Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

George W Bush the inner punk

George W. Bush and the inner punk
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Generally speaking, the more people tell you how tough they are, the harder they’re working to convince themselves. George W. Bush is no exception. The president’s authoritarian impulses, on display during an amazingly petulant Rose Garden press conference, so clearly derive from his own fundamental weakness of mind and character that it’s become increasingly embarrassing to watch him perform. The more strenuously he struggles to hide his inner punk, the more clearly it emerges. Consider his childish response to NBC News’ David Gregory’s question about the administration’s pre-election efforts to legalize torture. Bush’s testy attitude toward the tall newsman he calls “Stretch” goes back a long way. After Gregory, covering a joint news conference in Paris in 2002, asked President Jacques Chirac a question in French, Bush sneered, “The guy memorizes four words and he plays like he’s intercontinental.” Last week he mockingly told Gregory, “You’re looking beautiful, Dave.”

Gregory’s challenging questions seemingly set Bush’s teeth on edge.

“Mr. President,” he began, “critics of your proposed bill on interrogation rules [ask ]... if a CIA officer, paramilitary or special operations soldier from the United States were captured in Iran or North Korea and they were roughed up, and those governments said, ‘Well, they were interrogated in accordance with our interpretation of the Geneva Conventions,’ and then they were put on trial and they were convicted based on secret evidence that they were not able to see, how would you react to that as commander-in-chief?”

Bush ducked the question.

“My reaction is that if the nations such as those you name adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act, the world would be better.... We’re trying to clarify law. We’re trying to set high standards, not ambiguous standards. And let me just repeat: We can debate this issue all we want, but the practical matter is, if our professionals don’t have clear standards in the law, the program is not going to go forward.”

Bush repeated the threat several times. Either Congress grants him police state powers or it’ll be tantamount to surrender in the “war on terror.” Among the unambiguous high standards the White House apparently has in mind are subjecting suspects to nakedness, threats of violence against their families, sleep deprivation, hypothermia (dousing them with icy water) and simulated drowning.

Bush also proposes setting up military tribunals despite two recent Supreme Court decisions defining terror suspects’ legal rights, courts that could admit hearsay and evidence gathered by force and where individuals could be sentenced to death without being allowed to see or rebut evidence presented against them. In short, the kinds of courts that gave Stalinism a bad name. Heaven help the poor Afghan or Yemeni whose name sounds like somebody in al-Qa’ida or whose neighbor covets his wife or camel.

Asked about former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s concern that legalizing torture would make other countries doubt the moral basis of U. S. policy, Bush grew downright apoplectic.

“It’s unacceptable to think that there’s any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective,” he blustered.

Of course, nobody, least of all Powell, made that comparison. But then Bush has no interest in legality. This entire degrading farce is about two things: his own country-club tough-guy act and an election-year appeal to the instincts of the GOP “base” whose knowledge of the outside world is confined to two-dimensional TV melodramas and whose concept of citizenship is basically tribal.

Beard? Turban? String ’em up.

To the kinds of voters whose passions the White House is trying to arouse between now and November, for Powell or anybody else to invoke what Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, called “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” may be tantamount to treason. Or, for that matter, to David Gregory’s ability to speak French. Who cares what foreigners or “pointyheaded intellectuals” think? An obsession with striking virile poses has preoccupied a substantial proportion of the electorate ever since the Confederacy lost the Civil

How large a proportion we may be about to learn. The original purpose of this entire pointless exercise—even as currently constituted, the Supreme Court won’t jettison due process or condone “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is forbidden by the Constitution—was to craft an election-year bill that republicans could rubber-stamp and Democrats would resist, laying their patriotism open to question.

But the principled resistance of military men like Powell and Arizona Sen. John McCain, as well as of Southern senators like Virginia’s John Warner and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, has done more than complicate White House arithmetic. It also has altered the symbolism, threatening to expose torture for what it is: a bully’s tool for generating fear, unworthy of a free and democratic people. Mideast governance Voices letter writer Larry H. Gentry recently challenged an assertion in this column that no Muslim countries are currently governed by Islamic extremists. “What about Iran, Syria and Lebanon?” he asks.
Here’s the answer. Lebanon has an elected government. Its current prime minister is a Christian. Syria is a Baathist (i.e., secular ) military dictatorship. Iran has a very complicated government. Its president is elected, but the ultimate power is held by Shiite clerics. By definition, they’re as hostile to al-Qa’ida as Americans are. None of these countries had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11.


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