Tuesday, September 26, 2006

things democracies really shouldn't do

There are a few things that I think most people would agree in the abstract that a legitimate democracy that consistently holds itself out as an example to the world probably should not do. But they are being done in the name of the American people.

Torture seems like a good place to start. (Yeah, I know the Bush legal team claims waterboarding isn't torture. But the Nazis thought it was pretty effective. It doesn't have to leave physical scars to be torture.) A bunch of retired US generals and admirals -- not exactly a bunch of softies -- are speaking out against torture. Not only is it WRONG, it is less effective at getting accurate information than other methods. But the de facto Bush administration insists on weakening our legal and moral opposition to torture.

It also seems to me that locking people up indefinitely without trial is a very, oh I don't know, Argentine-military-dictatorship kind of practice. But the White House is getting that authority from its Republican allies in Congress by essentially extending the "battlefield" to cover any place. "Battlefield" is an incredible misnomer when applied to the fight against terrorism since now this draft bill would extend the "battlefield" to wherever a terrorist happens to be. In other words, the government will have the power to lock up anybody they want (because they don't need to prove he's a terrorist) for as long as they want (the duration of the "war"), without interference from anybody else. Senator Arlen Spector accurately called this an unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus. Guess there is at least one part of Lincoln's heritage Bush wants to preserve; but Lincoln at least was responding to a state of massive rebellion, which clearly is not a valid excuse today.

Isn't throwing members of the press into prison without charges a classic act of a repressive regime? Yet the US government is doing that, as Bob Herbert notes in his column, in Iraq. We are talking about cameramen working for CBS and the Associated Press being thrown in the slammer for months without a shred of evidence and without even the semblence of due process (and some have been tortured, too). Hell, at least the Soviet Union would put on a show trial to spread a veneer of legality over its political decisions to imprison the enemies of the revolution. It's enough to make you wonder whether those journalists killed during the first phase of the war (i.e., before Bush proclaimed "Mission Accomplished") really were targeted.

Also in a democracy I think most people would agree that allowing police and intelligence agencies to spy on people domestically without a warrant gives the central government too much power. But we're getting ready to do that too here in George W. Bush's America. The argument that sometimes the authorities just can't wait for a warrant is specious since the secret court has only rejected a handful of requests over the past decades AND allows the government to get a RETROACTIVE warrant if time is really short. It's like this Adminstration just wants to do this to prove it can, like a spoiled brat.

Unfortunately, this spoiled brat isn't a snot-nosed ten-year-old. It's the most powerful government on the planet, extending its power further and further at the expense of its citizens, in the name of protecting them. And in the process, the Bush regime is dirtying our country's good name.


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