Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Must-Do List -- First Steps On The Road To National Sanity

I've been nodding and smiling at something I've been reading on the Editorial page of the New York Times, and thinking "These are some of the first steps on the road to national sanity".

Now I could be wrong; I've been wrong before, and to tell you the truth, sanity is not exactly my strong suit. But I've got a deadline, so let's look at the piece together anyway...

It's called "The Must-Do List" and it starts out like this (with emphasis added):
The Bush administration’s assault on some of the founding principles of American democracy marches onward despite the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections. The new Democratic majorities in Congress can block the sort of noxious measures that the Republican majority rubber-stamped. But preventing new assaults on civil liberties is not nearly enough.

Five years of presidential overreaching and Congressional collaboration continue to exact a high toll in human lives, America’s global reputation and the architecture of democracy. Brutality toward prisoners, and the denial of their human rights, have been institutionalized; unlawful spying on Americans continues; and the courts are being closed to legal challenges of these practices.

It will require forceful steps by this Congress to undo the damage. A few lawmakers are offering bills intended to do just that, but they are only a start. Taking on this task is a moral imperative that will show the world the United States can be tough on terrorism without sacrificing its humanity and the rule of law.

Today we’re offering a list — which, sadly, is hardly exhaustive — of things that need to be done to reverse the unwise and lawless policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Many will require a rewrite of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, an atrocious measure pushed through Congress with the help of three Republican senators, Arlen Specter, Lindsey Graham and John McCain; Senator McCain lent his moral authority to improving one part of the bill and thus obscured its many other problems.
The bulk of the editorial consists of sections with the following headings:
Restore Habeas Corpus
Stop Illegal Spying
Ban Torture, Really

Close the C.I.A. Prisons
Account for ‘Ghost Prisoners’
Ban Extraordinary Rendition

Tighten the Definition of Combatant
Screen Prisoners Fairly and Effectively

Ban Tainted Evidence
Ban Secret Evidence
Better Define ‘Classified’ Evidence
Respect the Right to Counsel
The concluding paragraphs are mostly quite good, in my view:
Beyond all these huge tasks, Congress should halt the federal government’s race to classify documents to avoid public scrutiny — 15.6 million in 2005, nearly double the 2001 number. It should also reverse the grievous harm this administration has done to the Freedom of Information Act by encouraging agencies to reject requests for documents whenever possible. Congress should curtail F.B.I. spying on nonviolent antiwar groups and revisit parts of the Patriot Act that allow this practice.

The United States should apologize to a Canadian citizen and a German citizen, both innocent, who were kidnapped and tortured by American agents.

Oh yes, and it is time to close the Guantánamo camp. It is a despicable symbol of the abuses committed by this administration (with Congress’s complicity) in the name of fighting terrorism.
I agree with every point except the last.

In July of 2005 I expressed my disagreement with those who were saying we should close Guantánamo, and since that time I have not seen any reason to change my mind on this point.

Why do I disagree? At the risk of quoting an unreliable source, the piece was called "Unpopular Thoughts About Popular Causes" and the relevant passage ran:
I was [...] asked last week to promote an effort to force the administration to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, which is, of course, notorious for reports of torture as well as the issue of indefinite confinement without charge or trial or right to appeal or contact with family or a lawyer. Who could support such a thing? Even if the prisoners [whom the administration chooses to call "detainees"] weren't being abused, who could support such a thing??

"Close Gitmo", goes the cry. And who could resist? This was not spam; the plea came from an online friend, whose work I admire. But I was not moved.

Regular readers of this space will know that this cold and lowly blogger rails against the administration's policy of ever-spreading torture chambers above all else ... still the Winter Patriot does not support the movement to "Close Gitmo".

Why? First of all because of the reasons that are usually given by those who want Gitmo closed. "It gives propaganda opportunities to America's enemies" and so on. Maybe I could think about supporting the movement if I heard a lot more of "THIS IS WRONG" and a lot less of "THIS MAKES US LOOK BAD". But not likely.

It's deja vu all over again: and I've seen the same mistake before, too. Most recently it was a little boy picking his nose. His mother reprimanded him, saying: "Stop that; it's disgusting. Who wants to see that? I don't want to see that! If you want to pick your nose then go up to your room and pick your nose where I don't have to look at you." But the father said: "Knock it off! Don't pick your nose; it's disgusting."

You see what I'm saying? If they close Gitmo and keep torturing people in Abu Ghraib, Bagram, other places we don't even know about; plus ships at sea or anchored at Diego Garcia; plus so-called "extraordinary rendition", where people are kidnapped and shipped to foreign countries to be tortured by proxy ... as long as they do ANY of these things, we should be shouting "Stop The Torture!"

Not "Torture People Elsewhere!"

Not "Do That Where I Don't Have To Look At It!"

But a good straightforward "Knock It Off!!"

As long as they are unwilling to knock it off then I say they should keep Gitmo open. I think if they're going to keep doing these things then they should keep them doing them where we can see them. So the world will know what sort of evil lurks in the hearts of the monsters who have taken over our country.