Frank Rich gave good op-ed in his NYT piece "The 'Good Germans' Among Us" back in mid-October. And the image accompanying the piece was none-too-subtle. For those of you who missed it, I've reprinted it below.
You know, there's no real point when one can actually point to when we lose our freedoms. The fact that movies like this can even be made makes this point clear as crystal, since incidents like this have actually already happened.
So when are our democratic freedoms lost? When this happens to only one guy? Ten? A hundred? Or ten thousand? And I love how one of the main justifications used for torture, kidnapping, or denying people of basic human rights is that "they" are not American citizens, and the "Bill of Rights does not apply overseas."
Great. The freedoms we fight for only apply to us, but we don't believe in them deeply enough to apply them to when we deal with other people in the world? Lovely.
Or is "rendition" OK, since it just didn't happen to me, or won't, since I don't "look like a terrorist" or "fit a profile" anyway?
America already has gulags in Guantanamo, and we've rented out the old ones of our enemies, across Eastern Europe to Abu Graib – the irony of which having been the legendary torture chamber used by Saddam's Hussein's secret police being lost in the shuffle of the scandal itself.
I wonder how great the US would have looked in the eyes of history if we had started torturing former Nazis and other German bad guys in SS prisons, using their own interrogation techniques, e.g. "Verschärfte Vernehmung", which the Bush administration has been digging in its heels to defend as legal for the US to perform.
When you translate the Bush administration's term for "enhanced interrogation" techniques, it just happens to be the direct, literal, and most accurate translation of "Verschärfte Vernehmung." Beautiful.
So I wonder if that literally came from the pages of the Gestapo handbook, or it was just an interesting coincidence. Actually – does it matter? Either way, that's some scary shit, people.
Umm, and the 1984-speakword "rendition" may not have a German equivalent, but the act itself does – this is where the government can detain, arrest, and imprison you without charges, strip you of your citizenship, deport you, or even worse (do you actually think there's not a "worse", if the stuff they actually legally can do to you is this bad?) – oh, that's not reality yet.
Right? So don't worry, since Patriot Act II (which would have given the government just such powers) didn't yet come to pass. And was anyone else shocked when reporters were sniffing around, and the Republican sponsors of the bill denied its existence to the press, but then 'fessed up after it was leaked in its entirety?
I hope you all are staying awake for this ongoing performance art piece, in which the Bush administration continues to take a slow and drippy shit on the hallowed grounds of American democratic principles even as our fearless leader proceeds to use the Bill of Rights to wipe his ass.
And he's doing it with that smug, yet slightly confused smile.
Is this what the Founders wanted? Maybe war hawk and near fascist-Federalist John Adams, who was the first example of why the Bill of Rights was absolutely necessary (Alien and Sedition laws, hello?!) or Alexander Hamilton, who had always wanted the American president to be elected for life – but not the anti-Federalists, who were rightly distrustful of authority and the tendency for power to corrupt and for the government to overstep its bounds: people like Samuel Adams (whom most people only know for the beer of the same name today, unfortunately) or Thomas Jefferson.
And for those who pooh-pooh all the people whining about the loss of rights here and there, over what seem like minor points and quibbles, one should be reminded that the ability for me even to say things like "Bush is a dick" now, or whomever is in power in 2050, or for people on the street criticizing Adams back in 1798 – these are all things that wouldn't have happened without that little document that the Bush administration seems to think is a piece of extra-fluffy Charmin:
Last month , Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act.
Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell shocked period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had joined forces with prominent conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.
GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
"I don't give a goddamn," Bush retorted. "I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."
"Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."
"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"
I've talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution "a goddamned piece of paper."
And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of the United States is little more than toilet paper stained from all the shit that this group of power-mad despots have dumped on the freedoms that "goddamned piece of paper" used to guarantee.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White House counsel, wrote that the "Constitution is an outdated document."
Praise God and pass the ammunition, baby! This presidency's going on, damn the torpedoes, Warp Factor 9! Bring it ON!
Maybe it takes "one named Kirk" to explain it?