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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Unamerican Party

If you need better evidence that the Republicans have become the party of cowardice, you don't have to look any farther than the Republican debates tuesday night. Asked if 'enhanced interrogation techniques' should be used against terrorist suspects, most of them -- including two of the top three contenders, said they were big fans.

Washington Post, Achenblog:

GIULIANI: In the hypothetical that you gave me, which assumes that we know that there's going to be another attack and these people know about it, I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they could think of. Shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of. And I would...

[Moderator Brit] HUME: Waterboarding?

GIULIANI: Well, I'd say every method they could think of.

Way to play both sides of the question, Rudy. First you say it 'shouldn't be torture,' then you say waterboarding would be OK.

John McCain was the only frontrunner to even get close to getting in right. "It's not about the terrorists; it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are," McCain said. "The more physical pain you inflict on someone, the more they're going to tell you what they think you want to know."

Too bad McCain's already squandered his authority to speak on the subject. Last September, he played hold out on the treatment of detainees. McCain, of course, finally caved (or was planning to all along), then lied about what it meant.

"We got what we wanted, and that is the preservation of the Geneva Conventions," McCain told NBC's Today Show, "There will be no more torture. There will be no more mistreatment of prisoners that would violate standards of conduct we would expect of people who work for the United States of America."

Legal scholars pointed out that McCain's assessment was BS. Congress gave Bush everything he wanted -- the Senator from AZ had made a phony stand against torture and gave it up to provide Bush with a phony 'compromise.' He didn't so much take a stand against torture as provide Bush political cover to keep doing it.

But, of the GOP frontrunners, the most cowardly answer came from Mitt Romney.

ROMNEY: said the person is going to be in Guantanamo. I'm glad they're at Guantanamo. I don't want them on our soil. I want them in Guantanamo where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons. I want them there. Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo. We ought to make sure that the terrorists... (APPLAUSE) ... and there's no question but that in a setting like that, where you have the ticking bomb, that the president of the United States, not the CIA interrogator, the president of the United States has to make the call and enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used. Not torture, but enhanced interrogation techniques, yes.

There's the damning evidence of cowardice in the GOP. When Romney said that suspects shouldn't have lawyers and, "We ought to double Guantanamo," he's interrupted by applause. "Screw Habeas Corpus!" they might as well have hooted.

I'm always saying that the reasoning here is insane -- we have to give up our freedom or else terrorists are going to come and take our freedom. See a little problem there? Yeah, so does anyone who's given it two seconds of thought.

What gets me is that these are the people busy calling everyone else cowards. How brave it is to throw away everything we've built, everything we've fought for for the last 231 years because we're afraid some rinky-dink, Mickey Mouse cult is going to come here and pick a fight? This is a nation that stared down the British Empire, the nazis, and the only other nuclear superpower in history. Al Qaida's nothing.

This is what passes for 'tough talk' on the right these days -- they're competing to see who can throw american rights and freedom the farthest. The principles of justice and fairness have to be buried as deep as we can bury them, because someone someplace might crash a plane.

I remember a time when everyone thought the world would end at any minute. We weren't afraid someone would blow something up, we were afraid someone would blow everything, everywhere up in a big nuclear fireball. The Earth as a global graveyard was a realistic way to look at the future. What freedoms and rights did we give up then? That was the greatest and most realistic threat to the nation's existence we've ever faced -- and we faced it, as free people. Now, we're faced with a bunch of religious fanatics, lunatics without even an army or nation, and we've got presidential candidates competing to see who can piss themselves in panic first and wettest.

If we trust these fools to take away our rights, we have can't trust them to ever give them back. If al Qaida is the threat level that requires the suspension of habeas corpus and the right to trial by jury, if it's what it takes to have our phones tapped and our privacy eliminated, then it will never be safe to have rights again. Terrorism is a criminal enterprise and we'll never be free of crime. We might as well have given up our freedom because the Mafia exists.

When did this happen, these bass ackward definitions of the words 'bravery' and 'cowardice?' When did it become courageous to hide behind torturers and kangaroo courts and wiretaps and imprisonment without trial? When did the definition of 'freedom' become so corrupted that it includes a level of privacy that russians expected from the KGB?

These people, who claim to be the most patriotic among us, have nothing but contempt for everything this nation stands for. These people, who are so quick to throw the dead from this war and 9/11 in your face, are positively eager to squat and leave a steamer on the grave of everyone who died in every other war, fighting for those rights that are so inconvenient now. These people, who accuse everyone who disagrees with them of cowardice (i.e., 'cut and run'), are blatant in their own pandering to the most fearful among us.

There was a time when torture defined what was evil for us. We can call them 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' but we all know what that means. It's Newspeak BS to create a grey area -- a blurring of the line between good and evil.

There's a reason why the GOP has a bunch of nuts who don't believe in evolution -- they're devolving. They're turning into a pre-1776 party. A party that puts safety above freedom and comfort above liberty. They're all for american principles -- until those principles become inconvenient for government.

And, if we throw them all away because there's a bump in the historical road, they'll never mean anything again. Even if we get our rights to privacy and justice and self-determination back, they'll only be provisional. As soon as some other bunch of nuts shows up, we'll be back in the police state. Finally, it'll just be easier to keep the police state in place, rather than institute it and relax it every few years. 'Freedom,' 'liberty,' and 'democracy' will just become words politicians use -- magic words with as much meaning as 'abracadabra.'

Luckily, democracy rests not with those morons on that stage tuesday night -- not even if they win. Other people with other ideas will also be in government. No matter what happens in '08, it's unlikely that the GOP will take back Congress.

If the GOP wins the presidency in '08 (for the record, I don't think they will), the loyal opposition -- those who will be called 'the obstructionists' -- will be the real patriots.


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