06 September 2006

Braying ass

“There have been some in the Democratic Party who have argued against the Patriot Act, against the terror surveillance program, against Guantanamo. In other words, there are some people who say that we shouldn't fight the war, we should not detain -- we shouldn't apprehend al Qaeda, we shouldn't detain al Qaeda, we shouldn't question al Qaeda, and we shouldn't listen to al Qaeda. In other words, they're all for winning the war on terror, but they're all against -- they're against providing the tools for winning that war.”

That was White House Press Secretary Tony Snow yesterday during the press gaggle across the street from the White House.

What a braying ass. There are so many glaring falsehoods in his statement, it almost hurts to read it. And why, why, why didn’t that whole roomful of journalist jump all over him for it? I'm telling you, they make me ashamed.

First: “There have been some in the Democratic Party who have argued against the Patriot Act ...”

“Some” is that famous straw man that the Bush Administration loves to trot out whenever they intend to lie but want to hide the lie behind a kernel of truth.
Snow’s right, there have been Democrats who’ve argued against the Patriot Act. I’m one of them. But my argument against the Act hasn’t been because I don’t want my country protecting me from terrorism. My feeling is that the Act, initially put into place very hastily and with little thought on the part of our leaders from both parties, goes too far, and in doing so, tramples the civil rights and freedoms of all Americans.

You cannot convince me that forcing my local librarian to hand over a list of the books I’ve checked out lately will help us to catch terrorists. I’m not concerned about anyone knowing which books I read – but I am concerned about these bozos deciding, because I’ve read books on Islam, on terrorism and guerrilla warfare, on the Irish Republican Army, etc., that I’m about to form my own cadre of terrorists and massacre innocent civilians.


Uh, no. However, I am attempting to inform myself about these groups and religions in an effort to understand better how and why they exist. In addition, I’m a writer and I’ve been pecking at writing my own book for several years – predating Sept. 11 – and the subject matter involves terrorism.

Introduced in the House of Representatives on Oct. 23, 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was passed by the House on Oct. 24, by the Senate on Oct. 25 and signed into law by Bush on Oct. 26. The large document, some 132 pages, is broken into ten sections, and each of those sections is further broken in to subsections. Its primary drafters were the now-Director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, and Assistant Attorney General Viet D. Dinh.

You also cannot convince me that Congress really dug into and read the Act they were about to rubber stamp. There simply wasn’t time, and there was little or no debate. They were railroaded into approving this law – and reading it afterwards as they wept – by the threat of being called unpatriotic if they didn’t. How do you say “nay” to a law called “The PATRIOT Act?”

Well, you could, but that’s another post.

Moving on:

“ ... against the terror surveillance program, against Guantanamo.”

“Some” Democrats (like myself) and indeed, many Americans have argued against wiretapping our phones and against holding detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But we aren’t arguing against these things because we don’t want to stop terrorism. Indeed, the vast majority of Americans in both parties are all for wiretapping, as long as a warrant, issued in accordance with existing law by the FISA Court, has been obtained or will be obtained within the time limit specified by that law.

Until recently, the FISA law was working just fine. The secret FISA Court very rarely refused to issue a warrant for wiretapping to authorities, but when they did, it was because the evidence justifying the eavesdropping simply wasn’t strong enough.

President Bush, defended by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his predecessor, John Ashcroft, has been disregarding the FISA law for years now by conducting surveillance upon Americans without bothering to get a warrant for doing so. They couldn't get a warrant – they've been conducting surveillance without sufficient evidence that such surveillance is vital to national security.

The possibilities for misuse – and abuse -- of this particular power are mind-boggling.

What Democrats like myself want is for this administration to behave lawfully. The FISA Act, as it stands, is a wonderful tool – and protects my Fourth Amendment rights to privacy as a U.S. citizen at the same time. By ignoring it, the President has broken the law of the land. There is no need to amend the law -- it's just fine as it is. Indeed, any such amendment would only ignore the fact that the law has been broken by the President of the United States – and then would allow him to get away not only with breaking the law, but to continue to do so by eavesdropping on whoever he wants, whenever he wants, with the blessings of Congress and the Judiciary.

This is not democracy. This is tyranny.

I’m opposed our policy of detaining prisoners at Guantanamo for one reason only: My government has not charged these prisoners in a court of law with any wrongdoing, but continues to hold them in detention.

Detaining them indefinitely without charges is wrong. It flies against everything America stands for. American democracy is a governmental system based on law, and by disregarding it, we’re behaving not as a democracy, but as a tyranny.

If the detainees have committed crimes against the American people, then they should be charged and tried, and if found guilty, punished appropriately. If the evidence is not strong enough to do so, then they must be released – like it or not. In America, the idea is that you’re innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And you’re guaranteed legal representation.

The Guantanamo detainees have not been proven guilty of anything, and they’ve been denied legal representation and a trial by jury. Held under unspeakable conditions and tortured by American military and intelligence operatives, these men have been detained for years – and they have no hope of their detentions ending or for any compensation for the loss of their livelihoods, their health or those terrible, lost years of their lives.

This is un-American, Mr. Snow. This is wrong.

“In other words, there are some people who say that we shouldn't fight the war, we should not detain -- we shouldn't apprehend al Qaeda, we shouldn't detain al Qaeda, we shouldn't question al Qaeda, and we shouldn't listen to al Qaeda.”

Oh, what wicked twaddle.

There’s that straw man again: “some people.” No one is saying that we shouldn’t take steps to fight terrorism. What war is Mr. Snow referring to? The war in Afghanistan? I had no problem with that one. We were going to catch Osama and bring him to justice for masterminding the terrible Sept. 11 attacks, after all. We were deposing the Taliban, which had harbored Osama and allowed al Qaeda training camps to operate within its country’s borders. I didn’t like that Afghani civilians were hurt or killed in the fighting, but I’m a grown-up. I understand that this sort of thing is pretty much unavoidable when you’re fighting what is essentially a police action with soldiers, guns, tanks, rockets, grenades and aerial bombing.

You don’t fight terrorism with soldiers and war. All that does is further disenfranchise people and create more terrorists. You prevent or stop terrorism through good, solid, investigative police work and, on a larger scale, with negotiations and diplomacy and a real commitment to get to the root of the issues and problems that are generating the terrorism itself.

I'm a Democrat, and I'd very much like to see Osama bin Ladin captured and tried in an international court of law. I doubt that there are many of my fellow Democrats who feel differently.

Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11 or Osama, but everything to do with George Bush’s fantasies of revenge, empire and power. For that reason, I’m against the war in Iraq. I was against it from the start and continue to be today because anyone with any elementary understanding of the history of that region could have predicted the terrible, tragic aftermath of “Shock and Awe.”

Saddam was a strong man who used fear to make the various religious factions under his rule behave themselves and endure each other. He was a bad man, but a successful one. Once he was toppled, all hell broke lose and our Prez and his advisors never gave it another thought.

“Stuff happens,” said Mr. Rumsfeld.

In the meantime, Osama bin Laden is still at large. The rumor (about three years old now) has it he’s hiding in Pakistan’s mountainous border region. Pakistan is our ally, though, and somehow it doesn’t fall under the “you’re either with us or against us” edict, so we can’t (won’t?) capture him and bring him to justice.

Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion that Osama is far too valuable, politically, to the Bush Administration to catch. He's much more useful to them at large, out there somewhere, a scary presence. Without Osama, their fearmongering propaganda will be rendered ineffective and they’ll get their asses kicked out of Dodge.

I, and other Democrats, have never argued that the U.S. shouldn’t apprehend al Qaeda operatives. Indeed, we’d love to see them caught and held with the provision that they’re given access to a court of law and legal representation. That is how civilized societies conduct themselves.

We’ve ("some" Democrats) said al Qaeda shouldn’t be questioned? Puh-leeeeze Mr. Snow, you’re making my head ache. We’ve said al Qaeda shouldn’t be listened to?

Who are the Democrats you’re asserting say all this stuff? Name some names, Mr. Snow.

You can’t. Your "some" are just straw men. It’s a bad idea to put words into the straw mouths of straw men. No Democrat has ever said that we shouldn’t detain, question or listen to al Queda. To contend that we have is to baldfaced lie.

Ah, well. We are talking about the Bush Administration, aren’t we.


Wil Morat said...

You noted the length of the Patriot Act, as well as the speed of which it was introduced to Congress in October 2001 and passed. These are extremely relevant.

The reason the Bush Administration was able to come up with a 123-page "patriot" act in such a short time was it had already been drafted - by the Clinton administration.

At the signing of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act, Clinton said:

"From now on, we can quickly expel foreigners who dare to come to America and support terrorist activities. From now on, American prosecutors can wield new tools and expanded penalties against those who terrorize Americans at home and abroad. From now on, we can stop terrorists from raising money in the United States to pay for their horrible crimes. From now on, criminals sentenced to death for their vicious crimes will no longer be able to use endless appeals to delay their sentences..."

Both the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act and the Omnibus Counter-Terrorism Act of 1995 were precursors to the Patriot Act, but watered down by wary politicians.

Sept. 11 simply provided the impetus to finally pass even the questionable clauses, allowing for wider executive privilege and further degredation of our civil rights.

Tony Snow is a "braying ass" as you point out, but only the most recent in a long line of public faces for a world of political "newspeak," or even "unspeak."

It is hard to vote against something like the "patriot" act, especially after an event like 9/11.

But it's also hard to be against things like "Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom" etc., just as the real meaning of actions are muddled when words like "surgical strikes" or "collateral damage" are used instead of their real description - massive air bombings and innocent civilian deaths caused by such bombs.

Kevin Wolf said...

Wil is correct on the stuff passed while Clinton was in office. It certainly pointed the way.

But, obviously, Bush Inc have done all they can to exploit 9/11 and increase war while decreasing civil rights.

We can only hope that coverage of comments like Snow's and Rumsfeld's - even by the present lame-ass media - backfire when the general public (the majority now against Bush's policies) realises they're all being called cowards.