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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Various items

(updated below)

A few items of note:

(1) As I posted a couple of days ago, I found the Democrats' embrace of Gen. Hayden's nomination as CIA Director to be indefensible and strategically inept. The reason isn't because there was a real chance to block the nomination; the Republican majority made confirmation all but inevitable. The reason for Democrats not to support the nomination was to avoid (accurate) lead paragraphs like this one, from a Reuters article today reporting on Hayden's confirmation by the full Senate by a vote of 78-15:

The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA director in a vote that gave a broad bipartisan endorsement to the architect of President George W. Bush's domestic spying program.


To put it mildly, it is difficult to listen to Democrats express solemn "concern" over the president's lawbreaking when the majority of those in the Senate just voted to install as CIA Director the principal symbol, advocate and "architect" of the President's illegal NSA programs.

(2) A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the vicious and hateful (though entirely unsurprising) character and patriotism attacks on Jack Murtha, all because he had obviously been apprized -- and then disclosed -- that the investigation into the deaths of Iraqi civilians in Haditha concluded that they were the result of cold-blooded, wholly unjustified murder by U.S. soldiers. Today, The New York Times confirmed Murtha's statements that the investigation had reached this conclusion. I won't bother noting the apologies owed to Murtha, but it is worth examining the significance of this story.

It is certainly true, as many pro-war advocates today have noted, that incidents of this type are inevitable in every war. And it is also true that the mere existence of incidents of this sort does not prove that the war is unjustified, since even the most justified wars have included soldiers engaging in gratuitously cruel, violent and outright criminal behavior. The killings are morally reprehensible but do not constitute direct evidence as to whether the war itself was, from the beginning, a justified war. That's all true enough.

But what incidents of this type do underscore is that wars are not something that are to be routine or casual tools in foreign policy. The outright eagerness and excitement for more and more wars that we see so frequently from some circles is not only unseemly and ugly unto itself -- although it is that -- but it is also so reckless and unfathomably foolish. Every war spawns countless enemies, entails incidents which severely undermine a nation's credibility and moral standing, ensures that the ugliest and most violent actions will be undertaken in the country's name, and, even in the best of cases, wreaks unimaginable human suffering and destruction.

Certain circles in our country see war as the first and only option for dealing with every country they dislike. They have no use for diplomacy, negotiations, containment, incentives, alliances -- that's all the girlified stuff of Chamberlain-like appeasement. Any measures short of war for dealing with Iran, for instance, are pure charade, all just pit stops along the way to the Glorious War. They see war as the only thing that works, the only option worth pursuing. They want war. It excites them, makes them feel strong and purposeful, and convinces them that they are the only ones with the resolute will to defend what is Right.

But incidents like these Haditha killings illustrate the moral bankruptcy and sheer stupidity of that mindset. Rational people believe in their gut that war should only be used genuinely as an absolute "last resort." But we have a lot of people in our country, some of whom are employed in and near the Oval Office, who see it as the first and only resort. To the extent that the cold-blooded, calculated murders of innocent Iraqi civilians illustrates the reprehensible folly of that approach, all the better.

(3) The dates and events for my book tour for How Would a Patriot Act? are starting to become somewhat clearer. The June 6 event at the University of Florida which I had previously talked about is not a public event, but they are trying to arrange an event on campus earlier that day for a seminar or book reading or something along those lines. If that happens, I will post the details as soon as I know them.

The multiple San Francisco events will be June 7-10, and I will post the details for each event when everything is confirmed. I will be at YearlyKos in Las Vegas from June 10-12 (on a June 10 morning panel), and at the Take Back America conference in Washington, DC from June 12-14. I am not sure of the dates when I will be in New York, but we have confirmed a June 17 book reading at 8:00 p.m. at the West Side YMCA in New York. The other cities on the tour that are confirmed are Boston, Philadelphia and (probably) Los Angeles. Others are still possible, and much of the schedule still depends on what media appearances get confirmed and when. I will continue to post dates as I have them.

UPDATE:

(4) There are some interesting items in the roll call vote on Hayden's nomination (h/t Prof. Forland and EJ). Arlen Specter was the sole Republican voting against the nomination, signalling yet again (for whatever it's worth) that he's growing increasingly angry over the stonewalling he's encountering in his efforts to investigate the NSA eavesdropping program. Democratic Senators voting against the nomination included Clinton, Durbin and Obama. Democratic Senators voting in favor included Ried and Schumer.

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