Thursday, April 30, 2009

Does Virginia Foxx typify the GOP?

The recent statement by U.S. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx on the House floor that the hate crime against Matthew Shepard is only a "hoax" is inexcusable. Foxx has since claimed that "hoax" was a poor choice of words. In my opinion, Foxx is the poor choice.

Foxx typifies the current GOP, which is being dominated by far right elements. Politicians like Foxx and Michele Bachmann and ideologues like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are driving moderates out of the GOP. Arlen Specter is only the first of many Republicans who will leave the GOP, in my opinion. As the GOP moves more to the right it will also decrease in size. It could cease being of national political importance.

Will a New GOP emerge, like New Coke? Although moderate Republicans are likely to leave the GOP, few of them will join the Democratic Party as did Specter. They are, after all, conservatives, albeit moderate. They could and should create a new conservative party, a New GOP. If only they had a leader.

I can imagine a Congress balanced between a New GOP and Obama's Democrats enacting bipartisan legislation. I can imagine it but I can't believe in it.

Let's see what the elections of 2010 bring. Until then I'll have to be satisfied with legislation carried by Obama's Majority Democrats and uniformly, but insignificantly, opposed by the Minority Republicans. Until then conservative Americans will only be represented by the Party of No.

Monday, April 27, 2009

McCain Opposes Torture But Wouldn't Prosecute

McCain was on Face The Nation on April 26 to confirm that he is opposed to using torture but would neither investigate the matter further nor prosecute anybody involved. He said that the U.S. understands that the use of torture was wrong and will not use torture in the future. He said the country needs to move on. McCain feels that enough is known about what happened, how it happened and who was involved. He's concerned that if we criminalize bad legal advice, others will refuse to serve. He feels that the torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib lead to an increase in the number of people joining the Iraqi insurgency, however, he isn't concerned that other nations will ignore the Geneva Convention ban on torture because they know that they will held accountable if they do. Throughout the interview McCain maintained a straight face, appearing to believe everything that he was saying, and apparently confident that the majority of the TV audience would also believe him.

McCain is wrong. The people responsible for the use of torture do not agree that they were wrong and, led by Dick Cheney, continue to argue that waterboarding is not torture and in any case it was justified by information extracted from the detainees. As long as the debate exists there is a chance that future administrations will resort to torture. The U.S. does not know the process by which waterboarding and other forms of torture were approved. The U.S. does not know who was involved. I am not concerned about any person who will refuse to work for the government because he/she will be prosecuted if they violate the law or approve of others violating the law. I don't want people like that serving in our government in any capacity. The majority of U.S. citizens wants this matter investigated so that those responsible for approving and ordering the use of torture are punished according to the law.

The U.S. should punish its own violators to the same extent that past violators have been punished by the U.S. and to the same extent that we would punish other countries if they torture in the future. The U.S. is not above the law or the treaties it has signed and cannot be held to a different and more lenient standard. McCain's attitude that we need not punish ourselves but we will certainly punish others is unacceptable to me, unacceptable to the majority of our citizens and certainly unacceptable to the rest of the world.

McCain felt that President Ford did the right thing for America when he pardoned Richard Nixon and McCain feels that it would be appropriate for Obama to do the same thing by pardoning everybody that was involved in the torture of detainees. The situation is by no means the same. The U.S. thoroughly investigated and prosecuted everybody involved in the Watergate Break in and its cover-up. Only Richard Nixon was spared legal prosecution, however, he was not spared punishment. The country as a whole condemned his actions and he resigned the presidency in shame. Recent war crimes by the U.S. have not been investigated adequately. We do not know who is ultimately responsible for the crimes. The U.S. government has not determined officially that its treatment of detainees was a war crime. The U.S. government has not denounced those that continue to justify how the detainees were treated.

We have always prosecuted war criminals even when the crime was committed by our military. We should not make an exception for the war crimes committed during the Bush administration. To do so increases that likelihood that the U.S. and other countries will commit these crimes in the future.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The End does not always justify the Means

I'm shocked that so many people who were or are involved in governing the United States of America believe that torture is justified as long as it yields beneficial results. Is rape justified if the rapist has an orgasm? I say it is not and I feel the same way about torture.

Dick Cheney is calling for the government to release documents that will prove that beneficial information was gained through the use of torture. It doesn't make any difference; torture is wrong. Rape is wrong. Cheney was and is wrong.

I think that Obama made a mistake when he ordered that no CIA personnel could be punished for using torture. I think his recommendation to look forward and not into the past is foolish. All crimes are acts of the past; should we not punish all criminals? Following orders is not an excuse. 9-11 is not an excuse. Protecting America is no excuse for torture. We punished, in fact we executed, many government officials and military personnel that claimed that they were only following orders when they used torture during WWII. Was that time less dangerous than during the Bush presidency after 9-11? No. Are our torturers less guilty? No.

In my opinion Obama is obligated to enforce the laws of this country and our treaties. The Dept of Justice should investigate and prosecute these "admitted" crimes without exception. High rank and high office does not put one above the law and exempt from punishment. Nixon was wrong when he said "it's not a crime when you are the president." It is, in my opinion, a bigger crime deserving of harsher punishment when it is committed by the president.

If these criminals, especially those responsible for justifying and ordering the use of torture, go unpunished it will open the door for future leaders to do the same when they feel events justify it. Who have we become if we do less?