Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Who gets to decide what's in our best interest?

Bill O'Reilly, our favorite Fox News commentator, lambasted ABC News last night for reporting on where the secret torture prisons that CIA is running are located. In the loofah lover's own words, "ABC News says the public has the right to know, but this kind of exposition helps the terrorists and hurts the USA. The press is actively try to undermine the Bush administration."

Bill O'Harasser's guest, wingnut Lt. Col Ralph Peters, had to chime in, "I would like to see in the Constitution where it says that newspapers are obliged to trumpet military secrets in wartime. This is a war against an implacable enemy, and the terrorists in question are perhaps the most brutal killers on Earth. When ABC gives away our national secrets, they are putting America and our allies at risk."

It's bad enough that anyone that disagrees with the BushCo party line gets to endure screams and shouts of being unpatriotic and aiding the enemy. It's awful that a true patriot like Max Cleland lost his Senate seat to claims of aiding Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein because he held up the hackery Bush made of the Homeland Security Department, hackery made all too clear in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.

But the idea that covering up torture, covering up secret prisons, covering up this blatant violation of the Constitution is somehow considered to be in our best interest, and that to expose this lawbreaking and to expose this operation that is ruining any credibility we have in the world makes us more vulnerable to terrorism, is unpatriotic, and helps terrorists is insane. It flips the idea of America on its head.

We are America because we've always respected the rights of prisoners, because we've always believed in the rule of law, because we've only attacked in self-defense, and because our word was our bond. This isn't the case with the party in power. Most of their leaders and a large group of their followers are serial liars, who rely upon the ad hominem attack, who do not face up to reality or twist it, who suppress dissent, who declare that only they know what's in the best interest of our nation, who support torture, who discourage the people from knowing what their government is doing, who are giving away our treasure to a select few while taking from the masses who struggle more and more while bearing the burden of supporting the nation, and who wear the flag and declare they are the only ones who love this nation, and anyone who disagrees hates it.

I'll be damned if somebody is going to tell me how much I love my country, how good a Christian I am, how I don't support the troops because I believe in disclosure and because I think we should work on withdrawal, that I am aiding the enemy because I think we should have a vigorous press that reports the facts, that I'm a tax-and-spend liberal even though I believe in a balanced budget and proportional bearing of our national burden, and that I am unAmerican for not following in lockstep behind a failed policy. On any day of any week of the year, I would rather be part of a group of people who think, who argue, who disagree on some points and have to compromise for a strategy rather than a group of people who brook no disagreement and insist on following a strategy that is completely incompetent and is ruining thousands of lives.

The American people are the ones who should decide for themselves what is in our best interests. A solid majority of the American people believe it is time to start withdrawing, that leaving Iraq in a relatively short time is the right thing to do, and it's time for our leaders to start listening to us. Nobody anointed them omniscient, unfailing leaders. They're human, just like us, and they serve us. That's one of those other things that America has always been about, one of those things we should be proud of, and one of those things we should remember in November 2006.


Anonymous Eddie said...

I don't care at all for O'Reilly, or the inept tactics of the CIA and the Pentagon in the WOT, but Ralph Peters is not a "wingnut". He can fly off the handle with ease, and that is part of his charm, in an ordinary setting, he will be the guy who says something that torpedoes the civility and calm of the debate because he tends to say things no one else would dare to.

Now to the debate about the prisons/facilities... this beckons two questions that very few people on either side of the political debate want to ask, let alone answer.

- What do "we" (concievably, us and the europeans) do about radical, fundamentalist Muslims walking the streets of Europe, recruiting fighters to go to Iraq, giving jihadist sermons in mosques that rail against "jews",
"crusaders (i.e. christians)" and Muslims who "dare" to integrate/assimilate into the western cultures of say, Germany or Italy, and even worse, act as conduits and contacts for militants planning attacks in Europe.

The European justice systems can't readily deal with them, and true reform of these is a long way off because of short-sighted political opportunism by various groups and also understandable concern over the reforms. They're not in America, so we can't try them in American courts under American law. They're not in Egypt, Syria or Algeria, so they can't be tried there.

What do "we" do? The best answer the administration and the Europeans could come up with was "rendition". Its not pretty, its probably not wise, but its the best anyone has come up with for a terrible crisis we're facing. Exposing this to the world via ABC and the WAPO doesn't do any good for the war effort, let alone the average American. It doesn't force a real debate about the issues, it only serves to score narrow political points for those who are "anti-Bush" and those who are "anti-liberal media (MSM)".

The other question is, how many of our military secrets and our national security secrets are open to the media revealing them for whatever reason? Where do we draw the line? What's fair game, what's not? Dana Priest is a highly regarded journalist (and a damn good author too, her book, "The Mission", is required reading for anyone who wants to learn about the US military's role in the world today), so we can assume she's relatively responsible and she truly believes that this prison story was worth the cost to America. But what about the next reporter? Will they be as responsible? And for that matter, did Priest really consider the damage this would do the war effort and America's already strained relations with Europe? Even the best of us make mistakes.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Thad said...

You have a good argument, but what this comes down to is we let them win if we stop following the rule of law, locking up people indefinitely without trial and abusing them. This is what we give Iran, China, North Korea, and many other countries hell about, and we're doing it because we are scared of these people. The reason we have laws are to prevent us from going down the Hobbesian route. By having these prisons, we are breaking the Constitution and we violate the human rights we claim to honor.
Look, I'm more of a defense hawk, but I believe in being careful, in being moral, and picking the right battles first. I don't think revealing the existence of the prisons hurts us that bad. If we handed out exact location, names and addresses of those who work there, then that's more problematic.
And finally, as for the European justice systems, they have a responsibility to prosecute these people, legally, for hate speech. Germany has very strong hate speech statutes because of the Nazi legacy, and they could do more than what they are. Exposing these prisons should be part of the debate as to how we handle the war on terror, because from top to bottom, we're doing it wrong. Iraq should've been an international effort, done only AFTER Afghanistan was secured. We blew it, and now the funding that should be securing our borders goes to secure their borders, and we pay Halliburton billions to do work that is incomplete, when Iraqi contractors could put that money into their own economy.
I don't believe some of the conspiracy theories that go around about this war, but I'll be honest, the way it's been handled does give an appearance that this war has been run based on what's best for corporations, and not for Iraq or us.

11:48 AM  
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