it was constructive criticism? I could do a search for the compassionate, constructive criticism by the Left during the Bush years, but I'm really too bored to make the attempt. I do love riling up Libs.

  • Alex

    Jon Cummings. Sounds like a gay porn star.

  • Bob

    The writer should be thankful that he's being challenged on his stupid opinion. At least he's getting some comments for a change. Unlike his usual single digit replies to his “I hate America and all Republicans are bad” columns.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    If Jon's opinion is really so stupid, it should be easy enough to actually challenge it, instead of just blowing hot air. Why don't you give it a try, Bob?

  • JonCummings

    Really, you flatter yourself. We're too busy laughing to get riled up.

  • JonCummings

    Don't be so hard on Bob. I think it's sweet that he cares enough to follow the comment figures on my columns. And yeah, Bob, I am thankful that I'm being challenged. Though I hope there's more in the tank than “liberals hate America.” Because that's too easy, not to mention patently incorrect.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Probably because it's easier to hide behind pseudonyms like “Doodle Dandy” “Larry Fine” “Moe Howard” and “Bob” — and throw virtual rocks — than actually engage in a substantive dialogue on Jon's post.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    The majority of reports on what information was gained from waterboarding indicates the subjects lied to stop the waterboarding.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    The US broke the Geneva Convention, the thing US soldiers have relied upon for decades when faced with capture. You say then that we're dealing with a different enemy, one that hates us just for being us, and the very real possibility of bombing and beheading begs a different tack. Understood.

    But how are we to get people from those countries that threaten us to consider our way of life a possibility, enticing enough to change the internal politics, worth a noble effort even, if we cannot even respect the Geneva Convention? The “war on terror” cannot be won from the outside. We can't find Osama Bin Laden. Guess what? We never will, no matter how many Muslims we fake-drown, especially if the only “valuable information” we get from them is that he's down the street at Denny's ordering a Moon Over My Hammy. Most reports conclude that valuable information we thought we had was no more credible than Curveball's first volley of reportage. We know how well that worked out.

    You are entitled to your opinion, just as Jon is. But the numbers, the hard numbers, indicate the full frontal assault has produced nothing in the way of intel or extra protection. If we are to really win the “war on terror” we have to present ourselves as a better, more noble ideal. Only then would those inside Iran, Pakhistan and Afghanistan even bother to consider defying their oppressors, the poppy guards that enforce religious fanaticism on their people, all the while bodyguarding opium and heroin farms. Only those people, once instilled with a role model worth following, know where Bin Laden is and, ultimately, only they will deal with him. We can preach all we want, but if our deeds betray our words, all the opposition's propaganda about us being bloodthirsty liars is but a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    I don't hate America. I hate that we've forsaken our principles to reject the Geneva Convention.

  • Arend Anton

    I would hope that our interrogators are smart enough to realize that a Muslim Jihadist would never order a “Moon Over My Hammy” anyway.

  • Leona

    You DO flatter yourself, “Moe” and “Larry.” Anyone is likely to get “riled” when confronted with nonsense by somebody who has absolutely no intention of listening to reason.

    By the way: based on your minimal level of personal awesomeness, I would rank you more as a Curly-Joe DeRita.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Are you kidding? For a minute they almost bought into Sheik Khalid saying he was Bigfoot.

  • Arend_Anton

    Have you seen his picture? I'd almost believe that myself.

  • Molly

    hey douche, this is really well written. nice job.

  • Arend_Anton

    I hereby christen Jon with the new nickname, “Douche.”

  • JonCummings

    You cut me to the quick. How about just “Gil”?

  • JonCummings

    You cut me to the quick. How about just “Gil”?

  • Arend_Anton

    I hereby christen Jon with the new nickname, “Douche.”

  • JonCummings

    You cut me to the quick. How about just “Gil”?

  • Goheor

    amercians r fucked. your arrogance is your weakness and u don't even no it, u think it is a strength but it's the opposite, and it is bringing u down as we speak :)

  • Ork

    Only just found this article.
    I know that the article was a year ago but on the subject its been all over the news here that explosive devices have been found on planes in the states. It’s such a big story that they barely bothered to mention here that there were TWO devices disarmed in N. Ireland this week One of which was a 40Kg homemade bomb Probably nothing like the rate of PETN but still viable.
    Difference is we don’t all cack our pants and certainly dont vote in a new round of security measures that enrich companies owned by the politicians talking up this latest non news. There’s homicidal bast.ards everywhere. This crazy stuff goes on continuously. You take the standard measures necessary, but this shouldn’t include enriching yourself at the expense of millions of people.
    and the news story’s timing is just too obvious. ‘Ooh, even our own people and bestest foreign friends are sick of our cra.p. Time to scare the proles.’ Make some effort at least.
    Its a year later and the internal ‘who hates america more’ competition seems to be continuing. ‘No you do. No you do.’

    Meanwhile in the wider world we have to consider ‘Wasn’t it american teenagers that had the cr.ap beaten out of them for a month in a Yemeni jail despite being visited by US officials’. I would have though that that deserved at least an embassy getting burnt down and you guys didn’t even blink. I know that the guy from the jail torture photos is actually dead so a bit more serious, but your own people? Really?

    I think that america is just an amazing and diverse country but with the stuff you get away with I’d be nearly afraid to visit the US today, which is saying a lot for a caucasian Irish man… and I’m not the only one.

  • GladlyPessimistic

    Hey Jon, you seem really well informed about how America works and a believer in the Constitution. This makes me wonder why you are a Democrat. The Republicans and the Democrats consistently fuck the American public in the ass on a daily basis. Both parties believe in taking away our rights and most people are too stupid to see it happening. Since the Democrats got in power has the Patriot Act been repealed? Have we ended these pointless wars? Did we make health care reform that didn’t just benefit insurance companies? Have we made any policies against the private prison system? Have we declared the income tax unconstitutional? How about the driver’s licence or licence plate(constitutionally the government is not allowed to profit off our rights, including our right to travel on public roadways)? You seem well informed, you should not group yourself into any part of this can of worms that we call the two party system.

  • Rhutch

    I wish America was not such a pussy!  All these bullshit programs for all these people who never gave a shit enough about themselves so they just let uncle sam do it for them.  I have a better idea and its simple only the strong survive and if you go to jail for murder u should be murdered, go to jail for robbery you should be robbed, oh rape someone you should be raped, and so on and so forth. How hard is that. People have no reason any more to not comply to laws.  I wish we could change the fact that some one always wants to change shit.  The world is a messy place i haven’t been everywhere but enough to know for all we have and claim we are pussy’s right now fight for your country and protect your borders.  Keep it simple stupid, that is the way people act and so should be treated!

  • Rhutch

    I wish America was not such a pussy!  All these bullshit programs for all these people who never gave a shit enough about themselves so they just let uncle sam do it for them.  I have a better idea and its simple only the strong survive and if you go to jail for murder u should be murdered, go to jail for robbery you should be robbed, oh rape someone you should be raped, and so on and so forth. How hard is that. People have no reason any more to not comply to laws.  I wish we could change the fact that some one always wants to change shit.  The world is a messy place i haven’t been everywhere but enough to know for all we have and claim we are pussy’s right now fight for your country and protect your borders.  Keep it simple stupid, that is the way people act and so should be treated!

  • Rhutch

    i say we start beheading them back or just bomb them there is no such thing as a fair fight! If you leave America for what ever reason I would make sure you go some where terrorists are less probable to get you regardless the reason unless you have no problem with killing an enemy with a swift reflex.

  • Rhutch

    i say we start beheading them back or just bomb them there is no such thing as a fair fight! If you leave America for what ever reason I would make sure you go some where terrorists are less probable to get you regardless the reason unless you have no problem with killing an enemy with a swift reflex.

  • Mark Woodruff

    America, a nation ran by pussies and protected by HEROES! The problem with America is “People”…people are the problem!

    Where do you think politicians come from? They come from American parents, American families, American homes, American schools, businesses, and universities. Fact is, if you have selfish, ignorant, incompetent citizens you will surely have selfish, ignorant, incompetent leaders and THAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH TODAY’S GOVERNMENT! If it’s really the fault of the politicians than where are all the bright, honest, intelligent Americans at? Makes you wonder.

    On election day do yourself a favor and stay home because it’s meaningless. This country was bought, sold, and paid for a long time ago. The politicians they shuffle around every four years doesn’t mean a thing.
    If you VOTE you have no right to complain! If you VOTE and you help elect dishonest, incompetent people and they get into office and mess everything up, you have no right to complain! I, on the other hand, the one who did not vote…who in fact…does not even posses a voters registration card and never will…has every right to complain about the mess YOU helped create that I had nothing to do with! UNTIL WE CLEAN HOUSE AT THE BIG HOUSE AND REPLACE THE INCOMPETENT LEADERS WITH HONEST AMERICANS…..THIS COUNTRY IS DOOMED!!!!M WoodruffRockwall, TXUSA

  • http://profiles.google.com/jacobrichardford Jacob Ford

    This is a joke right? A leftist is accusing conservatives of being wimps?

    These are the people who are so afraid of Muslims that they never criticize them and go after Christians because they know we’ll turn the other cheek. You’re the biggest bunch of baby killing pagan cowards in the world!

  • Miguel

    When the liberals are running the show….the pussies whom could not fight for themselves growing up lead us into a coombah-ya society where evil does not exist. In there eyes….giving rights to a friggen terrorist is in some way beng brave. Liberal equals pussy, plain and simple.

  • Internetworldisfake

    Assholes and pussies are fragile, this has always been the truth.