My irregular musings on city life, politics, baseball, roller derby, and whatever happens to be getting my goat today.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What Rough Beast . . .

He caved. I guess he's not in line for the next edition of Profiles in Courage after all.

I can't really express my disappointment, but Yeats can:
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

He has nothing to apologize for. The Right uses American troops like hostages; they hide behind them, claiming that criticizing the war policies of the administration is beyond the pale because it might hurt the soldiers' feelings to hear that we don't support their actions. But I don't really care how it makes them feel. I'm not the one who put them in harm's way in Iraq, after all. I always said it was a bad idea. Iraq is a political problem, not a military problem. That's why efforts to "crush the insurgency" don't work. These are ultimately attempts to crush the Sunni Arab population, and nothing short of genocide will accomplish that.

Which is why it's perfectly fair to compare the Bush administration's tactics to Pol Pot or Stalin. The neocons believe they are engaged in a struggle of democracy against fascism. They aren't - they've wandered into ongoing conflicts between ethnic and religious groups, and they don't know which side to take - Shiites in Iraq, Sunnis in Lebanon, do we have any friends in Syria at all?

To "win" such conflicts takes tactics worthy of Stalin, or at least Saddam. No, Bush isn't really Pol Pot, and doesn't have it in him to really destroy another people. Or I sincerely hope not. But if that's the case, we need a different kind of solution if we want to bring democracy and peace to the Middle East. Because the type of military force we are bringing to bear just isn't going to cut it.

THe problem is, gaining and keeping power in the middle east is a life and death proposition, because of the "winner take all" political culture. Being out of power or in the minority doesn't just mean you don't like the laws that are past, it means that you are subjected to the underside of a repressive regime. That's right, detention without charge, assassination, torture, "waterboarding," you know, all that good stuff the Bushies think is necessary to protect you.

The solution is not a military victory over the forces of evil, but a political solution that enshrines minority rights in law, allowing people to be safe and free even when their tribe doesn't control the state. It's things like the rule of law, the separation of church and state, exactly the things the Conservative movement is threatening to destroy in our own country, that can make social peace possible. The victory of one group over another isn't even desireable. What's needed is a system that allows people to work out their differences peacefully, or agree to disagree.

You know, a system like we used to have here.

Speaking of which, hey, has anybody seen Jose Padilla lately? He looks sorta like this:
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Another quote, from the people over at Charge Jose Padilla, one you probably haven't heard in oh, about four or five years now:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

5th Amendment to U.S. Constitution

It's like this. Either Padilla's a terrorist, in which case charge him under that anti-terrorism law that got passed after Oklahoma City, or else he's not, in which case release him. The same goes for Guantanamo. Either those guys are illegal combatants, in which case charge them with crimes, or they were legitimate Afghan soldiers, in which case they are POWs and need to be treated according to the Geneva Conventions. There may be some grey areas there, but there are no legal black holes through which several hundred people can fall and land on lawless islands where they have no rights and can be held and tortured at the President's whim. These are the first stages of tyranny. If they can hold Jose Padilla for four and a half years without meeting any standard of proof or being accountable to any judge, they can hold you too. What good will being innocent do you without due process?

"Trust us" they say? This country wasn't built on trust, it was built on checks and balances and the rule of law. This attitude is spreading and has infected the local level. Consider this new policy here in my hometown:
The city has begun posting the names and photographs of alleged "johns" on the Police Department's Web site for all to see, including spouses, children, employers, friends and neighbors, Mayor Richard Daley announced Tuesday.

Now I've got no problem with posting the names and photos of convicted johns on the Web. But alleged johns is a different ball of wax altogether. What, do you think the police never arrest the wrong man? Or, um, sentence him to Death Row, or leave him to rot in prison for 24 years? Miscarriages of justice turn out to be pretty common, but at least with a convicted criminal you have a judge or jury backing up your claims. But just an arrest - again, with no standard of proof, they can arrest anyone they want, post their name on the Web, and then drop the charges.

And now it looks like Congress is going to pass an amendment to allow it to ban flag burning. I listened to the arguments on the radio this afternoon. One congressman said the amendment was necessary because the flag is "a sacred symbol of our country that is being desecrated." But last time I checked, desecrating sacred symbols was none of the government's business, since it was protected behavior under the freedom of religion. But now I guess Congress will assert its right to define political and religious "crimes."

Is this the kind of country you want to live in?

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