Tuesday, December 20, 2005

George Bush Cannot Protect Democracy by Destroying It

Published on Tuesday, December 20, 2005 by The Olympian (Olympia, Washington)
Bush Must Be Held Accountable

Every American should be outraged by the president's attempt to justify domestic spying. It's wrong, and the president should acknowledge that fact. He must be held accountable.

Congress should immediately launch a truly bipartisan investigation into the administration's spying campaign. If the Constitution and laws of the United States were broken, Congress should censure the president. And if the lies, the deceit and lawbreaking continue, Congress should take even more drastic action.

Either we are a nation of laws and moral values or we are not. We cannot pick and choose which laws to abide by and which to ignore for the sake of convenience or expediency.

George Bush is not above the law.

This is a military community, with thousands of active duty and retired members of the armed forces among our friends and neighbors. The presidents' actions undermine their service to this nation.

The soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting for true democracy, not a democracy that condones domestic spying, or secret prisons or subversion of the Constitution. President Bush has played right into the hands of ter-rorists and diminished the reputation of the fine men and women who wear this nation's uniforms.

President Bush is the one sending the wrong message to our soldiers and our enemies. Under his leadership, we are becoming known as a nation of hypocrites.

Lies and exaggerations

President Bush has built an administration founded on lies and exaggerations and fear. And he has gotten away with it. It's unconscionable.

President Bush promised to take action against any White House official leaking classified information. Yet Karl Rove remains.

When CIA director George Tenet said weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were a “slam dunk,” he was dead wrong. How was he punished? He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

George Bush says the United States does not torture, yet his administration fought tooth and nail against an explicit ban on torture. Abu Ghraib was an exception, we were told. But then we learned there were secret prisons abroad where who knows what goes on.

The president excoriated congressmen Monday for not blindly passing the overbroad USA Patriot Act because they didn't trust that there were adequate safeguards against abuses. Ironically, that happened at the same time as President Bush promised to continue the illegal wiretaps. He seemed to be saying, “Trust me.”

Well, Mr. President, we are sorry to say that we don't trust you or your administration because you have abused that trust so often in the past.

Big Brother

His effort this week to turn around his abysmal poll numbers should fall on deaf ears. The American public knows that domestic spying is something out of George Orwell's “1984.” Yet George Bush has made that “Big Brother” fantasy a reality.

Attempting to justify the indefensible, the president on Monday said he would continue the program of moni-toring phone calls and e-mails “for so long as the nation faces the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill American citizens” and added that it included safeguards to protect civil liberties.


The president could have gone to Congress and asked for permission to spy on citizens in the United States. The Republican-controlled Congress would have given the president permission in a heartbeat. Or he could use exist-ing wiretap laws that allow a court order 72 hours after the taping has begun. That way, our vital system of checks and balances would have been preserved.

In his arrogance, President Bush did not go to Congress or to the courts for permission (although he claims that he did tell select members of Congress what he was doing — as if that is enough). He sees himself above the law. As commander in chief, he believes he is not bound by the Constitution and its guarantees of civil liberties. In his view, the warrantless spying conducted by the National Security Agency under his direction is an essential ele-ment in the war against terrorists. In that belief he has lowered himself to their level. And there is a disturbing pattern to his behavior.

It's OK to lie about the reasons to go to war.

It's OK to hold hundreds, maybe thousands of prisoners without charges, without legal representation and for an indefinite period of time,

It's OK to have secret prisons.

It's OK to say the provisions of the Geneva Convention don't apply in a war on terror.

It's OK to treat detainees inhumanely, because we can define them as we see fit.

It's OK to use the Patriot Act to pry into library records and lord knows what else.

It's OK, as NBC News reported, for the Pentagon to spy on peace activists.

It's OK to trample on the rights of citizens.

Unchecked powers

At Monday's news conference, President Bush angrily denied that he is using unchecked or dictatorial powers. But how else can you characterize his behavior? What tyrant hasn't claimed the need to use extra legal powers to protect the motherland or fatherland from some threat? How much Orwellian doublespeak can this country tolerate?

Congress impeached former President Clinton for lying about consensual sex with a White House intern.

No one died. No prisoners were tortured. Clinton simply tarnished his own reputation and sullied the stature of the Oval Office.

This is not a liberal or conservative issue, a Democrat or Republican issue. It's an issue of fundamental civil rights.

We repeat: Congress must muster the courage to hold this president accountable. A bipartisan commission investigation is warranted. And if the lies and deceit continue, Congress should consider the ultimate step and impeach President George Bush. It's all about accountability and protecting, not destroying, democracy.

©2005 Knight Ridder


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