The Senate today passed the Torture and Indefinite Detention Authorization Act of 2006. This is black day for the country and for humanity. Several thousand years of attempts to control arbitrary authority and to reduce brutality were thrown overboard. All but one member of the Torture Party voted in favor. Twelve members of the Spineless Party also supported the measure. Others in the Spineless Party made lovely speeches before departing for dinner. As far as I can tell, not one Senator bothered to attempt a filibuster. Freedom wasn’t worth it. After all, if the Spineless Party lies down and lets themselves be run over enough times, they might be granted the keys to the torture chambers one day.
In response, some people say we should vote for more of the Spineless Party. They seem to have a theory that adding on invertebrates will somehow add up to a spine. They neglect to say how this miracle would occur. Of course, if you are in the majority, it’s even more essential to show that you can be “responsible,” that you won’t challenge the Torture Party in any but the most minor of ways.
The country is in such bad shape that I’ll probably root for the Spineless Party, but holding my nose will not be enough to keep out the stench of internal rot.
Glenn Greenwald gives an example of the Profiles in Infamy that occurred today:
Jay Rockefeller (who voted for this bill) is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. When he was defending the amendment he introduced to compel the CIA to disclose to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees information about their interrogation activities, he complained that the White House has concealed all information about the interrogation program and that the Intelligence Committee members (including him) therefore know nothing about it. His amendment to compel reports to Congress was defeated with all Republicans (except Chafee) voting against it. He proceeded to vote for the underlying bill anyway, thereby legalizing a program he admits he knows nothing about (and will continue to know nothing about).
During the debate on his amendment, Arlen Specter said that the bill sends us back 900 years because it denies habeas corpus rights and allows the President to detain people indefinitely. He also said the bill violates core Constitutional protections. Then he voted for it.
He goes on to make clear that the Spineless Party lacks more than a spine. They also lack a brain [and a heart]:
ut it is still difficult to understand the Democrats’ strategy here. They failed to try to mount a filibuster because they feared being attacked as coddlers of the terrorists. But now they voted against the bill in large numbers, thereby ensuring those exact accusations will be made anyway — and made loudly (the White House already started today). Yet they absented themselves the whole time from the debate (until they magically appeared today), spent the last several weeks only tepidly (at most) opposing the President’s position, and thus lost the opportunity to defend and advocate the position they took today in any meaningful way. As a result, the Democrats took a position today (opposition to this bill) which they have not really defended until today.
They make this same mistake over and over. Isn’t this exactly what happened when they sort-of-supported-but-sort-of-opposed the Iraq war resolution in 2002 because they were afraid of being depicted as soft on terrorism, only to then be successfully depicted as soft on terrorism because they were too afraid to forcefully defend their position? It’s true that fewer Democrats voted for the President’s policy this time around, but it’s equally true that they found their voice only on the last day of the debate — on the day of the vote — after disappearing for weeks while they let John McCain “debate” for them.
To be fair, unlike me, Greenwald sees a silver lining:
Nonetheless, it is fair to say, given how lopsided this vote was (both in the House and the Senate), that the Republicans are the party of torture, indefinite and unreviewable detention powers, and limitless presidential power, even over U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. By contrast, Democrats have opposed these tyrannical, un-American and truly dangerous measures. Even if Democrats didn’t oppose them as vociferously as they could have and should have, this is still a meaningful and, at this point, critically important contrast.
Unfortunately, I think he’s grasping at straws, straws which have already broken into a multitude of nearly invisible pieces.
In any case, September 28, 2006 will go down as the day that the abolishment of freedom began and the torture descended on what was once a noble experiment.
September 28th, 2006