Saturday, September 23, 2006

Time to stop being cowardly

This is a message to all Democratic members of the Congress, and I hope it's heard by all of their constituents.

This is it. This is your last test. You've failed a whole bunch of them, acting like a pack of whipped dogs, and think you've still got some heart in you because you manage to yip a little bit when the lash falls too hard.

This is it.

There is a bill that will make turn the United States into a nation that has ceased to care about justice. Oh, it will still go through the motions for its citizens, and it might even go through the motions for its non-citizens... but there will be no heart left in it.

It's the "compromise" bill hammered out by the Republicans over prisoner trials and torture.

Yes, that's right, I said torture. They won't be able to break any bones, or cut people open in serious ways, some of the most egregious methods of torture will be forbidden, but the door will be open to allow torture.

And just because it's not cutting people's fingers off, doesn't mean it's not torture. You can beat a man with a rubber hose, and not cause serious injury... but it's still torture.

What makes this bill so terrible?

First, it says that no detainee can demand that the US show cause to hold him (or her), or release him.

If we have cause to hold these people, for god's sakes, keep them behind bars. But if they've been picked up by mistake, and if we can't justify holding them, for God's sake, release them.

Did you notice that little change in capitalization? See, all these Republican leaders claim to believe in God, but God believes in justice, and would never approve of people being held without cause. Hell, Bush says his favorite philosopher was Jesus; read the Gospels and tell me if Jesus would approve of imprisoning someone without cause.

Look: whenever you try to imprison the guilty, sure, you'll make mistakes. You'll look at all the evidence, and think an innocent person is guilty, and that's not okay, it's a terrible injustice... but at least you have cause. That's why it's only a mistake. To hold a person when the evidence doesn't justify it is blatant injustice.

If this bill passes, it's a way of saying we don't care if a blatant injustice occurs. We'll trust President Bush to decide who needs to be held and who can be released. He'll undoubtedly use "good, solid intelligence", the kind he used when he invaded Iraq, claiming there were large stockpiles of WMDs.

Is there anyone who can think that's a good idea these days? Come on! Intel gathering is an inherently fuzzy process, and can't help but make mistakes. That's why we need to allow prisoners to challenge their detentions, and release them if it turns out the spies made a mistake. It's not like we haven't seen them make dozens already!

Back to the horrors of this bill. Second: the bill allows torture. It'll have to be careful torture, it'll have to require an absence of serious physical injury, and it'll have to be described in a way that doesn't sound too damaging to the psyche. But let me assure you, if you can't imagine a way to put a person through horrible suffering under those guidelines, professional interrogators can.

If it was done to you, you'd call it torture. If it was done to a friend or a family member, you'd demand vengeance. And that means it's torture, and it's something that a nation that cares about justice must refuse to engage in.

Finally: it would allow us to hold mock trials. Oh, not every single trial would be a mockery, but some would be certain to be.

Crucial evidence regarding a person's guilt could be held back from the defense. The prosecution would have to do no more than say "we have evidence that tends to prove the defendent did X, Y, and Z."

How can a defendent question such a vague statement? How can a defendent point out that the witness is a known liar, who hates the defendent? How can the defendent find out that the witness wasn't even present at the event? How can the defendent point out that, while a certain piece of evidence looks bad, other, stronger evidence shows the truth, that the defendent is really and truly innocent?

Without letting defendents have full access to the evidence to be presented against them, we can't be sure that the verdict is based upon the truth, because we'll know that we might have prevented the defendent from establishing the truth.

This bill is beyond bad; it is a gross travesty of justice, and it's long past time the Democrats stood up, and remembered they care about justice... even if the Republican leadership has decided that they don't.

Standing up and opposing this bill might lose the election. Tough shit. This isn't about elections, this is about right and wrong. If you'll allow a gross injustice to occur to maintain your precious elected office, then you're no longer worthy of serving in that office.

And don't tell me that your opponent this November is worse. You see, Democrats know better. They know this bill is an abomination, a travesty of American values. A Democrat who would allow this bill to become law is worse than a Republican, who at least can whine about party loyalty.

It's time to stop being cowards; it's time to stop being a pack of whipped dogs.

It's time to show some courage, and turn from cowardly canines to a pack of wolves, ready to attack, to fight, to protect the very moral fabric of our nation.

Many a voter thinks there's no difference between you and the Republicans. They think you have no values, that you're lost, and adrift.

If you don't do everything in your power to stop this bill, they'll be completely correct.

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