30-some years and 362 363 (EDT midnight went by already) days ago I was born someone other than Glenn Greenwald. I got a little bit screwed on that one, I must say - but not as badly as the US screwing itself.

This is what a country becomes when it decides that it will not live under the rule of law, when it communicates to its political leaders that they are free to do whatever they want -- including breaking our laws -- and there will be no consequences. There are two choices and only two choices for every country -- live under the rule of law or live under the rule of men. We've collectively decided that our most powerful political leaders are not bound by our laws -- that when they break the law, there will be no consequences. We've thus become a country which lives under the proverbial "rule of men" -- that is literally true, with no hyperbole needed -- and Mayer's revelations are nothing more than the inevitable by-product of that choice.

If this country comes to its senses in time to save itself from oblivion, Glenn Greenwald will one day be seen as one of the reasons. But at this point, that's looking like a big if. (And yes, I know that Obama is recently part of the problem, not part of the solution. Given that either he or John McCain will be President on January 20th, I'll still be voting for Obama.)

Serious People understood -- and still understand -- that our leaders made complex and weighty decisions for our own Good and that terms like "lawbreaking" and "war crimes" and "prosecutions" have no place in respectable American political circles. Hence, our political leaders operate in a climate where they know they can do anything -- anything at all, including flagrantly breaking our most serious laws -- and they will be defended, or at least have their behavior mitigated, by a virtually unanimous political and media establishment. The hand-wringing over Mayer's latest revelations will be led by the very people who are responsible for what has taken place -- responsible because they decided that rampant, deliberate lawbreaking by our Government officials was nothing to get worked up over.

Read the whole thing, and the book he's talking about (The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals) sounds like a must-read too.

Update: About the Obama comment, I want to clarify in two directions: a) I still believe that despite Obama's ugly cave-in on FISA, he will be successful in pushing our country in a more successful, and American, direction; b) until I find a viable candidate who will promise to apply pacifist principles to governance and still has a chance to win, every vote I cast will be a compromise vote, so my willingness to choose Obama over McCain is nothing unusual. I volunteered on behalf of Kerry despite my reservations, and they were more extensive even than my reservations about Obama.