In the shadow of Cheney

A few fanatical jihadis hiding in caves cannot fatally damage the United States: Only the United States can fatally damage the United States. Under the fearful reign of Bush and Cheney, America went a long way toward becoming a country its own citizens would not recognize. As his May 21 speech showed, Obama clearly realizes that many of the policies pursued by his predecessors are irrational, inhumane, unjust and self-defeating. But he has not repudiated their fundamental error, their misapprehension of the actual threat posed by Islamist terrorists.

Which is why Obamas left hand has consistently undone what his right hand has done. He is by nature a difference-splitter, a position that has its virtues. But some differences cannot be split. Either we are locked in an endless, self-defeating war on terror or we are not. Either our laws, traditions and freedoms are more important than an infantile dream of perfect, eternal safety, or they are not. Either we are clear-sighted enough to realize that different kinds of enemies require different responses and that treating a handful of jihadis as if they were the second coming of Nazi Germany is foolish, or we are not. Either we live in the land of the free or we do not.

Gary Kamiya | Salon