Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A Vote for a Republican is a Vote for Torture

An article posted this evening on the New York Times website raises some serious issues about the legistlative branch of the government. The article itself is about Alberto Gonzales and the (pending) Senate vote to confirm him to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General. It's been well-documented that Mr. Gonzales wrote some memos pertaining to questions of international law which, among other things, sought to render impotent the Geneva Conventions (which exist in part to protect troops engaged in enemy combat) and to gloss over the interrogation methods the United States has been utilizing during the Bush regime -- namely, to re-define torture so narrowly that the word would no longer mean what most people believe it to mean. There exists a firm paper trail suggesting strongly that the torture going on courtesy of the land of the free and the home of the brave is something that is well-known throughout the Pentagon, including the Secretary of War -- oh, sorry, the Secretary of Defense -- Donald Rumsfield. Though the kids at Abu Ghraib were unlucky enough to get caught and made scapegoats, there is plenty of compelling evidence that shows that the incidents there were hardly isolated and that torture has, in fact, become a standard interrogation technique used on certain prisoners. This is not just illegal and disgusting, it flies in the face of what the US is supposed to be about: whatever our shortcomings, we're supposed to be the good guys. Folks who go around invading countries and torturing people are not good guys. Reality check, folks.

Admittedly, as my own personal bitterness toward the horrible mess my country is in grows, it becomes harder and harder to see the alternate point of view. Though I'm hardly in agreement with the Democrats in all things, I find that I am almost never in agreement any more with the Republicans.

According to the article, the Gonzales vote is split entirely along partisan lines. I cannot honestly see that anyone aware of the facts would want a man who flouts the law, imperils the US military and condones torture, as Attorney General. Is it just me? If it is in fact true that all Republicans are lining up behind Gonzales, then any respect I still have for the Republican party becomes nullified. The legistlative branch of the government is supposed to represent the population of this country. Now, I know this is going to sound insane, but it's not supposed to be about what your party affliation is, it's about right and wrong. It's about doing the right thing. It's about doing the absolute best you can for the people you represent. Does that apply here? Does anyone honestly feel that Gonzales is truly qualified for the job based on a well-known pattern of behavior showing a career largely based upon grabbing ahold of Bush's coat-tails and protecting him against all comers, whether it's jury duty or possible indictment on war crimes? How can anyone really truly think this guy would make an acceptable Attorney General?

To all the Republicans who are currently singing his praises, I can only suggest that one day, you will indeed be held up against a harsh light of history and the choices you make will live on, your names linked by the choices you've made to what is happening right now in this country.

Some highlights from the article:

  • "Every Hispanic-American in the country is watching," said Senator Orrin G. Hatch
  • No Republicans have indicated any wavering in their support. Nor, by midafternoon, after more than five hours of debate, had any Democrat spoken in favor of the nominee.
  • The senator [Arlen Specter] said it was "not irrelevant" that Mr. Gonzales would be the first Hispanic attorney general, since his background would give him a broader perspective on civil rights, immigration and other issues.
  • "The torture policies that Mr. Gonzales pursued on behalf of the administration have done immeasurable damage to American's standing in the world, have undermined our military rules and traditions, and exposed our own soldiers and citizens to greater risks," Senator Boxer said.
  • Ms. Mikulski said Mr. Gonzales had "created a whole new framework" that eventually led to the torture of detainees and had failed perhaps the most important test of all, "telling the president 'no' and speaking the truth to power."
  • But Senator Hatch said Mr. Gonzales was "a good, decent, honorable man," and that some people were trying to make him a scapegoat for the actions of "renegade soldiers" who had mistreated prisoners.
  • The Republican National Committee's deputy communications director, Danny Diaz, made a similar assertion. To block the "eminently qualified" nominee would be "neither good policy nor good politics," he said in a statement.

    "Obstructing his nomination would show that Democrats still don't understand the ramifications of an election where President Bush increased his share of the Hispanic vote by 9 percent over 2000," Mr. Diaz said.

So, if understand this properly, the Republicans are insinuating that the Democrats are against the nomination because they're either: a) racist or b) displaying partisan support for their party.
I suppose c) some Democratic senators simply feel horrified by what Gonzales has come to stand for and want to distance themselves from any association with him at all, simply never occurred to the Republicans who apparently kept straight faces while accusing the Democrats of racism.

Hatch deserves special mention for dusting off the old chestnut that the kids at Abu Ghraib were just a few bad apples, don't you know? and the United States would never, but never, condone any such behavior. Gee, what about those memos? What about the other documentation? Planted by the Democrats to make Gonzales look bad? I don't think so.

I know none of this is going to make any difference. Gonzales will become Attorney General. He is likely to be an even worse Attorney General than Ashcroft, so it will be another four very rocky years for civil liberties already pretty much crushed to powder under the authoritarian boot heel. And the Republicans will congratulate themselves on how they've handled things -- that they showed those pesky Democrats what for, sure enough, and that one of these days, the Democrats were going to wake up & realize that the Republicans hold all the cards and have the deck stacked besides. Heady days for the Republicans.

But I must hold out the hope that at some point in the future, the Republicans will find themselves being judged, and will be found wanting in all respects.

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