As I write this, the United States Senate is engaged in a bit of political theater, while they pretend to debate whether or not they will make torture an American value. They are pretending to debate whether or not to give one person -- in this case the president -- the ability remove rights that we've all taken for granted under our Constitution for over two centuries from anyone he (or she, someday) identifies, without any accountability or oversight. They are pretending to debate whether our Democracy even matters, any more.
The legislation before the Senate today would ban torture, but let Bush define it; would allow the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant; would suspend the Great Writ of habeas corpus; would immunize retroactively those who may have engaged in torture. And that's just for starters. . . .
Today's vote will show more clearly than ever before that, when push comes to shove, the Republicans who control Congress are in lock step behind the president, and the Democrats -- who could block him, if they chose to do so -- are too afraid to put up a real fight.
This is far too much power for one person to have, and is antithetical to everything America and freedom and Democracy stand for. In fact, this is the sort of power that someone like, say, Saddam Hussein had. Or Stalin. Or Pinochet.
I haven't written much about politics here in recent memory, because there are others who say what I want to say and they do it much better than I do: Glenn Greenwald, Josh Marshall, John Cole, and Digby, for example. But even though I've become entirely disgusted with what used to be my government and I don't have a whole lot of faith in the congress or the president to listen to me (actually, I don't have a lot of faith in the president listening to anyone who doesn't tell him exactly what he wants to hear,) I still believe in the underlying principles of Democracy. I still believe that it is the responsibility of every American, whether they feel adequately represented by the current congress or not, to stand up for their beliefs, even when they speak them to deaf ears in the halls of power. Even -- no, especially -- when those beliefs are unpopular.
My government is supposed to represent me, and as an American citizen, I must accept responsibility for the things my country does in my name. It is with that responsibility in mind that I feel compelled to write the following, not for congress who have already ignored my calls and letters, but for my own conscience, and for my children, should they one day ask me, "What happened then? Why didn't anyone try to do anything?"
What the House did yesterday, the Senate looks to do today, and the President will surely enact as soon as possible, is a direct assault on American values, and contrary to everything our country stands for. Though cynically and cowardly enacted as a purely political tool during an election, those who supported this bill do not speak for me, do not act in my name, and do not reflect my values.
Torture is not an American value. Torture is a totalitarian, sadistic value. Suspending access to courts and the right to face your accuser is not what Americans do. It is what tyrannical dictators and despots do, not a democratic republic like the one I was brought up in and love. Time and again, torture has proved unreliable to prevent or solve crimes, and it reduces our country to the level of the very terrorists we are supposedly fighting.
I believe in the right to a speedy and fair trial for everyone, even the most repugnant of defendants. No, especially for the most repugnant of defendants, because if we, as a society, can't guarantee the most hideously accused among us that right, what is it worth to the rest of us?
George Bush and his enablers in the congress -- Democrat and Republican -- has done more damage to our country, and our once impeccable moral standing in the world than all the terrorists combined. President Bush and his Republican allies in congress like to say that "they hate us for our freedom," but President Bush and his Republican allies in congress have spent the last five years working very hard to take that freedom away from the people they supposedly work for, and vest that power in something they call the Unitary Executive. If the Democrats won't stand up to stop torture, what will they stand up for? If Congress won't do its constitutional duty now, then when?
I am disgusted with, and ashamed of my government.
Shame on President Bush. Shame on his Republican allies in congress, and shame on the spineless, cowardly Democrats who did not stand up to them. Shame on them all, and shame on all of us if we do not turn out by the millions in the next election to put men and women into congress who will have the courage to do their constitutional duty, and defend the Republic from all enemies, foreign and domestic.