Friday, September 22, 2006

Two views on the torture debate that just finished

Two Washington Post columnists have written about the agreement between Bush and the McCain faction to compromise on the Bush-directed effort to redefine the Geneva treaty's directives on torture.

First is a David Broder column, published Thursday. Broder calls the argument between the Republican Senators and Bush as the revolt of the "Moderates", led by McCain.

David describes it as signaling "...a new movement in this country -- what you could rightly call the independence party. Its unifying theme can be found in the Declaration of Independence's language when Jefferson Invoked 'a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.'"

This movement is mobilizing to confront "...not only Bush but also the extremist elements in American society -- the vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers on the left and the doctrinaire religious extremists on the right who would convert their faith into a whipping post for their opponents."

David then goes on to say that Sen. Joe Lieberman's election, along with that of Republican Sen. Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island and Sen. Mike DeWine (R, OH) are really importan, because those would signal that independence is a virtue to be rewarded. They are all members of the moderate middle.

That's my summary of the important points he made. Now for my opinion.

Moderation is the best way for a legislature or parliament to function. David is quite correct there. But for moderation to work, there must be trust and an effective equality of power between the people on both sides of each disagreement.

Moderation without trust and power equality doesn't work. In the current case, the leadership of one side is made up of extremists, and they have a molopoly of poer in the House, Senate and the White House. Those Republicans will negotiate with the moderates, come to an agreement, then roll over the moderates, sometimes using the very elements of that agreement as weapons.

This is what I was going to publish yesterday, before I learned of the agreement between the McCain-led moderates and the people pushing for the legalizing of torture methods.

Now to today's view of the McCain moderates vs. Bush on torture. This is an editorial by Fred Hiatt, also in the Washington Post.

Hiatt points out that the agreement says that the Senate will not rewrite American legislation to reinterpret U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions to allow torture and that the "Trials of accused terrorists will be fairer that the commission system outlawed in June by the Supreme Court."

But of course, Bush made clear yesterday that he will issue an Executive Order "...relying on questionable Justice department opinions that authorize such practices as exposing prisoners to hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation.

"Under the compromise agreed to yesterday Congress would recognize his authority to take these steps and prevent prisoners from appealing them to the U.S. Courts. The Bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes."

In short, Bush announced that he was going to embrace torture as the formal policy of the U.S. and Congress agreed to let him do it, immunizing HIM from appeals to the court system. Congress just wasn't going to write it into law.

Again, the following is my view. In fairness I should point out that David Broder wrote his column before the agreement was finalized yesterday, and Fred Hiatt wrote his editorial afterwards. But the result was ...

The moderates got rolled. Bush won, America and anyone Bush accuses as being a terrorist lost.

McCain surrendered in exchange for a fig-leaf because he wants to run for President, and he will need the votes of the right-wing extremists if he expects to win. Without McCain to head up the "moderates", the rest fell into line.

This is what happens when so-called "moderates" attempt to compromise with extremists. The extremists, in this case Bush, win. Hand McCain an umbrella, he just gave Chezkslovakia away.

The U.S. is going to practice torture on people accused of terrorism until the end of the Bush administration. The only thing the Senate really did was refuse to put their names on law that approved it. It will be done by Bush and is totally his responsibility.

Can you say "War Crimes Trials?"

Just a historical side-note. Anyone who remembers the anti-Communist wars in the 40's, 50's and 60's will recall that many times small countries undergoing a Communist insurrection would attempt to settle it by bringing the Communists into the government and working with them. The usual result was that within a short time, the Communists took over and the moderates were in prisons and prison camps.

What David Broder sniffs at disparagingly as "...the vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers on the left" (and yes, I take that personally) are really the people who are looking for a Winston Churchill to lead the battle against the dark enemy instead of surrendering everything that matters to them. Nothing else is going to work.

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