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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.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gen. Pace: they "don't have a clue how democracy works"

(updated below)

That this is even notable at all, or that it has to be said, is by itself significant:

A top Pentagon leader weighed in yesterday on the war debate and appeared to undercut the argument advanced by the White House and many GOP lawmakers that a congressional debate challenging the Bush plan would hurt troop morale.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy. Period," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee. He added that potential enemies may take some comfort from the rancor but said they "don't have a clue how democracy works."

It is not, of course, only "potential enemies" who "don't have a clue how democracy works." The same can be said for Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman and their most extremist war supporters who spent the last month insisting that debates over the Leader's decisions must be stifled and that those who express opposition are helping the Enemy. The spectacle of watching American political leaders and their loyal pundit-allies instruct Americans of their duties to "be quiet for six or nine months" with regard to the Leader's actions is almost too extreme for words.

One of the more egregious examples of not "having a clue of how democracy works" -- independent through related -- is documented here by Isaac Chotiner, who highlights remarks by former federal prosecutor and current National Review commentator Andrew McCarthy, in which McCarthy accuses pro bono lawyers for Guantanamo detainees of "volunteering to help the enemy use [] our courts as a weapon of war against us" (and, just incidentally, someone should ask former prosecutor Rudy Giluiani his view of that particular controversy). That was preceded by The Corner's Clifford May's dissemination of absolutely reckless and fact-free innuendo that these lawyers are receiving secret payments from Saudi Arabia and other Terrorists helpers.

It is only those who are losing a debate who have a desire to suppress it. And it is only those who are acting illegally who are desperate to avoid judicial scrutiny of their behavior. In 2002, attempts to equate scrutiny and criticism of the Bush movement with pro-Terrorism and anti-Americanism was a potent and effective tool of intimidation. But now, it just seems desperate, the last gasps of a political movement which is dying and which knows it is, and whose only hope is to forcibly coerce acceptance of their views -- and foreclose examination of them -- by insisting that open debates are themselves improper and therefore must cease at once.

That rationale is the hallmark of every petty tyrant, and (as surging anti-war sentiment and the last election demonstrate) most Americans, when freed from exploitive fear-mongering, instinctively recoil from it. When even the Bush administration's top General publicly repudiates their principal weapon of coercion, it is a clear sign of how weakened and discredited they have become.

UPDATE: I'm reminded in comments that Anonymous Liberal has written the definitive post on the matter of the Guantanamo lawyers, the threats directed at them by Bush Pentagon official Cully Stimson, and the smearing of them by National Review Cornerites, including (needless to say) Mark Steyn.

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