Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Parsing endorsement of torture


That's what the Senate has been doing for the last few days, while deciding to whether to deny Bush-designated "enemy combatants" access to legal review of why they are being held. There was a dreadful Graham amendment to do away with habeas corpus passed by the Republican majority, some more-Republican-than-Democrat Senators from very red states, and the atrocious Joe Lieberman, then a Bingaman amendment that was better, then a compromise or three. Also some kind of statement asking the President to explain his Iraq policy.

Better people than I have attempted explicate all this: for some good commentary, see especially As the Senate elaborates legal epicycles, I'm reminded of protracted battles in Congress during the 1980s over overt US aid to the Nicaraguan anti-Sandinista terrorist movement, the contras, that Ronald Reagan's administration broke many laws to support. Those of us hoping to impose limits on this dirty war dutifully petitioned, made our calls to legislators, and tried to keep up with the ins and outs Congressional maneuvering. We won some and lost some; in a sense what came to be called "Iran-Contra," the scheme of trading arms for hostages with Iran while hitting up the Sultan of Brunei to pay for the Nicaraguan thugs was something our opposition imposed on the executive.

Then and now, what matters is that we keep our eyes on the real issues. No normal person can keep track of the legislative minutia, nor should we try to. The legal, moral and even merely prudent objectives for sane residents of the US are pretty clear: reinstate the rule of law; stop torture; don't make wars based on lies; and, at the most sophisticated level, learn to play well with others.

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