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9/29/2006 12:42:00 AM | Timothy

'The issue isn't whether we are the same as the Khmer Rhouge. The issue is, we aren't different enough'

The Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia also used 'waterboarding'.

The title would be a paraphrase by a Kos diarist of Israeli historian Avi Schlaim's statement: "The issue isn't whether we are the same as the Nazis. The issue is, we aren't different enough"


Sullivan has this quote from Republican Senator Specter:
"What this bill would do is take our civilization back 900 years," to before the adoption of the writ of habeas corpus in medieval England, Senator Specter said.
Then why don't you help stop it Senator Spector??? Is something more important. Sullivan says: "Neither party comes out of this looking anything but cowardly, unprincipled and morally bankrupt." Yep. The NYT says:
There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Sullivan talks about tyranny here and here. Sullivan says:
Those of us trying to resist the Bush administration's seizure of permanent emergency powers have so far failed to alert the American public of the immense danger to their basic liberties that this administration represents. Maybe this story in the Washington Post today will help wake America up.

How do I put this in words as clearly as possible. If the U.S. government decides, for reasons of its own, that you are an "illegal enemy combatant," i.e. that you are someone who
"has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States,"
they can detain you without charges indefinitely, granting you no legal recourse except to a military tribunal, and, under the proposed bill, "disappear" and torture you. This is not just restricted to aliens or foreigners, but applies to U.S. citizens as well. It can happen anywhere in the U.S. at any time. We are all at potential risk.

Whatever else this is, it is not a constitutional democracy. It is a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, subject to only one control: the will of the Great Decider. And the war that justifies this astonishing attack on American liberty is permanent, without end. And check the vagueness of the language: "purposefully supported" hostilities. Could that mean mere expression of support for terror? Remember that many completely innocent people have already been incarcerated for years without trial or any chance for a fair hearing on the basis of false rumors or smears or even bounty hunters. Or could it be construed, in the rhetoric of Hannity and O'Reilly, as merely criticizing the Great Decider and thereby being on the side of the terrorists?

All I know is that al Qaeda is winning battles every week now. And they are winning them because their aim of gutting Western liberty is shared by the president of the United States. The fact that we are finding this latest, chilling stuff out now - while this horrifying bill is being rushed into law to help rescue some midterms - is beyond belief. It must be stopped, filibustered, prevented. And anyone who cares about basic constitutional freedom - conservatives above all - should be in the forefront of stopping it.
In the other post, Sullivan says:
Late last night, before nodding off, I wondered, as I often do, whether I'd hyperbolized the threat from the looming detention-torture bill. "Legalizing tyranny" is a very strong phrase and I don't want to cry wolf. In the sense that this president intends to seize random Americans and rush them into black sites and torture them at will, it's hyperbole. But in a deeper sense, I think it's completely accurate. The system we're talking about is to do with wartime. A president in the past has had the option of seizing enemy combatants on a battlefield and detaining them without charge as POWs. There's no threat to liberty there. What's new is that in this war, enemy combatants have been designated as such not just on the battlefield - but anywhere in the world. What's new is that they are no longer entitled to POW status. What's new is that this war is for ever. So any changes are not just for a time-limited emergency but threaten to alter basic balances in constitutional order. What's also new is that torture is now allowed on the down-low, on the president's authority. And what's also new is that an enemy combatant may or may not be an American citizen.

Put all that together and you really do have the danger of taking emergency measures for wartime and transforming a peace-time constitution into an essentially martial system, where every citizen or non-citizen can be apprehended at will and detained without charge. I repeat: this is a huge deal. It really should be a huge deal for conservatives who care about restraining government power. Its vulnerability to abuse is enormous; sanctioned torture, history tells us, never remains hermetically sealed. It always spreads. It eats away at decency and law and civility. If the president sincerely believes that torture is our most potent weapon in this war, and that habeas corpus is a quaint relic from the past, then we are in far greater peril than even the most dire pessimists believe.
I post too much from Sullivan. What's sad is that he is often a fine writer (unlike myself), but what's sad is that those of us on the left have been saying this for years. He doesn't come out too well in this either (though much better than a lot of people on the right).



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