Friday, December 5, 2008

An extended quote by Glenn Greenwald regarding Democrats and their supporters with regard to torture

Here's what he sez:
...I'll never cease to be amazed at the infantile way that so many people view political debates. Apparently, just like a junior high school football game, there are two teams -- the Democrats and the Republicans -- and, before the game begins, everyone picks which team is theirs, and then cheers for them no matter what. Hence, Dianne Feinstein has a "D" after her name, which means she's "on my side," which means it's irrational to criticize her too much, because she's one of my team members.

Except: like so many Senate Democrats, Feinstein has supported one measure after the next that I find objectionable in the extreme (see here and here). Huge numbers of Congressional Democrats in general have not only supported one radical, destructive Bush policy after the next -- from the Military Commission Act, the Iraq War, warrantless eavesdropping, telecom immunity, Patriot Act renewals and so much more -- but many of their leaders were aware of and actively assented to many of the most extreme and anti-Constitutional of those abuses, including Bush's torture and illegal surveillance programs. Even the best of them -- such as Ron Wyden, whose comments I criticized yesterday -- have, on occasion, voted for grotesque measures such as denying Guantanamo detainees the right of habeas corpus review.

How adolescent does someone have to be to view political disputes through a binary "team" prism where you cheer for people who are said, somehow, to be on "your side" -- even though they do and say things that fundamentally violate one's core political values and are wildly destructive? These are politicians. They all benefit from skepticism and pressure, not blind, pom-pom-waving support. They deserve support when they do good things, opposition when they don't, and pressure and scrutiny at all times.

In particular, Congressional Democrats have not exactly covered themselves with glory when it comes to civil liberties, defending the Constitution, and impeding the worst aspects of the Bush agenda. To the contrary, they've acquiesced to virtually all of it and enabled much of it. Dianne Feinstein, using her influential positions on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, has been among the worst. Anyone who sits back and assumes that they're going to do the right thing when it comes to interrogation and surveillance policies all because they have the glorious "D" after their name hasn't been paying attention to anything over the last several years.

There are going to be all sorts of pressures exerted from many different directions. Feinstein, in her follow-up statement yesterday to Scherer, even seemed to suggest that she expected Obama officials might be the ones who exert some of that pressure. The CIA and their supporters aren't just going to sit back and let Congress straitjacket them, as they perceive it, without a serious fight. Congressional Democrats have demonstrated no willingness whatsoever to take a stand on any of these issues. It's nothing short of delusional to think they're going to do that now without constant vigilance and pressure being exerted -- all because they're Democrats and therefore they must be good and inherently deserving of giddy cheerleading from those "on their side."

UPDATE: There is one other point worth noting, especially in light of Feinstein's odd statement yesterday "that she may be willing to be talked back from that position [using the AFM as the standard] by the Obama Administration, if it chooses to do so," and, more generally in light of the obvious discomfort Democrats are exhibiting on this issue right now.

Here is the very specific and emphatic pledge Barack Obama made last December when answering a questionnaire on executive power and related issues sent by Charlie Savage, then of The Boston Globe:

As President I will abide by statutory prohibitions, and have the Army Field Manual govern interrogation techniques for all United States Government personnel and contractors.

That's quite a solid vow, with no real wiggle room. I have never personally argued that the Army Field Manual is the only, or even best, way to end torture. But Democrats -- and Obama -- have argued that, repeatedly, and have vowed to use it as the standard for defining permissible interrogations techniques. It will be interesting to see how much flexibility their supporters are willing to accord them if, as they are now obviously at least toying with, they decide they do not want to pursue that course of action. Much of that will, I presume, depend on what their alternative is. Still, Obama's pledge was quite emphatic.

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