25 June 2008

I'm Angry

I've been disgusted and angry at the Bush administration for years now, but just recently my anger has boiled over to where I just want to blindly lash out. I hate what they have done to my country in the name of national security, and the passivity of the media and the public in response. All anyone has to do is say the word, "terrorism," and the media pansies grow afraid to critique, while any citizen who does is called unpatriotic and unAmerican.

But criticizing the government, even in a time of war, is not unpatriotic. The old claim that "politics stops at the water's edge" is just another authoritarian tactic to try to diminish the public's control over its government, along with the equally dismal "my country, right or wrong." Whenever I hear that I point out that the proper ending to that phrase is, "when right to be kept right, when wrong to be set right." There is no higher patriotism than to try to set one's country right when it is wrong.

In recent days the Supreme Court has handed the administration yet another defeat in it's effort to use the war on terror as a justification for shredding the Constitution, when it ruled that the Guantanamo Bay detainees had the right to habeus corpus. The despicable John Yoo parrots the administration's lies in calling every Gitmo detainee a "captured al Qaeda terrorist." And since we've never given any of them a day in court, how do we actually know they're terrorists? Perhaps Yoo, a law professor, missed the day due process was taught at law school.

And in response to the ruling, the administration says it needs to "rewrite the evidence" they have against the detainees. In other words, the lack of any evidentiary requirements for holding detainees means they didn't bother writing up the evidence in a legally satisfactory way. What more evidence is needed to demonstrate that any time government can lock someone up without due process they're going to abuse that power and lock people up without regard for evidence? Only authoritarian governments make a practice of locking people up without due process, and going to great lengths to keep them away from the reach of the law. This administration refused to treat these alleged terrorists as either criminals or prisoners of war, because in each case legal rights attach--they created a new category, "illegal enemy combatant," a term mentioned nowhere in U.S. law or the Geneva Convention, as a way of creating a black hole the law couldn't touch. Fortunately the Supreme Court, all that is holding back a police state, has mustered a bare minority willing to stand up for the rule of law.

As if that's not bad enough, it's now come out that they hid Gitmo detainees from inspectors of the International Red Cross. If Iran, China, or Cuba did this, we would denounce them. But Bush and Cheney seem to believe that because they are good people, in a good cause, their actions are legitimate. They don't see that your inherent goodness does not imbue your actions with justness, but that your actions define whether you are good or evil--and I'm now past the point of saying Cheney and Bush are just misguided. I believe they are evil men, doing evil things, and turning my country into one of the evil monsters of the world.

They also claimed they did not need warrants to engage in wiretapping, and that as commander-in-chief, Bush had unlimited constitutional authority to prosecute an undeclared war with no oversight by the Congress, the representatives of the people.

And no indictment could be complete without mentioning their support of torture. A tactic that has been condemned by nearly every knowledgeable person as both immoral and useless. John McCain, no friend to constitutional rights but a man who personally experienced torture, denounced it, as has, just recently, an experienced marine. I remember my shock at Donald Rumsfeld's response to the reports of torture at Abu Ghraib prison, when he said he hadn't read the report. The Secretary of Defense not bothering to read a report alleging that his troops had committed war crimes!

Of course such complaining could be tossed off as just more pansy-ass left-wing bitching, except I'm not a pansy-ass left-winger. I'm more libertarian than leftist, and I think there is an appropriate time for military action, as well as opposing quick withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But why take my word for it? Numerous retired military officers have criticized this administration, a list that now includes Major General Antonio M. Taguba (USA-Ret.), who says,
[T]here is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
Slobodan Milosevic committed war crimes, and the U.S. helped put him on trial. It's time we do the same to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld. I do not want my country to be led by war criminals. I do want these men put on trial--and we ought to do it in the U.S., to demonstrate that we will clean up our own messes. If we do not, I hope they will be indicted by an international war crimes tribunal. Not that the U.S. would ever give them up, but it might remind our leaders that they are not above the law.

Of course every fascist-leaning right-winger, the Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, etc., would scream bloody murder. But they spout about American ideals while having no recognition of the way they and this administration are actually treating those ideals with the greatest contempt. If anyone is truly anti-American, it's anyone who would shrink constitutional protections to their minimum, instead of stretching them to their maximum. They don't truly believe in human freedom and the rule of law--they don't understand anything but pure temporal power and the desire to force everyone to follow their moral code, a moral code that condemns premarital sex, homosexuality, and smoking pot, but venerates torture.

The hell with them all, and the hell with George Bush. The moment the next President takes the oath of office, the U.S. Attorney General should indict him, and then we can give the son-of-a-bitch the benefit of very due process of law that he so despises.


Anonymous said...


I wonder if their listening...


James K said...

First off, I'd just like to say hello to the NSA guys reading this blog, hi guys, how's it going?

Seriously though, no major people in the Bush administration will ever be brought to trial for the simple reason that if presidents expect to be arrested after their term (no matter how much they might deserve it) they will do everything in their power to ensure that they don't end up out of power. Sovereign immunity exists for a reason.

Secondly, no US president will allow one of the Bush administration to be tried in a foreign court, independence is too much a part of US culture for that to be permissible. An attempt to charge Bush in a foreign court would essentially destroy international military cooperation.

Youa re dead on about questioning your country though. It always reminds me of the official name of the opposition (i.e the party(ies) out of government) in England "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition", isn't that a wonderful phrase?

James Hanley said...

James K is right about why nobody in this administration will ever be tried in an international court. But I'd still like to see them indicted.

We also adopted the concept of the loyal opposition from our colonial masters (I always like to point out to my students how everything in our political system is a remnant of colonialism). But in recent decades the idea has slipped out of the public's mind, and no opposition is seen as disloyal--that is, opposition to conservative governments. Somehow it's disloyal to criticize Bush's military adventures, but it never was disloyal to criticize Clinton's military escapades.

James K said...

This of course is what impeachment is for. But of course Congress has been too gutless to use it. I'm intrigued by the degree of party loyalty in the US, in New Zealand Bush would have been toast in about 2006, removed by his own party, his approval rating alone would have guaranteed that.

James Hanley said...

I think in a parliamentary system it's less risky to remove your PM. But off the top of my head I can't explain why. If I'm correct, it should be a fairly simple institutional explanation. If I'm wrong, it must be a cultural explanation, and as an institutionalist I resist using culture as an explanatory variable until all other potential explanations have been shot down.

Scott Hanley said...

While we're on the topic of bad people ... here's a description of David Addington's testimony before Congress.

James K said...

Just to be really annoying I'm inclined to suggest an interplay between institution and culture.

The Prime Minister is appointed to that position by their party and by Parliament. There is no term of office, they hold the position only as long as they retain the confidence of both groups. Since the party can make them, politicians reasonably come to the opinion that they can unmake them as well.

By contrast, being directly elected, the President has an independent mandate. This may make congress more reluctant to override that mandate. This tends to turn impeachment not a "nuclear option", though I believe your government would be more efficient if it were treated like a tactical nuke rather than a strategic one.

James Hanley said...

I think that's a good comment. I'd just demur on the claim that impeachment should be a tactical nuclear option, rather than strategic. I would shift it down one more level, to large scale conventional bombing. In the U.S., the presidency has become so remote, insular, and power-grabbing, that we need to make impeachment a fairly normal event to reestablish control over the executive branch.