Monday, November 06, 2006

Damn Straight!!!!

Ted Koppel, in one of his infrequent op-ed contributions to the NYTimes, tears BushCo LLC a new asshole in his typically understated style (The Long, Cost-Free War is hidden behind the Times Select subscription wall). It starts out with Koppel visiting the United States Central Command and watching video of drones policing the globe with oversight from personnel watching video monitors.
To the degree that such a war can be fought at arm’s length, with a minimum of friendly casualties, it will be. To the extent that victory can be achieved with a minimum of personal sacrifice, the Bush administration will try to do so.

Senior members of the administration frame that struggle in existential terms. They invoke the nightmarish possibility of a 9/11 on steroids — a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction, rattling the very foundations of our society. The Bush administration uses that frightening image to justify a new worldview, within which even associating with someone who belongs to an organization on the United States terrorist list justifies prosecution here at home.

This practice falls into the category of what Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty calls “preventative prosecution.” It’s an interesting concept: a form of anticipatory justice. Faced with the possible convergence between terrorism and a weapon of mass destruction, the argument goes, the technicality of waiting for a crime to be committed before it can be punished must give way to pre-emption.

Set aside for a moment the somewhat jarring notion of recalibrating our constitutional protections here at home while our soldiers and diplomats are given the thankless mission of spreading democracy in some of the most inhospitable regions of the Middle East.

There is a whiff of hypocrisy about conjuring up visions of a nuclear or biological holocaust while urging the American public to go about its business and recreation as usual.

We are advised to adjust to the notion of warrantless wiretaps at home, unaccountable C.I.A. prisons overseas and the rendition of suspects to nations that feature prominently on the State Department’s list of human rights abusers, because the threats we face are “existential.”

But apparently they are not existential enough to warrant any kind of widely shared commitment or sacrifice, like increased taxes or a military draft to meet the Pentagon’s growing need for manpower.

One can share the Bush administration’s perception that the United States confronts real threats that will not be eliminated easily or soon, but still find it impractical and immoral to get on with life as usual while placing the burden solely on the shoulders of the young men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, their families and friends.

We are left with the impression that the grown-ups in Washington would prefer to make the difficult decisions for us without involving the courts, Congress or the press. That is precisely the wrong way to go about winning this war. Back when the United States was widely admired, it was for all that was most cumbersome about our democratic process.

America’s efforts to transplant democracy elicit none of that admiration. How can they, when we appear to have lost confidence in fundamental aspects of democracy here at home? What has historically impressed our allies and adversaries has been our often flawed, but ultimately sincere, determination to operate within the law — if not always abroad, then at least within the United States.

[...]

One might have expected that these issues would feature prominently in the debate leading up to the Congressional elections. They are scarcely mentioned.

Apparently unnerved by the unceasing White House harangue that they are ill suited to waging the war on terrorism, Democrats have largely forfeited the argument that “war,” particularly a “long war,” may be the wrong prism through which to view the dangers facing the United States.

Those who once argued that the task was one for police and intelligence agencies have been mocked into silence. Democrats have given a wide berth to the invasion of privacy, selective suspension of habeas corpus and the mistreatment of detainees, preferring instead to echo the drumbeat of Republican warnings about terrorism in general.

There is a war to be waged. We should be building protective ramparts around our legal system, safeguarding our own freedoms, focusing on our own carefully constructed democracy and leading by example.

It’s too bad that we have so little confidence in the most powerful weapon in America’s arsenal.


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