First, Glenn Greenwald, author of How Would A Patriot Act? (and the blog Unclaimed Territory), writes in a post entitled "The legalization of torture and permanent detention ,
There really is no other way to put it. Issues of torture to the
side (a grotesque qualification, I know), we are legalizing tyranny in
the United States. Period. Primary responsibility for this fact lies
with the authoritarian Bush administration and its sickeningly submissive
loyalists in Congress. That is true enough. But there is no point in trying
to obscure that fact that it's happening with the cowardly collusion of the
Senate Democratic leadership, which quite likely could have stopped this
travesty via filibuster if it chose to (it certainly could have
There is a profound and fundamental difference between an Executive
engaging in shadowy acts of lawlessness and abuses of power
on the one hand, and, on the other, having the American people, through their
Congress, endorse, embrace and legalize that behavior out in the open, with
barely a peep of real protest. Our laws reflect our values and beliefs. And our
laws are about to explicitly codify one of the most dangerous and defining
powers of tyranny -- one of the very powers this country was founded in order to
prevent.Second, Tristero, who writes at Digby's Hullaballoo writes...
The truth is that the United States government is presently holding,
torturing, and even murdering countless numbers of people who have no chance
in hell of obtaining a lawyer, let alone anything resembling a trial. The
government is doing this under the direct orders of George W. Bush. There is
no law, no bill, and no legislature who can stop him. If Congress were to
pass a law unequivocably banning torture and send it to him, he'd use it for
If the Supreme Court were to rule against Bush in the harshest and bluntest
language, he'd yawn. The truth is that there is a rogue presidency and there has
been, since January, 2001 (earlier, if you count the stolen election).
Certainly, everyone in Washington knows it, but no one dares to admit it. The
bill legalizing torture merely enables Congress to pretend they still have some
influence over an executive that from day one was governing, not as if they had
a mandate, but as if Bush was a dictator.
If, for some miracle, the bill didn't pass, every congress-critter knows
Bush would keep on torturing. Better to vote to pass and preserve the
appearance of a working American government, the thinking goes. For the very
thought that the US government is seriously broken - that the Executive is
beyond the control of anyone and everyone in the world - is such a truly
awesome and terrifying thought that it can never be publicly acknowledged.
If ever it is, if the American crisis gets outed and Congress and the
Supremes openly assert that the Executive has run completely amok and is
beyond control, the world consequences are staggering. It is the stuff of
doomsday novels. And this brings up the dilemma of a post Nov. 7 world.
Apparently, one if not both houses of Congress may be controlled by
Now what? You think Bush is gonna get impeached? Put on trial for
war crimes? Forget it. You think they're gonna repeal the pro-torture law
they're about to pass? You can almost certainly forget that, too. Remember:
it is crucial to maintain the illusion that Congress still has some say, as
it was in November of 2002 about the Bush/Iraq war.If, for some reason,
Congress does decide to move against Bush in some substantive way, there
will be hell to pay. Those of us who well remember Watergate remember that
while it was genuinely thrilling to have Nixon caught, disgraced, and
removed, it was also a time of extreme tension.
Would Nixon tough the impeachment trial out, causing the country incalculable
harm? It looked for quite a long time that he would. About Bush, there is no
doubt. Since the day after the 2000 election, Bush and his goons have been
playing chicken with the very structure of the United States Government,
double-daring anyone to try and stop them. If Congress does try - and I'm not
talking little things like wrecking Social Security, that'll happen and a
dictator can afford to let things like that wait a while, I'm talking atomic
bang bang and thumbscrews - he will force the private Constitutional crisis into
the open. And there is no guarantee that Bush will lose.And that is the truth.
The Congress has been given an awful choice: Vote to approve torture and the
suspension of habeas or show the world that yes, you really do have no genuine
power to check Bush. Of course, all of Congress should vote against the bill
anyway. But they won't.
When I open the paper today, I read that the Senate is discussing a bill regarding "detainee treatment" of "terrorists" but nothing about the suspension of habeas corpus contained in the bill nor anything about the President willingness to hold American citizens indefinitely as “enemy combatants,” denying them their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights in the process.
The “Decider” assures us that despite his willingness to violate our own laws as part of the war on terror, his powers will never be used against us. Yet Glenn Greenwald described a little-discussed portion of the much-discussed NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) which described Iraq as a “cause celebre” of terrorist groups throughout the world.
The now-declassified summary of the National
Intelligence Estimate (PDF) on "Trends in Global Terrorism" focuses almost
exclusively on Islamic extremists. But inserted at the very end is this one
overlooked, though seemingly quite important, passage that identifies other
"Anti-U.S. and anti-globalization sentiment is on the
rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist,
nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US
interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely,
and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise
attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to
pinpoint." It continues: "We judge that groups of all stripes will increasingly
use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train and obtain
logistical and financial support."
Prior to 9/11, the worst terrorist attack
on U.S. soil was in Oklahoma City, where Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal
building in pursuit of his right-wing, anti-federal-government agenda. But there
is nothing in the NIE findings about right-wing or anti-government groups.
Instead, there is a rather stark warning about the danger of "leftist" groups
using the Internet to engage in terrorist attacks against the United States. Is
there any basis at all for that warning?
There have been scattered reports over the last several years that the Bush
administration's anti-terrorism programs have targeted domestic political groups
solely because such groups espouse views contrary to the administration's. That
this claim about "leftist" terrorist groups made it into the NIE summary is
particularly significant in light of the torture and detention bill that is
likely soon to be enacted into law. That bill defines "enemy combatant" very broadly (and the definition may be
even broader by the time it is enacted) and could easily encompass
domestic groups perceived by the administration to be supporting a "terrorist
In other words, the power of a President who willingly violates the law and the sanction of this action by the Congress, in this “detainee” treatment bill could easily come back to haunt us very soon.
What do you do when you are confronted with a President who willingly breaks the law, a Congress who is afraid of being labeled soft on terror and thus lacks the will to restrain this rogue President, with an electorate who either will gladly give up liberty for the sake of security or lacks the information necessary to make a good decision because of a corporately-dominated news media?
The best answer comes from a poem attributed to a Pastor, and not the kind of Pastor who talks about Jesus while simultaneously condoning torture. Pastor Martin Niemöller wrote a simple, yet terrifying, poem describing the rise of Fascism in Germany.
First They Came for the Jews
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.