It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration’s response to the terror attacks is becoming clear. Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power.
Um, some of us have known it would be the case since the Florida Fiasco of 2000.
Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone. While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch.
One result has been a frayed democratic fabric in a country founded on a constitutional system of checks and balances. Another has been a less effective war on terror.
Newsflash, Grey Whore: They wanted to destroy democracy. And you can’t declare war on an emotion. The whole War on Terror was nothing of the sort; it’s a war on Terra. But to get away with declaring one, you have to abolish as many rules against it as you can, and disregard the rest.
This whole sorry story has been on vivid display since the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions and United States law both applied to the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. For one brief, shining moment, it appeared that the administration realized it had met a check that it could not simply ignore. The White House sent out signals that the president was ready to work with Congress in creating a proper procedure for trying the hundreds of men who have spent years now locked up as suspected terrorists without any hope of due process.
But by week’s end it was clear that the president’s idea of cooperation was purely cosmetic. At hearings last week, the administration made it clear that it merely wanted Congress to legalize President Bush’s illegal actions — to amend the law to negate the court’s ruling instead of creating a system of justice within the law. As for the Geneva Conventions, administration witnesses and some of their more ideologically blinkered supporters in Congress want to scrap the international consensus that no prisoner may be robbed of basic human dignity.
The hearings were a bizarre spectacle in which the top military lawyers — who had been elbowed aside when the procedures at Guantánamo were established — endorsed the idea that the prisoners were covered by the Geneva Convention protections. Meanwhile, administration officials and obedient Republican lawmakers offered a lot of silly talk about not coddling the masterminds of terror.
The divide made it clear how little this all has to do with fighting terrorism. Undoing the Geneva Conventions would further endanger the life of every member of the American military who might ever be taken captive in the future. And if the prisoners scooped up in Afghanistan and sent to Guantánamo had been properly processed first — as military lawyers wanted to do — many would never have been kept in custody, a continuing reproach to the country that is holding them. Others would actually have been able to be tried under a fair system that would give the world a less perverse vision of American justice. The recent disbanding of the C.I.A. unit charged with finding Osama bin Laden is a reminder that the American people may never see anyone brought to trial for the terrible crimes of 9/11.
The hearings were supposed to produce a hopeful vision of a newly humbled and cooperative administration working with Congress to undo the mess it had created in stashing away hundreds of people, many with limited connections to terrorism at the most, without any plan for what to do with them over the long run. Instead, we saw an administration whose political core was still intent on hunkering down. The most embarrassing moment came when Bush loyalists argued that the United States could not follow the Geneva Conventions because Common Article Three, which has governed the treatment of wartime prisoners for more than half a century, was too vague. Which part of "civilized peoples," "judicial guarantees" or "humiliating and degrading treatment" do they find confusing?
Wrong questions, Grey Whore! There is no confusion on BushCo’s part, and never has been.
The terrible truth is, Gitmo is part of a pattern that was visible from a distance long ago. It was set up specifically to evade all accountability, whether at home or internationally! Gitmo was, if you will, the example of what will happen to anyone who’s been singled out to be made an example of. Don’t look for serious action in the right direction from Dubya; he’ll say one thing, then turn right around and do what he wanted to do all along, with no regard for what anyone else thinks. That’s the pattern, and was even before he became president.
There’s more at the link, but the terrible truth is this: The NY Times has had more than five years to see this coming, and they’ve remained wilfully blind.
What part of “dereliction of journalistic duty” is confusing to them?
PS: Mike Malloy is going off on this right now, too. Talk about great minds…