Saturday, February 16, 2008
National Lawyers Guild Calls on Justice Antonin Scalia to Recuse Himself From Interrogation-Related Cases
NEW YORK - February 15 - The National Lawyers Guild calls on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to recuse himself from any case coming before the Supreme Court involving the constitutionality of torture as an interrogation technique. In a BBC interview that aired on Tuesday, Scalia defended the use of torture to extract information from persons in custody by law enforcement officials in some cases. Although no case involving the use of torture is currently before the Court, recent events suggest that such a case may be forthcoming.
Guild President Marjorie Cohn said: “The Guild is appalled that a sitting Justice of the United States Supreme Court has ventured in a public forum his belief that it is justifiable to attempt to extract information from persons in custody by the use of torture. A justice of the highest court in the land, sworn to uphold the Constitution, whose views so undermine the fundamental right of security of the person guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, is unfit to sit on that Court.”
The thrust of Scalia’s recent remarks is that he does not believe it is clear that the government is precluded from using coercive interrogation to prevent an imminent terrorist attack. He says that the Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, but if torture is not meant as punishment, it may not be unconstitutional. Surely Justice Scalia knows that torture is unlawful under the U.S. Torture Statute (18 USC 2340) and the U.S. War Crimes Act (18 USC 2441). Two years ago, five retired U.S. military officers who had entered a case before the Supreme Court for Salim Ahmed Hamdan sought Scalia’s recusal after he publicly voiced skepticism abut the rights of Guantanamo detainees. Scalia declined to recuse himself.
Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the Guild said: “Justice Scalia’s remarks inevitably pre-judge the issues in every case in which the Constitution might dictate suppression of evidence because of illegal police interrogation techniques, or the right to compensation of a person subjected to a violation of civil rights. We therefore call upon Justice Scalia to recuse himself from any case which comes before the Court in which such issues are at stake.”
Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to find out where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited under the Constitution? Because smacking someone in the face would violate the 8th amendment in a prison context. You can’t go around smacking people about.
Is it obvious that what can’t be done for punishment can’t be done to exact information that is crucial to this society? It’s not at all an easy question, to tell you the truth.
The BBC interviewer, however, objected to Scalia’s use of the so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario to justify government torture. “It’s a bizarre scenario,” he said. “Because the fact is, it’s very unlikely you’re going to have the one person who can give you that information. So if you use that as an excuse to commit torture, perhaps that’s a dangerous thing.” Scalia responded:
Seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say that you can’t stick something under the fingernails, smack them in the face. It would be absurd to say that.
As the BBC interviewer pointed out, ticking time bomb scenarios — where a detainee has knowledge of an imminent attack — are incredibly rare, despite Scalia’s fascination with them. U.S. Air Force Reserve Colonel Steve Kleinman, a longtime military interrogator, testified to the House in November that torture would be “unnecessary” even in such scenarios. Furthermore, intelligence experts say that torture is “ineffective” because it “often produces false information.”
Sharon at Human Rights First looks at Scalia’s arguments on torture’s constitutionality.
UPDATE: Scalia is also a fan of Jack Bauer.
BBC: Tell me about the issue of torture, we know that cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited under the 8th amendment. Does that mean if the issue comes up in front of the court, it’s a ‘no-brainer?’
SCALIA: Well, a lot of people think it is, but I find that extraordinary to begin with. To begin with, the constitution refers to cruel and unusual punishment, it is referring to punishment on indefinitely — would certainly be cruel and unusual punishment for a crime. But a court can do that when a witness refuses to answer or commit them to jail until you will answer the question — without any time limit on it, as a means of coercing the witness to answer, as the witness should. And I suppose it’s the same thing about “so-called” torture.
Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to find out where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited under the Constitution? Because smacking someone in the face would violate the 8th amendment in a prison context. You can’t go around smacking people about. Is it obvious that what can’t be done for punishment can’t be done to exact information that is crucial to this society? It’s not at all an easy question, to tell you the truth.
BBC: It’s a question that’s been raised by Alan Derschowitz and other people — this idea of ticking bomb torture. It’s predicated on the basis that you got a plane with nuclear weapons flying toward the White House, you happen to have in your possession — hooray! — the person that has the key information to put everything right, and you stick a needle under his fingernail — you get the answer — and that should be allowed?
SCALIA: And you think it shouldn’t?
BBC: All I’m saying about it, is that it’s a bizarre scenario, because it’s very unlikely that you’re going to have the one person that can give you that information and so if you use that as an excuse to permit torture then perhaps that’s a dangerous thing.
SCALIA: Seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say that you can’t stick something under the fingernails, smack them in the face. It would be absurd to say that you couldn’t do that. And once you acknowledge that, we’re into a different game. How close does the threat have to be and how severe can an infliction of pain be?
There are no easy answers involved, in either direction, but I certainly know you can’t come in smugly and with great self-satisfaction and say, “Oh, this is torture and therefore it’s no good.” You would not apply that in some real-life situations. It may not be a ticking bomb in Los Angeles, but it may be: “Where is this group that we know is plotting this painful action against the United States? Where are they? What are they currently planning?”
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
In his controversial new book, Nick Davies argues that shadowy intelligence agencies are pumping out black propaganda to manipulate public opinion – and that the media simply swallow it wholesale
The letter argued that al-Qa'ida, which is a Sunni network, should attack the Shia population of Iraq: "It is the only way to prolong the duration of the fight between the infidels and us. If we succeed in dragging them into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis."
Later that day, at a regular US press briefing in Baghdad, US General Mark Kimmitt dealt with a string of questions about The New York Times report: "We believe the report and the document is credible, and we take the report seriously... It is clearly a plan on the part of outsiders to come in to this country and spark civil war, create sectarian violence, try to expose fissures in this society." The story went on to news agency wires and, within 24 hours, it was running around the world.
There is very good reason to believe that that letter was a fake – and a significant one because there is equally good reason to believe that it was one product among many from a new machinery of propaganda which has been created by the United States and its allies since the terrorist attacks of September 2001.
For the first time in human history, there is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it.
The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news. I've spent the last two years researching a book about falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media.
The "Zarqawi letter" which made it on to the front page of The New York Times in February 2004 was one of a sequence of highly suspect documents which were said to have been written either by or to Zarqawi and which were fed into news media.
This material is being generated, in part, by intelligence agencies who continue to work without effective oversight; and also by a new and essentially benign structure of "strategic communications" which was originally designed by doves in the Pentagon and Nato who wanted to use subtle and non-violent tactics to deal with Islamist terrorism but whose efforts are poorly regulated and badly supervised with the result that some of its practitioners are breaking loose and engaging in the black arts of propaganda.
Like the new propaganda machine as a whole, the Zarqawi story was born in the high tension after the attacks of September 2001. At that time, he was a painful thorn in the side of the Jordanian authorities, an Islamist radical who was determined to overthrow the royal family. But he was nothing to do with al-Q'aida. Indeed, he had specifically rejected attempts by Bin Laden to recruit him, because he was not interested in targeting the West.
Nevertheless, when US intelligence battered on the doors of allied governments in search of information about al-Q'aida, the Jordanian authorities – anxious to please the Americans and perhaps keen to make life more difficult for their native enemy – threw up his name along with other suspects. Soon he started to show up as a minor figure in US news stories – stories which were factually weak, often contradictory and already using the Jordanians as a tool of political convenience.
Then, on 7 October 2002, for the first time, somebody referred to him on the record. In a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati, President George Bush spoke of "high-level contacts" between al-Q'aida and Iraq and said: "Some al-Q'aida leaders who fled Afghanistan, went to Iraq. These include one very senior al-Q'aida leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks."
This coincided with a crucial vote in Congress in which the president was seeking authority to use military force against Iraq. Bush never named the man he was referring to but, as the Los Angeles Times among many others soon reported: "In a speech [on] Monday, Bush referred to a senior member of al-Q'aida who received medical treatment in Iraq. US officials said yesterday that was Abu al Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian, who lost a leg during the US war in Afghanistan."
Even now, Zarqawi was a footnote, not a headline, but the flow of stories about him finally broke through and flooded the global media on 5 February 2003, when the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, addressed the UN Security Council, arguing that Iraq must be invaded: first, to stop its development of weapons of mass destruction; and second, to break its ties with al-Q'aida.
Powell claimed that "Iraq today harbours a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al Zarqawi"; that Zarqawi's base in Iraq was a camp for "poison and explosive training"; that he was "an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Q'aida lieutenants"; that he "fought in the Afghan war more than a decade ago"; that "Zarqawi and his network have plotted terrorist actions against countries, including France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia".
Courtesy of post-war Senate intelligence inquiries; evidence disclosed in several European trials; and the courageous work of a handful of journalists who broke away from the pack, we now know that every single one of those statements was entirely false. But that didn't matter: it was a big story. News organisations sucked it in and regurgitated it for their trusting consumers.
So, who exactly is producing fiction for the media? Who wrote the Zarqawi letters? Who created the fantasy story about Osama bin Laden using a network of subterranean bases in Afghanistan, complete with offices, dormitories, arms depots, electricity and ventilation systems? Who fed the media with tales of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, suffering brain seizures and sitting in stationery cars turning the wheel and making a noise like an engine? Who came up with the idea that Iranian ayatollahs have been encouraging sex with animals and girls of only nine?
Some of this comes from freelance political agitators. It was an Iranian opposition group, for example, which was behind the story that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was jailing people for texting each other jokes about him. And notoriously it was Iraqi exiles who supplied the global media with a dirty stream of disinformation about Saddam Hussein.
But clearly a great deal of this carries the fingerprints of officialdom. The Pentagon has now designated "information operations" as its fifth "core competency" alongside land, sea, air and special forces. Since October 2006, every brigade, division and corps in the US military has had its own "psyop" element producing output for local media. This military activity is linked to the State Department's campaign of "public diplomacy" which includes funding radio stations and news websites. In Britain, the Directorate of Targeting and Information Operations in the Ministry of Defence works with specialists from 15 UK psyops, based at the Defence Intelligence and Security School at Chicksands in Bedfordshire.
In the case of British intelligence, you can see this combination of reckless propaganda and failure of oversight at work in the case of Operation Mass Appeal. This was exposed by the former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter, who describes in his book, Iraq Confidential, how, in London in June 1998, he was introduced to two "black propaganda specialists" from MI6 who wanted him to give them material which they could spread through "editors and writers who work with us from time to time".
In interviews for Flat Earth News, Ritter described how, between December 1997 and June 1998, he had three meetings with MI6 officers who wanted him to give them raw intelligence reports on Iraqi arms procurement. The significance of these reports was that they were all unconfirmed and so none was being used in assessing Iraqi activity. Yet MI6 was happy to use them to plant stories in the media. Beyond that, there is worrying evidence that, when Lord Butler asked MI6 about this during his inquiry into intelligence around the invasion of Iraq, MI6 lied to him.
Ultimately, the US has run into trouble with its propaganda in Iraq, particularly with its use of the Zarqawi story. In May 2006, when yet another of his alleged letters was handed out to reporters in the Combined Press Information Centre in Baghdad, finally it was widely regarded as suspect and ignored by just about every single media outlet.
Arguably, even worse than this loss of credibility, according to British defence sources, the US campaign on Zarqawi eventually succeeded in creating its own reality. By elevating him from his position as one fighter among a mass of conflicting groups, the US campaign to "villainise Zarqawi" glamorised him with its enemy audience, making it easier for him to raise funds, to attract "unsponsored" foreign fighters, to make alliances with Sunni Iraqis and to score huge impact with his own media manoeuvres. Finally, in December 2004, Osama bin Laden gave in to this constructed reality, buried his differences with the Jordanian and declared him the leader of al-Q'aida's resistance to the American occupation.
JONATHAN GRUN, EDITOR,PRESS ASSOCIATION
The Press Association's wire service has a long-standing reputation for its integrity and fast, fair and accurate reporting. Much of his criticism is anonymously sourced – which is something we strive to avoid.
ANDREW MARR, BROADCASTER AND JOURNALIST
Thanks to the internet there's a constant source of news stories pumping into newsrooms. Stories are simply rewritten. It produces an airless cycle of information. Papers too rarely have news stories of their own.
IAN MONK, PR
The media has ceded a lot of the power of setting the agenda; the definition of news has broadened to include celebrities and new products (the iPhone is a big story). But I don't join in the hand-wringing or say it's desperate that people outside newspapers have got a say.
JOHN KAMPFNER, EDITOR, NEW STATESMAN
Davies is right to point to the lack of investigative rigour: the primary purpose of journalism is to rattle cages. I was always struck at the extent to which political journalists yearned to be spoon fed. Having said that, I think he uses too broad a brush.
DOMINIC LAWSON, FORMER EDITOR SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
I'm not saying this is a golden age, but there's a strong investigative drive in the British press. A lot of papers put a strong value on such stories. I suspect we're about the most invigilated establishment in Europe.
CHRIS BLACKHURST, CITY EDITOR, EVENING STANDARD
I'm disappointed that a book which has as its premise the dictation of the news agenda by PRs should contain in it an anonymous quote from a PR criticising theStandard's coverage of the Natwest Three.
HEATHER BROOKE, JOURNALIST
It's not entirely true what Davies is saying. In the past, we just got scrutiny from newspapers and now think tanks publish results of investigations. But there's an assumption that the public aren't interested in government, just Amy Winehouse.
FRANCIS WHEEN, JOURNALIST/ AUTHOR
Davies is spot on. It's reasonable that newspapers carry PA accounts of court hearings, but he's right that there's more "churn" now. Reporters don't get out of the office the way they did once – partly a reflection of reduced budgets.
This is an edited extract from "Flat Earth News: an award-winning reporter exposes falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media", published by Chatto & Windus, price £17.99. To order this title for the special price of £16, including postage and packaging, call Independent Books Direct: 08700 798 897
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The Senate today -- led by Jay Rockefeller, enabled by Harry Reid, and with the active support of at least 12 (and probably more) Democrats, in conjunction with an as-always lockstep GOP caucus -- will vote to legalize warrantless spying on the telephone calls and emails of Americans, and will also provide full retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, thus forever putting an end to any efforts to investigate and obtain a judicial ruling regarding the Bush administration's years-long illegal spying programs aimed at Americans. The long, hard efforts by AT&T, Verizon and their all-star, bipartisan cast of lobbyists to grease the wheels of the Senate -- led by former Bush 41 Attorney General William Barr and former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick -- are about to pay huge dividends, as such noble efforts invariably do with our political establishment.
It's worth taking a step back and recalling that all of this is the result of the December, 2005 story by the New York Times which first reported that the Bush administration was illegally spying on Americans for many years without warrants of any kind. All sorts of "controversy" erupted from that story. Democrats everywhere expressed dramatic, unbridled outrage, vowing that this would not stand. James Risen and Eric Lichtblau were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for exposing this serious lawbreaking. All sorts of Committees were formed, papers written, speeches given, conferences convened, and editorials published to denounce this extreme abuse of presidential power. This was illegality and corruption at the highest level of government, on the grandest scale, and of the most transparent strain.
What was the outcome of all of that sturm und drang? What were the consequences for the President for having broken the law so deliberately and transparently? Absolutely nothing. To the contrary, the Senate is about to enact a bill which has two simple purposes: (1) to render retroactively legal the President's illegal spying program by legalizing its crux: warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, and (2) to stifle forever the sole remaining avenue for finding out what the Government did and obtaining a judicial ruling as to its legality: namely, the lawsuits brought against the co-conspiring telecoms. In other words, the only steps taken by our political class upon exposure by the NYT of this profound lawbreaking is to endorse it all and then suppress any and all efforts to investigate it and subject it to the rule of law.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Pelosi and Reid Don't Represent Me. Where's the Real Democrats?
Elected to end the war, Democrats have surrendered to Bush on Iraq and betrayed the peace movement for their own political ends
Posted Feb 21, 2008 12:00 AM
Quietly, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been inspiring Democrats everywhere with their rolling bitchfest, congressional superduo Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have completed one of the most awesome political collapses since Neville Chamberlain. At long last, the Democratic leaders of Congress have publicly surrendered on the Iraq War, just one year after being swept into power with a firm mandate to end it.
Solidifying his reputation as one of the biggest pussies in U.S. political history, Reid explained his decision to refocus his party's energies on topics other than ending the war by saying he just couldn't fit Iraq into his busy schedule. "We have the presidential election," Reid said recently. "Our time is really squeezed."
There was much public shedding of tears among the Democratic leadership, as Reid, Pelosi and other congressional heavyweights expressed deep sadness that their valiant charge up the hill of change had been thwarted by circumstances beyond their control — that, as much as they would love to continue trying to end the catastrophic Iraq deal, they would now have to wait until, oh, 2009 to try again. "We'll have a new president," said Pelosi. "And I do think at that time we'll take a fresh look at it."
Pelosi seemed especially broken up about having to surrender on Iraq, sounding like an NFL coach in a postgame presser, trying with a straight face to explain why he punted on first-and-goal. "We just didn't have any plays we liked down there," said the coach of the 0-15 Dems. "Sometimes you just have to play the field-position game...."
In reality, though, Pelosi and the Democrats were actually engaged in some serious point-shaving. Working behind the scenes, the Democrats have systematically taken over the anti-war movement, packing the nation's leading group with party consultants more interested in attacking the GOP than ending the war. "Our focus is on the Republicans," one Democratic apparatchik in charge of the anti-war coalition declared. "How can we juice up attacks on them?"
The story of how the Democrats finally betrayed the voters who handed them both houses of Congress a year ago is a depressing preview of what's to come if they win the White House. And if we don't pay attention to this sorry tale now, while there's still time to change our minds about whom to nominate, we might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame.
The controversy over the Democratic "strategy" to end the war basically comes down to whom you believe. According to the Reid-Pelosi version of history, the Democrats tried hard to force President Bush's hand by repeatedly attempting to tie funding for the war to a scheduled withdrawal. Last spring they tried to get him to eat a timeline and failed to get the votes to override a presidential veto. Then they retreated and gave Bush his money, with the aim of trying again after the summer to convince a sufficient number of Republicans to cross the aisle in support of a timeline.
But in September, Gen. David Petraeus reported that Bush's "surge" in Iraq was working, giving Republicans who might otherwise have flipped sufficient cover to continue supporting the war. The Democrats had no choice, the legend goes, but to wait until 2009, in the hopes that things would be different under a Democratic president.
Democrats insist that the reason they can't cut off the money for the war, despite their majority in both houses, is purely political. "George Bush would be on TV every five minutes saying that the Democrats betrayed the troops," says Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Then he glumly adds another reason. "Also, it just wasn't going to happen."
Why it "just wasn't going to happen" is the controversy. In and around the halls of Congress, the notion that the Democrats made a sincere effort to end the war meets with, at best, derisive laughter. Though few congressional aides would think of saying so on the record, in private many dismiss their party's lame anti-war effort as an absurd dog-and-pony show, a calculated attempt to score political points without ever being serious about bringing the troops home.
"Yeah, the amount of expletives that flew in our office alone was unbelievable," says an aide to one staunchly anti-war House member. "It was all about the public show. Reid and Pelosi would say they were taking this tough stand against Bush, but if you actually looked at what they were sending to a vote, it was like Swiss cheese. Full of holes."
In the House, some seventy Democrats joined the Out of Iraq caucus and repeatedly butted heads with Reid and Pelosi, arguing passionately for tougher measures to end the war. The fight left some caucus members bitter about the party's failure. Rep. Barbara Lee of California was one of the first to submit an amendment to cut off funding unless it was tied to an immediate withdrawal. "I couldn't even get it through the Rules Committee in the spring," Lee says.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a fellow caucus member, says Democrats should have refused from the beginning to approve any funding that wasn't tied to a withdrawal. "If we'd been bold the minute we got control of the House — and that's why we got the majority, because the people of this country wanted us out of Iraq — if we'd been bold, even if we lost the votes, we would have gained our voice."
An honest attempt to end the war, say Democrats like Woolsey and Lee, would have involved forcing Bush to execute his veto and allowing the Republicans to filibuster all they wanted. Force a showdown, in other words, and use any means necessary to get the bloodshed ended.
"Can you imagine Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert taking no for an answer the way Reid and Pelosi did on Iraq?" asks the House aide in the expletive-filled office. "They'd find a way to get the votes. They'd get it done somehow."
But any suggestion that the Democrats had an obligation to fight this good fight infuriates the bund of hedging careerists in charge of the party. In fact, nothing sums up the current Democratic leadership better than its vitriolic criticisms of those recalcitrant party members who insist on interpreting their 2006 mandate as a command to actually end the war. Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee and a key Pelosi-Reid ally, lambasted anti-war Democrats who "didn't want to get specks on those white robes of theirs." Obey even berated a soldier's mother who begged him to cut off funds for the war, accusing her and her friends of "smoking something illegal."Rather than use the vast power they had to end the war, Democrats devoted their energy to making sure that "anti-war activism" became synonymous with "electing Democrats." Capitalizing on America's desire to end the war, they hijacked the anti-war movement itself, filling the ranks of peace groups with loyal party hacks. Anti-war organizations essentially became a political tool for the Democrats — one operated from inside the Beltway and devoted primarily to targeting Republicans.
This supposedly grass-roots "anti-war coalition" met regularly on K Street, the very capital of top-down Beltway politics. At the forefront of the groups are Thomas Matzzie and Brad Woodhouse of Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq, the leader of the anti-war lobby. Along with other K Street crusaders, the two have received iconic treatment from The Washington Post and The New York Times, both of which depicted the anti-war warriors as young idealist-progressives in shirtsleeves, riding a mirthful spirit into political combat — changing the world is fun!
But what exactly are these young idealists campaigning for? At its most recent meeting, the group eerily echoed the Reid-Pelosi "squeezed for time" mantra: Retreat from any attempt to end the war and focus on electing Democrats. "There was a lot of agreement that we can draw distinctions between anti-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans," a spokeswoman for Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq announced.
What the Post and the Times failed to note is that much of the anti-war group's leadership hails from a consulting firm called Hildebrand Tewes — whose partners, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, served as staffers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). In addition, these anti-war leaders continue to consult for many of the same U.S. senators whom they need to pressure in order to end the war. This is the kind of conflict of interest that would normally be an embarrassment in the activist community.
Worst of all is the case of Woodhouse, who came to Hildebrand Tewes after years of working as the chief mouthpiece for the DSCC, where he campaigned actively to re-elect Democratic senators who supported the Iraq War in the first place. Anyone bothering to look — and clearly the Post and the Times did not before penning their ardent bios of Woodhouse — would have found the youthful idealist bragging to newspapers before the Iraq invasion about the pro-war credentials of North Carolina candidate Erskine Bowles. "No one has been stronger in this race in supporting President Bush in the War on Terror and his efforts to effect a regime change in Iraq," boasted the future "anti-war" activist Woodhouse.
With guys like this in charge of the anti-war movement, much of what has passed for peace activism in the past year was little more than a thinly veiled scheme to use popular discontent over the war to unseat vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2008. David Sirota, a former congressional staffer whose new book, The Uprising, excoriates the Democrats for their failure to end the war, expresses disgust at the strategy of targeting only Republicans. "The whole idea is based on this insane fiction that there is no such thing as a pro-war Democrat," he says. "Their strategy allows Democrats to take credit for being against the war without doing anything to stop it. It's crazy."
Justin Raimondo, the uncompromising editorial director of Antiwar.com, regrets contributing twenty dollars to Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq. "Not only did they use it to target Republicans," he says, "they went after the ones who were on the fence about Iraq." The most notorious case involved Lincoln Chafee, a moderate from Rhode Island who lost his Senate seat in 2006. Since then, Chafee has taken shots at Democrats like Reid, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, all of whom campaigned against him despite having voted for the war themselves.
"Look, I understand partisan politics," says Chafee, who now concedes that voters were correct to punish him for his war vote. "I just find it amusing that those who helped get us into this mess now say we need to change the Senate — because we're in a mess."
The really tragic thing about the Democratic surrender on Iraq is that it's now all but guaranteed that the war will be off the table during the presidential campaign. Once again — it happened in 2002, 2004 and 2006 — the Democrats have essentially decided to rely on the voters to give them credit for being anti-war, despite the fact that, for all the noise they've made to the contrary, in the end they've done nothing but vote for war and cough up every dime they've been asked to give, every step of the way.
Even beyond the war, the Democrats have repeatedly gone limp-dick every time the Bush administration so much as raises its voice. Most recently, twelve Democrats crossed the aisle to grant immunity to phone companies who participated in Bush's notorious wiretapping program. Before that, Democrats caved in and confirmed Mike Mukasey as attorney general after he kept his middle finger extended and refused to condemn waterboarding as torture. Democrats fattened by Wall Street also got cold feet about upsetting the country's gazillionaires, refusing to close a tax loophole that rewarded hedge-fund managers with a tax rate less than half that paid by ordinary citizens.
But the war is where they showed their real mettle. Before the 2006 elections, Democrats told us we could expect more specifics on their war plans after Election Day. Nearly two years have passed since then, and now they are once again telling us to wait until after an election to see real action to stop the war. In the meantime, of course, we're to remember that they're the good guys, the Republicans are the real enemy, and, well, go Hillary! Semper fi! Yay, team!
How much of this bullshit are we going to take? How long are we supposed to give the Reids and Pelosis and Hillarys of the world credit for wanting, deep down in their moldy hearts, to do the right thing?
Look, fuck your hearts, OK? Just get it done. Because if you don't, sooner or later this con is going to run dry. It may not be in '08, but it'll be soon. Even Americans can't be fooled forever.