Two events Tuesday explained something about the slavering spinelessness of the ‘opposition’ legislature and its Democratic leadership in the face of Bush’s open assault on the Constitution.
First, the chilling and utterly depressing video of the 16-year-old Afghan boy being tortured by U.S. government representatives at Guantánamo, released by his lawyer to spur the equally supine Canadian government to demand his release. This documentary evidence will surely live through the ages, reminding Americans that, as a people, we essentially did nothing to stop the massive post-9/11 abuses because our safety and our sneaking, dirty desire for revenge were more important than human rights or even our own freedom.
We won’t have the ready excuse of the Europeans from the 1940s who could credibly, albeit untruthfully, argue that they didn’t know what was happening down the road in those prison camps.
Meanwhile, the new Jane Mayer book on the administration’s use of torture, illegal wiretapping and the rest gives an insight into the lack of teeth in the feeble objections by Democrats—they were complicit. As Glenn Greenwald recounts in Salon, Harman and Pelosi in the House and Rockefeller in the Senate were informed regularly of exactly what was happening and signed off on it, often enthusiastically. So any attempt at bringing those responsible to account would eventually include much of the top Democratic leadership.
This tells us something about just how much of a democracy we really have. As soon as ‘national security’ is involved, a ruling cabal makes the decisions and compromises the key players by making them complicit. If they object, they’re painted as disloyal wimps and trashed in the court of public opinion.
Stroessner, the Paraguayan dictator, used the same technique in his 40-year reign, but he went them one better: he would assemble his generals right in the dungeons and make them witness the torture of dissidents first-hand. You could refuse and probably end up next in line. Or you could remain silent, forget about conspiring against his absolute power and concentrate on getting rich. But once you crossed that line, there was no going back.
However, one unique thing about torture is that it doesn’t go away even if you dump the bodies at sea, and the Democrats’ complicity won’t save their sorry behinds. We’ll hear more about the specifics of what happened during the Bush years over the next decades, and we’ll know exactly who did (and did not do) what to stop it. Barack Obama’s inauguration parties, should they occur, will be just the first set of banquets haunted by Banquo’s ghost.