Cults Of Inerrant Leaders

Glenn Greenwald summarizes an atrocity of institutionalized injustice, whereby the executive branch of the United States has the power to abduct and torture innocent people with impunity:

The Supreme Court today denied a petition of review from Maher Arar, the Canadian and Syrian citizen who was abducted by the U.S. Government at a stopover at JFK Airport when returning to Canada in 2002, held incommunicado for two weeks, and then rendered to Syria, where he spent the next 10 months being tortured, even though — as everyone acknowledges — he was guilty of absolutely nothing.  Arar sued the U.S. Government for what was done to him, and last November, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of his lawsuit on the ground that courts have no right to interfere in these decisions of the Executive Branch.  That was the decision which the U.S. Supreme Court let stand today, ending Arar’s attempt to be compensated for what was done to him.

As the Center for Constitutional Rights pointed out today:

The Obama administration could have settled the case, recognizing the wrongs done to Mr. Arar as Canada has done. . . . Yet the Obama administration chose to come to the defense of Bush administration officials, arguing that even if they conspired to send Maher Arar to torture, they should not be held accountable by the judiciary.

So congratulations to the U.S. for winning the right to wrongfully abduct people and send them to their torture with total impunity.  What a ringing statement about our country’s willingness to right the wrongs it commits and to provide access to our courts to those whose lives we devastate with our behavior.  Andrew Sullivan today referred to “the cult of the inerrant leader”:  the inability and refusal of our political class to acknowledge wrongdoing, apologize for it, and be held accountable.  The Maher Arar case is a pathological illustration of that syndrome.

Yesterday after explicating the logic of power in traditional Augustinian Christianity, whereby an omnipotent personal being is beyond any other being’s moral rights to object to any of His deeds and therefore He can abuse and dispose of anyone in whatever ways His capricious will dictates is fair, I realized how consistent politically conservative Christian thinking about America’s rights as a superpower really is with the logic of their faith beliefs about their God.

And when the Obama administration also shares the logic of an unaccountable executive whose national and international might makes right, it becomes clear that it’s not only the conservative Christians but mainstream America who accept this perverse interpretation of the absolute rights of absolute power.

Christians and Americans: people who implicitly believe that “with great power comes no responsibility”.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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