Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Rebellion That Wasn't

Just quick update on the big "republican revolt" on torture. As predicted, the charade ended with these supposedly maverick senators selling us all and the constitution down the river for the price of cheap political points. Anyone sitting at home hanging all their hopes on the idea of this bunch standing up for the constitution, the rule of law and the moral conviction that shuns torture under any circumstance have been left all dressed up with no place to go... again.

When will we learn? These are conservatives without a conscience. When listening to them an excellent default position is to assume that if any of these folks are saying it there must be a scam in the works somewhere. This will be very effective even if you don't know the nuts and bolts of an issue before hand. For instance, if someday they tell you the sky is blue be sure to ignore the intuitive appeal of the assertion. Before you repeat it to someone take a quick look out of your window because, in all likelihood, that will be the day the sky turned orange with pink polkadots. Assume the are lying until proven truthful (and they wont be proven truthful).

And so it goes with all the grandstanding and media breathlessness over this charade of a Republican "revolt". The best writing I've found on the subject comes from Glenn Greenwald in his blog, Unclaimed Territory:

No matter where one stands on the ideological spectrum, there is nothing confusing or unclear or ambiguous about the so-called "compromise" on torture, nor is there a lack of clarity about who won. It couldn't be any clearer. On the interrogation issue, there was only one simple issue from the beginning -- the Bush administration, through the CIA, has been using an array of "interrogation techniques" (induced hypothermia, long standing, threats to harm families, waterboarding) which most of the world considers to be torture. The question was whether the U.S. would be a country that uses these torture techniques (as the administration wanted) or whether it would ban them. That was the only issue all along.

Just last week at his press conference -- does the media have any short term memory at all? -- the President said he cared about only one thing with regard to the torture legislation: "I have one test for this legislation. I'm going to ask one question, as this legislation proceeds, and it's this: The intelligence community must be able to tell me that the bill Congress sends to my desk will allow this vital program to continue. That's what I'm going to ask." By "this program," he means the CIA's torture program.

This legislation unquestionably allows the administration to continue to do exactly what it is was doing before. It legalizes those methods. It actually strengthens what the administration was doing because now it provides those activities with statutory authority. Why are the media and others pretending that these questions are murky? They're not.

It's true that the "compromise" takes the indirect, cowardly path towards legalizing torture by relying upon vague standards to define torture and then vesting in the President the sole power (unreviewable by courts) to determine what techniques are and are not allowed by those standards. It is the President who decides whether the "aggressive interrogation" program (i.e., the torture program) can continue, and he has already decided, obviously, that it will.

That is why the President and his senior advisers are celebrating the fact that the "program" can now continue. Because it can. Because the "compromise" allows that. Because the White House won. Because the principled, dissident Republican Senators capitulated entirely on the central question of whether the U.S. will continue to torture people.

I highly recommend the entire post as well as his other work on the subject. We the people have, once again, been hoodwinked (well, not me personally -- I tried to tell ya -- but I'm being generous).

See also Paul Waldman's post at The Gadflyer in which he rightfully calls out the Democrats also for their eerie silence on the subject. We already know we can't count on them to strongly oppose that useless war (or the next). We can't count on them stand against so-called "free trade" policies that are killing jobs in America and exploiting workers abroad. We can't look to them to fight against domestic spying or draconian "Patriot" acts. We can't depend on them to oppose the indefinite incarceration of American citizens without charge or due process. We couldn't count on them to oppose that awful bankruptcy reform law. Now we find that we can't even ask them to say a single peep against the legalization of torture. Please remind me why they exist again.

Their silence has allowed the unthinkable to happen. The Republicans have been allowed, via this staged-for-TV "revolt", to assume both the "get tough at all costs" posture and the mantle of conscientious opposition as their own private property, all while conspiring to legalize torture writ large. The Democrats have ceded both sides of issue to the war & torture mongers. It's political negligence that borders on criminal.

is the American opposition party? Their philosophy seems to be to avoid a fight in order to live to not fight another day. I'm sorry, but any talk of the Democrats being "appeasers" of anyone should begin and end with their incessant appeasement of George W. Bush and his radical, authoritarian agenda for this country. They, even more than the GOP itself, make me despair for this country. It may already be too late.

But I digress. Good night.