Talk To The Hand
I'm getting some questions about why the blogosphere is so obsessed with FISA and the civil liberties stuff when it's clear that both sides are equally corrupt. Evidently, it's a silly waste of time to even think you can change anything until the whole edifice of our political system is reduced to rubble and we can begin anew. Viva la revolucion.
Here on planet earth, the civil liberties issues, along with torture and Guantanamo and the entire GWOT legal regime is a central concern because I have watched a very ruthless and cynical right wing show themselves to be bent on rebuilding the police state of J. Edgar Hoover and the imperial presidency of Richard Nixon. I don't think it's a good idea. It's not that I don't realize that the Democrats have an equally awful history or think they are the exemplars of all that is true and good, it's just that in recent years the Republicans have shown they have a real fetish for undemocratic authoritarianism, and in a complicated system, you have to focus on those who are creating the most obvious and immediate threats.
Democrats have certainly enabled them over the years and will likely continue to. They are politicians, after all, not comic book superheroes. But there should be no doubt to anyone who isn't wrapped up in immature freshman dorm cynicism, that there is a distinct difference between those who believe in the concept of an imperial presidency and those who are simply weak and corrupt. They both undermine freedom, but the first is many orders of magnitude worse than the second.
Perhaps that's not much to work with, but it's all we've got and in the end there will be no one around to acknowledge the intellectual superiority of those who sat on the sidelines, starry eyed and impotent, railing about third parties and revolution, while the world went to hell. (See: Communist Party, Germany, 1932) But hey, everybody has a right to their own kind of therapy and ineffectual whining is as legitimate as anything else. Whatever gets you through the night.
Just this week McClatchey has been running a series on the Bush Cheney torture regime. Every day it's something worse than the day before:
An eight-month McClatchy investigation of the detention system created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has found that the U.S. imprisoned innocent men, subjected them to abuse, stripped them of their legal rights and allowed Islamic militants to turn the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba into a school for jihad. Here's a guide to the contents of our online report.
These are all stories we've heard something about, at least. But put together it paints a shocking picture of a prison camp and torture experiment. It's something out of Solzhenitsyn, only run by the Keystone Cops. It's horrifying and as bad as anything America has ever done. There's the story of the "War Council" of wingnut lawyers who cooked this whole thing up in secret. The hiding of prisoners from the red cross. (why?) The documented evidence of torture and abuse across the gulag of American prison camps. It goes on and on.
Meanwhile we have General Taguba, the man who investigated Abu Ghraib, going on the record:
Writing the forward to a Physicians for Human Rights study of 11 former detainees who were apparently tortured by US military personnel and later released, Army Maj. General Antonio Taguba (Ret.) writes that "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
Probably not, but they definitely won't if nobody gives a damn.
The FISA controversy is just one more example of this assault on the constitution. Yes, Democrats have been complicit in covering up for this after the fact. They were and are weak in fighting it off even today. Some are even true believers, I'm sure. In fact, they are about to vote for a band-aid that will keep the American people from ever finding out just what the government asked those corporations to do in the days after 9/11.
But I see no alternative to documenting what's going on and trying to leverage the political system, rewarding those who stand up and punishing those who promise to do the right thing and then go back on their word. If you've got a better idea, please share it. (We talked a lot about "bringing down the state" 40 years ago and it wasn't all that successful, so we probably need to think twice about whether that's going to work any better this time.) If all you want to do is sit around and carp about how there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, and complain that this is all pollyanna nonsense because the Big Boyz are in it together, have at it. But nobody's listening. It's white noise.