Saturday, January 08, 2005

Quick Someone Bake A Hacksaw Into A Cake And Send It To The USA

I was listening to NPR on the way to work. Nina Totenberg was giving one of her characteristically lucid summations of a quasi-judicial proceeding, the confirmation hearing of Alberto Gonzales.

Her reportage was objective. But the thing, as they say, was speaking for itself. The questions, even from Republicans, betrayed the universal sense of outrage at Gonzales' willingness to grant the President powers that supersede law, and to countenance and codify torture as an appropriate method for the United States to use. Or, rather, avoiding the T-word, methods less than torture, since he'd re-defined torture as "that which causes pain commensurate with death or organ failure." Which opens the door to a host of techniques such as the "finger chopping" that Senator Kennedy posited in his blunt questioning. How could you even attend meetings the Senator asked, incredulous, where these inhuman techniques were discussed ?

I do love Senator Kennedy.

Questioner after questioner pointed out the terrible detention practices -- the shameful, the ghastly abuses -- that have come to light from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay to prisons in Afghanistan, practices that flowed directly from Gonzales' legal opinions. Opinions that Mr. Bush dearly wanted to hear. Made to order opinions, like the made-to-order intelligence that Bush elicited to support undertaking this catastrophic and criminal war in the first place.

The nominee evaded and wheedled and squirmed and waxed defensive and could not remember. It was classic Bush-administation stuff. The man -- the memory-chellenged, responsibility-evading yes-man -- would fit right in.

It was appalling and heartbreaking. How has the United States come to this, to torture, to indefinite detention without trial, to pre-emptive war, to even considering a man like this to be the country's Attorney General -- the chief enforcer of the law of the land ? A man whose shoddy legal briefs in Texas virtually guaranteed that no one condemned to death would ever get clemency. Who did not think the fact that a defense attorney slept through a trial might have been "ineffective counsel" and a mitigating factor worth mentioning in a clemency brief. And, under questioning, couldn't quite remember the details of that particular case.

One would think that the prissily oleagenous and lunatic John "Let The Eagle Soar" Ashcroft would have represented the absolute nadir of Attorneys General. But, as we've seen time and time again with this administration, there's always a new nadir to be plumbed. Listening, waiting to cross Massachusetts Avenue into Medford, I sighed.

"And if," a senator in her report asked, "the President can over-ride law and approve the use of torture, then what is there to prevent him from approving the use of genocide ?" Ms. Totenberg termed this a bracing and sobering question for "the man who was almost certain to be confirmed" as Attorney General. All the Republicans, she continued, and plenty of Democrats would surely vote for him. The political climate was such that the "newly re-elected" President was certain to get his way.

As in have his way with us . A useful and pertinent euphemism indeed.

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