In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
"In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic," WaPo quotes an unnamed "U.S. official present during the early briefings" as saying. "But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, 'We don't care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.'"
I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until our current period of madness has passed -- if we give up everything we stand for to protect ourselves, we'll be protecting nothing. We need freedom. We need to protect human rights. We need to rely on the rule of law, regardless of how powerful the lawbreaker is.
That's the whole damned point of America. It's the point of the US Constitution -- the first national constitution ever written, anywhere in the world. The whole damned point of America is that it's all about rationalism and the law. It's all based on a single series of laws. It is a logical and legal construct. It's designed to keep us free and protect our rights.
Yet we now have people of both parties arguing that all that we stand for, everything we used to believe, has to be thrown out the window because we're all scared. But it's awfully hard to believe that that one backwater former colony, at the time the only real democracy in the world, wasn't a very scary place. Our only ally, France, was on the verge of collapse. We were very much alone.
Since the founding of the United States of America and the beginning of our experiment with democracy, this system has become the most popular system of government in the world. Roughly half the world's nations are democracies, with other various systems making up the rest -- there are more democracies than any other system. Freedom, respect for rights, and universal rule of law are what America stands for. As unlikely as it must have seemed at the time, those guys in that remote colony not only discovered a way to free themselves, but a way to change the world. And, for once, that change was for the better.
Let me explain it this way. When I was a kid, we used to have fire drills in school, like kids everywhere else. But, this being Wisconsin, we also had tornado drills. These were pretty much the same thing, except everyone marched single file into the basement, rather than outside.
One day, we actually had a tornado. We all marched single file into the basement and sat it out. It turned out to be not much of a big deal, rearranging some cars on a dealer's lot and not really doing much else.
But no one ever argued that we had to do everything differently because we were scared. No one said that it was every man (or kid) for themselves because this time it was for real. We did it exactly the same way as we'd drilled, because that was the whole damned point of the drills.
No one signing that Constitution back in the 1700s was thinking of an America that wasn't in danger. No one signing it was thinking of an American who wasn't scared. They designed a system -- under threat -- to deal with threat. Not only is the Constitution of the United States of America our tornado drill, it's a drill designed after (in fact, during) a tornado. It's the experience of the survivors.
The system has flaws, sure. But it's self-correcting. We can amend the Constitution as we need and pass new laws. But no one, absolutely no one, gets to ignore the law. A lot of people fought and died for that principle, not only here, but in freedom movements all over the world -- to this very day. I find it absolutely repellent that people are willing to toss that principle aside because they're frightened.
And that's exactly what that group of congress critters did in 2002. Pelosi and company threw every damned thing we stood for out the window, embraced clear crime, and abandoned the most successful governmental model since monarchy.
It's become clear, to me at least, that we don't just need to get rid of Bush, but also Pelosi. This new revelation puts her judgment in very bad light. She was willing to ignore the drill. She was willing to hug the crime. In fact, she's one of the criminals.
If one thing has become clear after 1776, it's that the system generally works. But it only works if you let it. If we quit the freedom and law business, we're seriously screwed. If Pelosi didn't realize that back in 2002, it seems unlikely to me that she realizes that now. By ruling out impeachment, she's excused Bush from the rule of law. And, when the chips were down and she had to choose between Bush and the law, she chose Bush.
It looks pretty certain that Democrats will hold the House of Representatives in 2008. They shouldn't hold on to Nancy Pelosi. Americans deserve much better leadership.
Technorati tags: politics; torture; Bush; impeachment; Democrat; human rights; If Nancy Pelosi doesn't stand by the Constitution and the law, she doesn't stand for anything