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September 28, 2006

Torture: anti-military, unChristian, unAmerican
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

How's that for a message? Now that we're at the lowest point in our constitution's history, the left is agonizing over how to respond to today's vote on military commissions (the torture bill) which passed in the House 253-168. The dilemma: Oppose it on principle and open yourself up to Rove's campaign vultures--vote for it and depress your liberal and activist base--who see this not as a small compromise for some larger good, but a big time betrayal of principle. Many liberal Dems will have a lot of explaining to do over the next six weeks. Hopefully, the Senate will offer a sunset amendment to the bill Thursday--so a future Congress will have to reauthorize it.

This gnashing of teeth is a healthy sign. But the tardiness of the collective outrage (The Supreme Court passed Hamdan months ago) points out that we still have a lot of progressive infrastructure to build, i.e. philosophical frameworks linked to individual  messages, domestically focussed organizations that work together and have a national security component, etc.  One would think these larger themes would be obvious: After all,  America's founders fought and died so that everyone should have the right to trial and to be able to face their accusers. Members of Congress swore to uphold the Constitution, and this bill is clearly unconstitutional.  But that word has too many dang syllables for a campaign ad...sigh. The constitution's got nothing on Rove--not yet.

Well, do Americans believe that it is unAmerican to torture?  Polling that is publicly available is all over the place.  Sometimes it is strongly for torture, sometimes strongly against it - it seems to depend mainly on how the questions are framed.  I think the answer is destined to be unsatisfactory, but its somewhere in the middle.  Members who can speak out did so most eloquently. Others (those in tight races) voted yes. That is not an indictment of the entire Democratic party. They offered many amendments and other maneuvers, all were rejected.  Again, the process that led to this vote sheds light on the decayed innards of our legislature.  Suddenly arcane actions like today's "motion to recommit" become heroic.  We need to pay more attention to details far, far ahead of time from here on out.

Here is a partial list of statements that makes me proud of the Dems: watch
all of them on youtube .

Rep Ike Skelton (D--MO) "If you want to be tough on terrorists, pass a statute that will meet the scrutiny of the Supreme Court of our country."

Rep. Steve Israel (D--NY) "If I am asking young men and women to die for what we stand for, I want to stand for something."

*Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY): We rebelled against King George for far less infringements"

*Democratic Leader Pelosi (D-CA): "This Bill Does Violence to the Constitution"

*Democratic Whip Hoyer (D-MD): "This legislation, at bottom, is really more about who we are as a people than it is about those who seek to harm us."

Rep Louise Slaughter (D-NY) "This bill sends a clear message to both our friends and our
enemies about what kind of people we are. It shows them whether or not we are really willing to practice what we preach about freedom, democracy, and human dignity."

Rep. Barbara Lee (D--CA) "America has always been not only a nation, it has been an idea. And when we sacrifice that idea , it is a setback in this war of ideas."

watch the whole video here


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Unfortunately the tendency do do violence to those the elite look down upon, the less worthy among us humans, is a longstanding American trait, which is why legislators are having trouble separating themselves from it, and why those who do are among the few that can be quoted, even if the quotes are merely crafted for political effect. After all many of these people applauded the recent rape of Lebanon and continue to appropriate funds for the deadly Iraq fiasco.

I am ashamed in America.
I am ashamed that we would elect a President who would ignore terrorist threats against America for nine months.
I am ashamed that the President would pre-emptively attack another country when no threat was imminent.
I am ashamed that the President would authorize torture.
I am ashamed that the President would treat detainees inhumanely.
I am ashamed that the President would wire tap Americans without a warrant for probable cause.
I am ashamed that the President taunts our enemies to ‘bring it on’.
I am ashamed that the President would kidnap people and send them to secret prisons.
I am ashamed that the President would ask Congress for torture legislation.
I am ashamed that the President would ask Congress to prevent the Federal Courts system from trying detainees.
I am ashamed that the President would ask Congress to spy upon Americans without a warrant.
I am ashamed that we are in a national debate about torture, spying, and discarding the rights of all people for a trial by a jury of their peers.
Soon I may be ashamed that Congress gives the President what he wants.
I am also ashamed that I have not spoken enough or done enough about all of this.The shame of the people, by the people, and for the people will not be easily removed.
When you vote this year, vote against every legislator who supported the shaming of America

I want to cry. This has to be an ultimate low in American history. Not only do our leaders believe in physically torturing people but they also believe in starving them by ignoring the Millennium Development Goals. This is a sad, sad day.

Hi Lorelei -

Good to see your post -- I like the list of comments you included.

There's another way to look at the debate or lack there of that occurred with regard to the abandonment of habeas corpus, the authorization of torture, and the empowerment of the American president to do as he wishes with anyone he chooses to designate as an enemy combatant under secret and therefore whimsical and arbitrary guidelines.

I strongly recommend reading this diary at dailykos -- the truth about dictatorship and torture from one whose family suffered under one whose name everyone recognizes as a torturer and dictator - Idi Amin.

In truth, I want the Dems out there fighting for real national security, aggressively, like Bill Clinton did on Fox -- fighting aggressively for the things which really will secure our future -- good police work, good diplomacy, true security in our ports and for our food and water supplies, energy independence and for our civil liberties which are already under tremendous assault and we don't even recognize it yet.

Let me revise my comment a little bit - I want all true Americans out there fighting aggressively for those things that will secure our future -- not pulling out the fear-mongering, spinning, ineffective and catastrophic policies we've seen over the last 5 years and I don't care what party they belong to.

Correction for the link:

Violet, I do care what party they belong to.

Republicans have fantastic party discipline. A republican legislator will always vote the party line when the central committee tells him to. He can't help being a minion of evil as long as the central committee is evil.

So for me the choice is between whatever democrats stand for versus libertarians who stand for small government and individual freedoms. We need both parties because we lose when one party gets too powerful.

We can't afford to have republicans in office unless they reform the party. Maybe they will. I might believe that when I see it.

I agree with you, J Thomas. In fact, I have the perfect example of that as my representative, Chris Shays. As a Republican, he's what we remember the Republican party used to be. He did lead the internal fight that led to Delay's having to step down from leadership after being indicted. But he votes party line a little too often and certainly when voting for leadership. So that though part of me says it would be good to have some moderate Republicans still present in the party, the real problem is that they really do nothing to moderate the excesses of their leadership and so he needs to be replaced with a Dem.

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