Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thank God the new guys are in. Oh, wait ...

Last week, the Central Intelligence Agency upset a few political apple carts when it revealed what many people already suspected: that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the use of "enhanced interrogation tactics" -- torture -- against detainees suspected of terrorism as early as September of 2002. The revelation undercuts Pelosi's criticism of civil liberties violations committed by the Bush administration. It also helps to dispel the myth that either of the two major political parties in this country has much regard for individual liberty -- or basic decency.

According to CIA documents (PDF), Nancy Pelosi was one of the first two members of Congress clued in about the use of torture, the other being Porter Goss, the Republican then-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on which Pelosi sat as ranking Democrat.

Pelosi briefing

Other in-the-know members of Congress included Senators Bob Graham (D) and Richard Shelby (R), Senators Pat Roberts (R) and John Rockefeller (D), and Rep. Jane Harman (D) -- all briefed by early 2003. Others were informed of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques in the years that followed. The Washington Post has reported that none of the briefed lawmakers protested the use of the harsh practices.

All of the legislators informed of the use of torture were sworn to secrecy, though humanitarian concerns might be considered by some people to be of greater importance than any such vow.

None of this should be a surprise. As terrible as the Bush administration was when it came to respecting individual liberty and restraints on the power of the state, its excesses differed from those of previous administrations more in quantity than in quality.

In fact, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Bush administration crafted the enormous, government-empowering PATRIOT Act in what seemed like record time largely by recycling legislative proposals originally put forward by its predecessors. In 2003, former Rep. Bob Barr told Reason, "the first version of what later became the PATRIOT Act was very familiar to a number of us on the Hill. We had seen many of these provisions submitted previously by the Clinton administration."

Perhaps it was the Clintonian roots of the PATRIOT Act that made then-Senator Barack Obama comfortable enough with the law that he voted to reauthorize the measure. Obama also voted to expand the government's use of electronic surveillance and to immunize telecommunications companies against liability for helping the government with wiretapping.

And the Obama administration has one-upped the Bush administration in arguing that some government actions are so super-secret that, even when people's rights are violated, victims shouldn't be allowed to sue, since national security might be damaged by the court proceedings.

It's the same on economic matters, of course. The massive government intervention in the economy and binge-spending begun by then-President George W. Bush -- policies explicitly called "fascist" by Robert Scheer -- have been enthusiastically expanded and extended by President Barack Obama.

Republicans and Democrats alike love to use the the words "liberty" and "freedom," but, with rare exceptions, politicians operating under those affiliations are firm allies of the concepts behind those words only when they're out of power and a little rabble-rousing helps to favorably contrast them with the folks holding the reins. Once in control, or simply out of public view, they show themselves as the kind of people who can sit through briefings on the use of torture without batting an eyelash.

The eternal political warfare between Republicans and Democrats makes for great political theater. It's also an effective way to divide and conquer the people over whom they rule.

But if you're looking for principled advocates for your freedom, don't look to the creatures roaming the halls of power -- from either party.

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Anonymous Reaganite Republican Resistance said...

Apparently Pelosi and Obama forgot something: the CIA KILLS people… it’s in their job description. Did these two really think that these killers were going to take-one-for-the-team… when the team captain is a lying, incompetent, arrogant nebbish who has basically told them they need to kiss his ring? -please
Obama really kicked an ant hill with his ill-advised and politically motivated release of Bush Administration memos regarding EITs.
Let’s have a hearing and get it all out there, shall we? Then watch the rats scatter who attacked Bush for protecting the country from terrorist attack… but who clearly knew what was going on five years before we heard a peep out of them.

May 13, 2009 3:13 PM  
Blogger braney said...

I totally agree with this post. There's no difference between the Democrats and Republicans when it comes to increasing the power of the federal government. You need only look at the Matthew Shepard act to see how quickly the Democrats embrace a federal power grab.

May 13, 2009 5:59 PM  
Anonymous Puh-leeeeezze said...

I said last year, already, that the only "change" you'll see is what little might be left jingling in your pocket after all is said and done. I think we basically have a one-party system here in the US - not all_that_different,
really, than the 3rd world banana
republic with a single "candidate"
on the ballot, who, amazingly enough, consistantly gets 98% of the "vote". "Term" after "term".

People really need to stop thinking in terms such as "Republican" and "Democrat" , because this facade of a "difference" between the two is used to keep us divided and thus, conquered and under control.

It's time to start thinking in terms such as "Demopublicans" (or "Republicrats", if that makes you happy - it matters not one iota), and start seeing them for what they actually are: two sides of the very same coin, disagreeing among themselves perhaps over minor things such as window treatments, but united in their
efforts to continue the status quo.

BOTH sides of our one-party system
want to expand gov't, make it ever-more intrusive into every aspect of our lives, increase their own powers, defile the Constituion,
and wage unecessary and undeclared, unwinnable wars in countries that posed no threat to us, privatize the profits, and socialize the costs.

It's been said that people get the gov't they deserve, and in a way, I believe that's true - unfortunately, those of us who voted for Ron Paul now have to suffer, once again, the consequences of the majority's bad decisions.

May 14, 2009 3:45 AM  

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