Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Ethics, Government, Politics, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 6:26 am

The New York Times says of the debate over detainee rights: “It is one of those rare Congressional moments when the policy is as monumental as the politics.”

Indeed. And the fact that the debate is taking place almost solely and exclusively among Republicans and conservatives says volumes about the cynicism and lack of courage on the part of Democrats in both houses of Congress.

Perfectly content with throwing rhetorical bombs on the issue of detainee rights for months, not offering any solutions but rather tossing exaggerated epithets at the President and Republicans, Congressional Democrats are cowering on the sidelines as the most important debate in the War on Terror unfolds on the Hill:

At issue are definitions of what is permissible in trials and interrogations that both sides view as central to the character of the nation, the way the United States is perceived abroad and the rules of the game for what Mr. Bush has said will be a multigenerational battle against Islamic terrorists.

Democrats have so far remained on the sidelines, sidestepping Republican efforts to draw them into a fight over Mr. Bush’s leadership on national security heading toward the midterm election. Democrats are rapt spectators, however, shielded by the stern opposition to the president being expressed by three Republicans with impeccable credentials on military matters: Senators John McCain of Arizona, John W. Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The three were joined on Thursday by Colin L. Powell, formerly the secretary of state and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in challenging the administration’s approach.

If Democrats think they are being clever by not falling into the Republican “trap” of engaging in a debate on this issue, they have outthought themselves once again. All they are doing is being made to appear as weak and vacillating on matters related to the war as Republicans say they are. They are proving to the American people that they are unworthy of ascending to power this November by sitting on their hands while some of the most important issues relating to both our national security and national identity are decided.

What kind of country do we want to be? How much is our view of ourselves tied up in how others see us? Can we still protect ourselves while desiring to be a “good citizen” of the world? Can our Constitution be stretched in order to recognize the rights of those who wish to destroy us? How much power should be granted the Executive during a time of war?

These are not “political” questions in the traditional sense. And I doubt very much whether any nation in history has had such a unique and soulful argument about many of these issues that go to the heart of our sovereignty as well as the core of our Constitutional form of government.

At issue is the law - international and domestic - and how it should apply to prisoners who fall into our hands. On one side is the President and an obedient Congressional leadership who seek to have the broadest possible interpretation of international statutes relating to torture and the incarceration of prisoners. The President wants to give the CIA the authority to use “enhanced” interrogation techniques on high value prisoners while adjudicating the cases of other detainees using the rather blunt judicial instrument of Military Tribunals.

The problem with the former is that those lining up in opposition - notably Senator McCain and Colin Powell - fear that any deviation from a relatively strict interpretation of the Geneva Convention protocols will place captured American military and intelligence personnel in greater danger of being abused (although it is hard to imagine no matter what our policy about interrogations, how much more danger our people would be in if captured by al-Qaeda or a state that supports the terrorists).

As for the latter, the President wants Military Tribunals to be able to withhold evidence of a classified nature from detainees during their judicial proceedings. McCain & Co. want rules of evidence more in keeping with American Constitutional protections.

On this issue, both sides have strong arguments. Given the nature of the war and how it is being fought, oftentimes the only evidence gathered against a prisoner is via other interrogations or informants whose lives would be placed in danger if their identity were revealed. On the other hand, unless a detainee attorney can assess the evidence against his client, it becomes virtually impossible to defend him. And if the purpose of the Tribunal is to establish the guilt or innocence of the prisoner - a process desperately needed given the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances where many detainees at Guantanamo were captured - then one would hope that the more rigorous standards of evidence would be adopted for the proceedings.

The good news is that the President seems willing to compromise:

“The most important job of government is to protect the homeland, and yesterday they advanced an important piece of legislation to do just that,” Bush told reporters. “I’ll continue to work with members of the Congress to get good legislation so we can do our duty.”

The re-interpreting of Geneva Convention protocols against torture has drawn the most fire from McCain and his supporters. What the White House calls a “redefinition” many experts on international law say is an attempt to circumvent the Geneva articles while immunizing American personnel (especially the CIA) from any charges of war crimes. This is extremely shaky legal ground for the Administration and it has apparently not sat well with lawyers at the Pentagon:

Senior judge advocates general had publicly questioned many aspects of the administration’s position, especially any reinterpreting of the Geneva Conventions. The White House and GOP lawmakers seized on what appeared to be a change of heart to say that they now have military lawyers on their side.

But the letter was signed only after an extraordinary round of negotiations Wednesday between the judge advocates and William J. Haynes II, the Defense Department’s general counsel, according to Republican opponents of Bush’s proposal. The military lawyers refused to sign a letter of endorsement. But after hours of cajoling, they assented to write that they “do not object,” according to three Senate GOP sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were divulging private negotiations.

It is likely that this “redefinition” will be altered or even jettisoned in any final version of the bill.

The Republicans certainly had ulterior political motives in bringing this legislation to the fore 6 weeks before a mid term election in order to highlight the Democratic party’s unfitness and irresponsibility on national security issues. But the fact remains that the heartfelt opposition to the President’s proposals by conservatives carries far more weight in this debate than anything the politically motivated Democrats could muster. McCain, Powell, and the rest have proven that they are not only good Americans. They have also proven that they are good Republicans as well. This despite the probability that their opposition to the President will not win Republicans any votes in November nor advance their personal ambitions with core Republican supporters.

It proves to me that there are still people of conscience in the Republican party. In that respect, it may be worth it even if their opposition costs the party control of one or both houses of Congress in November.


James Joyner is in basic agreement (and makes the same comment I did about McCain’s rational regarding torture):

On the merits, I agree with McCain and company, although not necessarily for the reasons they give. It is patently absurd to argue that our terrorist enemies are going to abide by the Geneva Conventions if we do so.

Graham is right that abiding by international law and our living up to our ideals sends the correct message. I’m more skeptical than he is about our ability to persuade Muslims that we’re the good guys, given that their information is filtered through al Jazeera, the mullahs, and others hostile to us. Still, every documented American attrocity fuels the propaganda fire against us with very little offsetting advantage.

McQ at Q & O:

I agree. Now there are certainly appealing arguments to be made on both sides of the issue, but to this point, that’s really not happened. It is indeed refreshing, as Taylor points out, to see a policy discussion happening which isn’t completely driven by politics. It is equally refreshing to see the president go to Congress to discuss the issues.

Certainly, as the NYT article cited hints, politics will eventually enter the picture but for now, a hopefully honest and forthright debate on our nation and its principles is in the offing.

So for the time being ignore the press characterizations of this being a rebuff for Bush or a rebellion in the Republican ranks. It is something, had Congress been doing its job, which should have been settled long before this. And in this case, better late than never.

Sullivan (Hysterical as always but his heart is in the right place):

The sight of so many Republican senators and one former secretary of state finally standing up against the brutality and dishonor of this president’s military detention policies is a sign of great hope. It turns out there is an opposition in this country - it’s called what’s left of the sane wing of the GOP. Slowly, real conservatives are speaking out loud what they have long said in private. The apparatchiks of the pro-torture blogosphere can vent, but it is hard to demonize the new opposition as “leftist” or “hysterical.”

Andrew seems a little vexed that the President will use the issue as a club to beat the Democrats with. It is moronic to think the President would do otherwise. With the kind of opposition Republicans face - exaggerated and hyperbolic charges like those contained in Sullivan’s post - what does Andrew and the rest of the unhinged opposition think the President and Republicans are going to do? Sit back and let their opponents have an open field? Allow them the luxury of remaining quiet while they spout their nonsensical and unfair rhetoric?

As I point out in the post, Bush is in fact playing politics with the issue - any President of either party would do the same if placed in his position. To pretend otherwise is to ignore the major electoral dynamic that has been with us since Jefferson was elected: The best defense is a good offense.


  1. [...] Another look: “It is patently absurd to argue that our terrorist enemies are going to abide by the Geneva Conventions if we do so.” And don’t forget this has nothing to do with politics! Cowardly Democrats refuse to engage terror debate: “What kind of country do we want to be? How much is our view of ourselves tied up in how others see us? Can we still protect ourselves while desiring to be a “good citizen” of the world? Can our Constitution be stretched in order to recognize the rights of those who wish to destroy us? How much power should be granted the Executive during a time of war?” [...]

    Pingback by The Heretik » Blog Archive » Whatever It Takes — 9/15/2006 @ 9:23 am

  2. Random War Thoughts

    I wonder, would General George S. Patton, Jr be allowed to fight in a war today?

    Trackback by Fly At Night — 9/15/2006 @ 10:15 am

  3. Torture: A decent respect to the opinions of mankind

    General Colin Powell, among others, demonstrates that morality and decency vis-a-vis torture persists in some small quarters of the GOP, quarters that are opposing President Bush’s proposed legislation to repeal the Common Article 3 Geneva Convention…

    Trackback by Inactivist — 9/15/2006 @ 10:41 am

  4. I believe we abide by these rules of conduct to save our souls, not theirs.

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 9/15/2006 @ 11:59 am

  5. The Dems have this tactic of pulling back when the GOP is bickering (Harriet Myers). It’s an interesting tactic. I can’t fault them on the merits. But, they lose initiative.

    Comment by Chris — 9/15/2006 @ 12:35 pm

  6. Who would ever have believed that the President and the Congress of the United States of America would be having a debate about whether or not to torture prisoners. How low have we sunk as a nation?

    But what we’re seeing here isn’t just an isolated event. And I suspect that if Bush had managed to conduct the war in Iraq with just a bit more success than he has, we wouldn’t be having this debate.

    Senators McCain, Graham and Warner have begun the process of disengaging the GOP from the Bush administration’s military defeat. People are coming to the conclusion that we were led into an unwinnable debacle, and the time has come to get us out.

    It’s over. Bush lost. Move on.

    Comment by Stanis Flouride — 9/15/2006 @ 2:04 pm

  7. SF,

    I imagine when we see one or two American cities go up in flames because we’ve tried fighting this war on our enemy’s terms, there won’t be a whole hell of a lot more debate on the merits of torturing terrorists.

    Comment by Sirius Familiaris — 9/15/2006 @ 5:09 pm

  8. Sirius, you are foolish, Bush ain’t lost this yet, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.
    The dems simply want to offer more protection to a bunch of MURDEROUS THUGS than to our military or to us as the peolpe of this great nation.
    The more I think about mcpain, collins, graham and powell opting to give these creatons the use of our Supreme Court in trials, given classified info and afforded all the comforts our troops WOULD NEVER BE GIVEN, well it really pisses me off.
    I hope they all get voted out of office and mcpain will never be President and warner just lost my respect for what I used to call a southern gentleman.

    Comment by Drewsmom — 9/15/2006 @ 5:44 pm

  9. >The dems simply want to offer more protection to a bunch of MURDEROUS THUGS than to our military or to us as the peolpe of this great nation.

    Umm no, we want to live up to the ideals that make us a great nation.

    If the president wants to waterboard captives and believes is right he should just come out and say so.

    Ten years ago you folks were the same types running off to start militias because you feared the government so much.

    Now you’re ready to wet your pants, cause the bad guys are so mean. GW says just trust me, so you want to give the president the power throw anyone he pleases into a black hole never to be seen again.

    Unchecked power corrupts absolutely.

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 9/15/2006 @ 6:10 pm

  10. mr. bottoms, I choose to keep my child safe. I’m sorry I don’t agree with your side to keep the THUGS comfy during interragation time, for God’s sake, your side just gets more pc and loonier by the second and I’d head a militia if I thought it’d keep my family and my country safe, just wish your side loved America enough to say the same.
    Oh, and by the way, I do trust Bush, I’d never trust a dem at the helm.

    Comment by Drewsmom — 9/15/2006 @ 8:28 pm

  11. The Iraq war is not lost yet, however, it is very close to being lost. In order to win, changes will be needed. We either need to increase the number of troops or we need to scale back the mission. It’s hard to have much confidence in “stay the course.” Right now the results of the current policy don’t look promising.

    Any commitment of more troops to Iraq should only be done in a manner that is consistent with American national security. The most dangerous threats to American national security are from Russia and China, in that order. We must keep close watch on them and we must be flexible enough to project a credible deterent to them.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/15/2006 @ 10:21 pm

  12. >Oh, and by the way, I do trust Bush, I’d never >trust a dem at the helm.

    Well he has done such a good job of running two wars that Iraq is on the verge of sectarian collapse, meanwhile soldiers are on the fourth tours over there, and our military infrastructure is so chewed up by op tempo that the ability to even train here in the states is suffering.

    Afghanistan, a country we should have near total control over is churning out their biggest opium crops in history (which found who???) while the Taliban, yeah those guys, are enganing in standup fights with NATO and the US and anything outside of Kabul is in jeopardy.

    The war supporters are calling for more troops, but God knows where they’ll come from. And these manpower shortages exist because on September 12, 2001, or there abouts, the CINC declined to issue an calrion call to service and raise gas taxes to pay for it.

    Me, I already served my 13.5 years, even tried to re-enlist two years ago because I saw my Army being decimated even then.

    George Bush has had control of the agenda and both Houses of Congress for two years, and yet it’s come to this.

    We are losing two wars. And you may think clapping louder will keep Tinkerbell alive, but the stark nature of the mess we are in is becoming clearer every day.

    So I think perhpas it’s going to be time for the Democrats to take things for a spin.


    I am guessing right now about 64,000 Ford Motor Company, soon to be unemployed workers, will likely agree.

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 9/16/2006 @ 3:58 am

  13. Speaking of Afghanistan and our glorious CINC:

    There were the 4 of July bombings. In the last 2 weeks, there have been 2 rocket attacks, and 2 blasts that have killed 2 Brits (on Route Violet), and the last one that took those two yesterday. (One was a female E7, Army, and the other one was an E6, Army, just so you know I am not full of shit).

    The blame on the upswing in violence can be attributed to the one and only man who has tied our hands. You cannot protect a base from inside the wire.

    Since the 2 UK Soldiers died, we got our 1114’s back, and we are now allowed to wear our ACH’s. We however have for the last 6 months been trying to get armored protection for our gunners — there currently is none — & the Warlock IED defeating system. (We currently use something called an Acorn, that jams [x] frequencies).

    The largest weapon that we are allowed to mount is an M249 SAW. Our unit has everything that a SecFor unit is supposed to, but our hands are tied. We have Vets from Iraq, Kosovo, and others doing there 2nd tour here in the ‘Stan.

    Please inform your readers about what is going on, so that no more American or Coalition Soldiers die needlessly.

    SFFT.com (The Late Col. Hackworth’s Site)

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 9/16/2006 @ 4:04 am

  14. Joe Scarborough adds fuel to the growing “Abandon Bush” bonfire.

    Save Yourself, Blame Bush


    Comment by Salty Party Snax — 9/16/2006 @ 9:49 am

  15. William Kristol and Rich Lowry called on the Bush administration to send more troops to Iraq recently. I know many of you think it’s the evil Democrats who will keep that from happening. However, it seems the the CINC’s own mismanagement may be a more likely reason.

    The only problem with Kristol and Lowry’s recommendation is that it is premised on an illusion: In fact, there are no more troops to send to Iraq.

    That is the unmistakable message of an Army briefing making the rounds in Washington. According to in-house assessments, fully two-thirds of the Army’s operating force, both active and reserve, is now reporting in as “unready”—that is, they lack the equipment, people, or training they need to execute their assigned missions. Not a single one of the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams—its core fighting units—currently in the United States is ready to deploy. In short, the Army has no strategic reserve to speak of. The other key U.S. fighting force in Iraq, the Marine Corps, is also hurting, with much of its equipment badly in need of repair or replacement.
    No troops to send

    Comment by Richard Bottoms — 9/16/2006 @ 12:13 pm

  16. I was concerned about where we would get more troops for Iraq or Afghanistan. Its to bad neither party showed the leadership to call for an increase in the size of the military on 9/12/01. If they did, I missed it.

    If we are unable to devote the resources to Iraq, then we should pull back to Kurdish areas and monitor the civil war from there. We can intervene to ensure that Islamic terrorists don’t set up bases in the areas we abandon. Then we can work on increasing the size and strength of the military. Even if they are not used in Afghanistan or Iraq, they will be needed elsewhere. Right now a draft or substantial increase in the size of the military would be unpopular. Both Democrats and Republicans should lay out the stakes and call for an increase in the size and strength of hte military. If this means a draft, it means a draft.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/16/2006 @ 4:44 pm

  17. Salty Party Snax

    Great article from the WaPo by Joe Scarborough. He is correct. There is no way to cut taxes, increase spending, and fight a war all at the same time, however, it is overly simplistic to pin all of the blame on Bush. I hope we can get a real conservative as president when Bush’s term expires. Personally I’m sick of him.

    By pulling back to Kurdish areas and monitoring the situation from there we can do this with fewer troops and we can monitor the situation to ensure terrorists don’t set up bases. We need to get back to the basics of defending America. Reforming the middle east, while a worthy and possibly necessary goal, is simply more than Americans are prepared to do right now.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/16/2006 @ 5:00 pm

  18. “.. it is overly simplistic to pin all the blame on Bush.”

    It comes with living in the White House, B. Poster. And trying to evade that part of the job description has only made him appear even more ridiculous.

    I mean, have we ever had an administration who has spent so much time talking about who gets what blame? Kinda pussy if you think about it.

    Comment by Salty Party Snax — 9/16/2006 @ 6:26 pm

  19. Salty Party Snax

    You are right. It comes with living in the White House. The failure of this administration to hold people, especially Donald Rumsfeld accountable is infuriating. I’m sick of this Administration.

    You write: “I mean have we ever had an administration who has spent so much time talking about who gets what blame?…” I’m not sure. This President has done a lousy job explaining his case. He has essentially allowed his critics to define the playing field pretty much unopposed.

    In the article you link to the Katrina response and uncontrolled spending are discussed. In these areas, it is overly sinplistic to pin all of the blame on the President. The President does deserve a great deal of the blame for these things but to pin all the blame on the White House is oversimplistic and it obscures what we do face.

    Frankly the Republicans and this President deserve to lose their majorities in the House and Senate. I fully expect the Democrats to gain control of the House and probably the Senate. When they do gain control, I hope the first order of business will be border security, increasing the size and strength of the military, and cutting spending, in that order.

    If they must engage in impeachment hearings, I would respectfully request that they wait until after the GWOT is won. While impeachment of the president is probably warranted based on his gross negligence regarding border security and his presiding over uncontrolled spending, we don’t need the destraction right now. This would only divert resources that are needed to win the GWOT.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/16/2006 @ 6:52 pm

  20. “If they must engage in impeachment hearings, I would respectfully request that they wait until the GWOT is won.”

    So you’re proposing that Bush stay in the office of President for the rest of his life?

    Just kidding. But what is it about Bush’s leadership in the GWOT that makes you feel that he is the one essential man? Personally I can’t see anything good about Bush’s efforts in his so-called “war on terrorism.”

    The first step in defeating terrorism is getting some decent leadershiop in place. And in order to do that Bush has to be removed. 5 years of horribly managed and unrelenting disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan should be enough for anyone.

    Comment by Salty Party Snax — 9/16/2006 @ 9:21 pm

  21. SPS: The best thing about Bush’s leadership in the GWOT is there have been no attacks on the American home land, as I’m writing this. Also, the Iraqi Baathists and the Taliban have been removed from power. The Taliban is currently trying to retake Afghanistan and there is an Iraqi “insurgency.” I’d rather these guys be spending resources trying to recapture Afghanistan and Iraq than spending those resources on world wide terrorism but as you said clearly the results are lacking. Iraq and Afghanistan have proven much more difficult than we anticipated. It seems to me that there have not been enough troops in either place from the start, however, that may be over simplistic.

    “The first step to fighting terrorism is getting some decent leadership in place…” I agree. The unwillingness or inability by the Bush administration to hold anyone accountable has been infuriating. We can begin by replacing Rumsfeld. The Democrats are spot on here. They can follow this up by actually suggesting a replacement for Rumsfeld. I would suggest either Senator Lindsay Graham or General Eric Shinseki. More effort should be expended by both parties in trying to find actual solutions rather than trying to simply affix blame or avoid taking responsibilty.

    When the Democrats take the House, as they likely will. They can began by securing the borders and calling for massive increases in the size and capability of the Army. They will be in a better position to oversee the Bush administration than they are now. They should over see things to make sure their policies are implemented. As I stated previously, impeachment is probably warranted based on the complete failure to secure the borders and to increase the size of the military, however, at this time impeachment hearings would be a huge distraction. Those resources would be better spent providing over sight of the President and the Exeuctive branch and fighting the GWOT.

    Comment by B.Poster — 9/16/2006 @ 10:20 pm

  22. I am torn between protecting the homeland and throwing out all illegal immigrants and this other notion of us needing them to do our cheap labor. Once they become legal, won’t they no longer be doing the cheap labor? One think i know for sure, is that they better not be waving their countries flags around while asking us for citizenship. What on earth is up with that? They want to be citizens, so they decide to put on a parade and wave the flag of a different nation? And then they speak in a different language? HELLOO. We should kick people out for doing that. While I love the USA, when I go to China, I don’t wave my flag around…they should do the same.

    Comment by amanda — 9/18/2006 @ 4:24 pm

  23. When the supreme court overruled Bush, I thought I could forgive him because of what happened to the Pentagon, because that has never happened before in our great nation. When he went behind our backs and had the Senate vote for it again, I lost all respect. Don’t be fooled: if they say it is just a few levels down of interragation, it is really torture. Bush has brought himself down to the time of the inquisition, this is a terrible time in history,and all of our reputations will be ruined. That man who was found innocent on the tape was just going on a camping trip. The recent Canada fiasco was committed by the Americans.

    Comment by same message — 10/20/2006 @ 5:51 pm

  24. Bush has become Imperial. He thinks he is democratic, but his actions are toward his own goals. He does not respect or abide by the constitution if it is not in his interest and will change it to suit his needs. He is not interested in the American people but only his small powerful constutients. I never voted for him and I cannot say enough horrible things about him.

    Comment by cb — 10/20/2006 @ 7:45 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress