Monday, September 18, 2006

A Revoltin' Revolt

Don't Be Hoodwinked!

I've withheld comment on the supposed "revolt" a few Republican senators and Colin Powell are being credited with staging over the last few days, ostensibly in response Bush's push to unilaterally redefine the Geneva Conventions. I've felt from the start that it was all just a bit of made-for-TV melodrama for the amusement of us voters, deemed long ago too stupid to know the difference. But I didn't have the details to back my intuition. All I had was my knowledge that this Republican congress doesn't truly oppose Bush on anything and has engaged in this kind of charade before.

But even more than that, my suspicions were strengthened, not weakened, by the entrance of Colin Powell into the fray. For years Colin Powell has functioned as the GOP's human shield of credibility. If they met any resistance on an issue they'd trot him out and hide whatever stinking pile of dung they were pushing behind his carefully-cultivated image. In return, he has proven that he would never be goaded by principle or conscience into doing anything publicly that wasn't completely safe politically. His performance at the UN in February 2003 cemented that reputation in my mind. As I see it, Colin Powell's imprimatur on this "revolt" is a red flag, a warning sign that this is indeed a conservative strategy, not a revolt at all. But, that kind of stuff is just speculation, not evidence. So, held off on posting it.

Now, Joshua Holland at The Gadflyer has a post that pretty much confirms my well-earned cynicism.

This is... a terrible bill. It's an improvement over the House bill favored by the administration, yes, but a terrible bill nonetheless...


Let's all just understand that both bills redefine war crimes under article three of the Geneva Conventions, both start us down a slippery slope towards something quite ugly and both will, in Colin Powell's words, cause the world to "doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

Now why would he say something like that? Well, it turns out that this alternative bill, the one that these "revolting" senators are said to be "protecting the rule of law" with, is every bit as revoltin' as the house bill supported by Bush. Both bills unilaterally redefine Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Both bill immunize US officials or agents from penalties arising from the use of torture. Both bills provide such immunization retroactively (this bill is retroactive to 9/11, Bush's to 1978).

It also seems to me that both bills would allow for the use of evidence obtained by torture in military tribunals. I could be wrong there (I'm no lawyer) but follow me on this. The alternative bill does not say so directly like the house bill, but it's provisions for a) raising the bar as to what constitutes torture and b) prohibiting detainees from challenging the conditions of their captivity have the same effect. So, we can have a rule in place for military tribunals that explicitly prohibits evidence obtained by "torture". That's all well and good. But if we then implement other rules that dilute the definition of torture and prevents an individual's treatment from being formally declared as torture, then what's the net effect?

So, the thing I'm having trouble with is this. If John McCain and John Warner (and Colin Powell) are so concerned that the proposed house legislation will jeopardize US servicemen serving abroad and call into question the US morality on the issue, why would they support a second bill that effectively does the same thing?

Short answer: The are all full of... (ahem)... could use a laxative. They think you're stupid. This all being done in anticipation of the upcoming elections. The bogus use of this issue serves as a way to distance themselves, and the republican congress by extension, from Bush whose poll numbers are toxic. That would be all well and good if they were doing it to actually oppose him. But, ironically, their attempt to bait & switch us with this bogus "alternative" -- which does nothing to ease anyone's concerns about the use of torture and our compliance with the Geneva conventions -- shows just how cozy they really are with the Bush agenda and how far they're willing to go to advance it. Don't be hoodwinked.