Friday, September 29, 2006

On Godwin's Law (R.I.P. September 28, 2006)

Okay, so the world changed last night. I was upset then, and I'm upset now, and last night I suspected I might be getting myself all exercised about nothing, but the more I think about it and read on it and talk to people about it, the less confident I get that I'm making a big deal out of nothing. It scared me then, and it doesn't scare me any less now. I want to not be scared. I dont want to feel this way in a free country. But I do, and not for my lack of trying, but I can't seem to not feel this way in a free country.

Last night, the military detention bill passed the Senate 65-34. It hits the president's desk today, where chances that he'll veto are minimal to none because, after all, he wrote most of it himself. Sixty-five of our elected officials, including 12 Democrats, have declared their support for unlimited presidential power, including:

- torture
- indefinite detention
- revocation (not limitation, but revocation) of habeas corpus
- admission of hearsay evidence and coerced testimony
- limitation on a defendant's access to the evidence against him
- the ability to designate anyone, even American citizens, as "unlawful enemy combatants" by fiat and thus repeal all civil liberties

Congress passed a bill that not only weakens our moral standing in the world but actually causes us to debate how much torture we're willing to stomach, and in so doing lowers us to the level of those terrorists we're fighting for being objectively evil and the dictator currently on trial for his atrocities. It spits on the Geneva Conventions and puts our troops at risk. It makes our national sense of morality a joke.

And, in the name of protecting us, our government has declared their right to detain us, to declare us enemies of the country, to hold us indefinitely without charges and to torture us. Not that it's any more acceptable when it's Iraqi detainees being locked up without representation and tortured for testimony, but your elected officials just sacrificed your civil liberties and your sense of safety in your own country on the president's altar of national security.

These are the Democratic senators valiantly standing up for the president's right to detain and torture anyone, anywhere, at will:

Tom Carper (Del.)
Tim Johnson (S.D.)
Mary Landrieu (La.)
Frank Lautenberg (N.J.)
Bob Menendez (N.J.)
Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Ben Nelson (Neb.)
Mark Pryor (Ark.)
Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.)
Ken Salazar (Co.)
Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)

Former Democrat Joe Lieberman (Conn.) also voted, of course, to allow President Bush to pull you off the street and detain you indefinitely. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) and Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) voted against. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) called the bill "patently unconstitutional on its face" and said that it "sends us back 900 years" and then voted for it anyway.

They say that everything changed after 9/11, and until today, I didn't really understand how true that was. September 29, 2000, this was a country where political dissent was protected by the First Amendment. September 29, 2006, it's a place where political dissenters can be labeled as enemy combatants and V for Vendetta'd from their homes. Then, it was a place where torture and rape were unthinkable and waterboarding was unheard of; now, it's a place where we debate what kinds of torture we're still going to allow. Then, we had habeas corpus; now, we say that it just "clogs the courts". Then, we had a Supreme Court that might declare this kind of law unconstitutional. Now, we wish we did.

This is one of many, many times when I'm grateful for such a politically and ideologically diverse readership, because I want somebody to tell me how this is okay. Tell me how it's okay that our rights and our morals have been written away in an instant and a vote. Tell me that I'm just being paranoid and that our government will never actually use these new powers that they've fought so hard to acquire. Tell me that our country will be just the same as it was before, that we'll be safe and can feel safe and won't ever have to worry. Tell me and make me believe it.

This is the world we live in now. No checks and balances. No judicial review. No sunset provisions. No humanity. Just pure, unadulterated, unitary executive power bestowed upon the president by the people we trusted to represent our interests. King George does it again. And we peasants will just have to learn to deal.

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