Saturday, September 30, 2006

Not to keep bashing the Democrats, but...

By Heraclitus

By now I'm sure you've all heard about the torture bill that was passed, and heard the various reactions to it. I agree with most of the criticisms of it, and most of the expressions of angst and depression that I've read. I do think it's important to note the difference between suspending habeus corpus for non-citizens and doing so for citizens, but I don't think the former is permissable. Above all, of course, the bill gives the president the power to torture legally, and this is simply unacceptable. As I've mentioned before, the bill legalizes all of the sexual humiliation/sadism practiced at Abu Ghraib, and thus shows how baldly Bush was lying when he pretended to abhor and claim no responsibility for what happened there. I also think this quotation from Vladimir Bukovsky, a former Soviet political prisoner, needs to be repeated.

If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes CID [cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment -- but nothing that would cause, say, organ failure], has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering.

But maybe we're no longer in the business of promoting democracy. Wolfowitz and the other hard-core neocons are out, Cheney and Rumsfeld, whose obsessions are secrecy, authoritarianism, and scare-mongering for political gain, are in.

Among other things, this bill makes it almost impossible to criticize Bush's handling of the "war on terror." We simply will not know now what is happening, what prisoners are where, what they are telling us, what techniques are working, whether this or that interrogation technique actually yields true information, etc. One of the Democrats' most abysmal failures in all this, it seems to me, is their complete failure to make this into a debate about Bush's competency, and about his desire to further shield himself from scrutiny and criticism. (Of course, it's hard to do this when you don't debate the bill at all.) Even if one wants to take a principle-be-damned line, the strategically smart thing to do would have been to force Bush to defend his own handling of the war on terror, explain why we should think he knows what he's doing in this arena when he's so clearly incompetent in every other, and so on. But the Democrats are just too cowardly, too afraid of the shadow of every poll, to do any such thing.

And so, a word on McCain: I've seen a lot of snark directed his way for his "compromise" (which I've discussed before here). I'm certainly not defending the compromise, but if it's alright for Sherrod Brown and other Dems to vote for the torture bill, and if it's alright for Senators Clinton, Boxer and Feinstein to vote for a giant, multi-billion dollar wall along the Mexican border that will accomplish nothing and simply stand as a symbol of stupidity and racism, then why isn't it okay for McCain to compromise on this? He was trying to pass legislation to outlaw torture long before the present "stand-off." Again, that doesn't change the fact that he folded (although I think it's pretty obvious why he did so), but if you're looking for Congressional opposition to Bush's torture agenda, McCain is the only game in town.

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