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Scott R. Paeth

  • Scott R. Paeth is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. He works in the fields of Christian Social Ethics and Public Theology.

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« Obama at Notre Dame | Main | Common Ground »

May 22, 2009



This is a troubling (not surprising, but troubling) thing that transcends Obama and Bush, and seems to have settled rather generally on American political culture.

How he can say in his speech, "we've been the nation that has shut down torture chambers and replaced tyranny with the rule of law," but not actually enforce the law on this, I'm not exactly sure.

I have no doubt that Obama, Cheney, Pelosi, etc., are interested in our safety, and while I agree with you on the idea (from Bonhoeffer) that "peace is the opposite of security", it's also worth saying that safety in itself is a noble goal. That is, they're trying to look out for us at least, rather than simply wielding arbitrary power for arbitrary power's sake (any "executive" branch is going to be playing with such power outside of law, even when law is what directs that power). But the way safety has become a necessity of eschatological proportions strikes me as dangerous. It's idealist in all the wrong ways.

The "rule of law" doesn't govern by itself, that is, but this sort of detention (or failure to prosecute torturers) goes way beyond the normal extra-juridical coercion exercised by presidents, police, and the military. There's not even a substantive reference to what law directs.

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