Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fear: Keeping America Safe?

During the G.W. Bush Presidency, the master of fear was the Vice President. Dick Cheney seemed to thrive in his role as the Dark Lord of Fear. He would pop out occasionally in an interview and proceed to cast a pall over the proceedings. Never smiling and ever speaking of America under attack. Well, the batton has been passed to the next generation. While Cheney the elder is still occasionally darkening the media outlets with doom and unending scorn for the current Administration, his daughter Liz has eagerly taken over the task of keeping America cowering in the shadows.

She started by creating an organization called Keep America Safe (KAS), paired of course with a web site. The name itself hints strongly at the organization's real purpose. The name reminds me much of how now defunct East Germany used to call itself the German Democratic Republic. This was a nation that was anything but Democratic, much less a Republic, but it sounded a lot better than German Soviet Protectorate. My point is that you can name an organization or nation anything you want. There doesn't need to be any connection between terminology and reality. This is where we are with Keeping America Safe. Sounds all patriotic and noble, but the stands that this organization makes are often anything but. This is an organization that exists for one reason and it has nothing to do with keeping America safe. It exists as a mouthpiece of fear and to provide the most entrenched conservatives a steady, metronomic assault on the Obama Administration. Their Mission Statement starts out sounding reasonable.  "The mission of Keep America Safe is to provide information for concerned Americans about critical national security issues. Keep America Safe seeks to influence public policy by encouraging dialogue between American citizens and their elected representatives in order to produce legislation and executive action that enhances the national security of the United States." Which sounds great, but the next paragraph begins to tick off all the reasons America has to be scared of everything outside our front door.

This organization and Liz Cheney don't want to discuss or debate policy, this is obvious. Need a good example? How about their recent ad attacking attorneys working in the Justice Department who dared to represent Guantanamo Bay detainees, actually calling one group of them the "Al-Qaeda 7"? Let me be clear, Liz Cheney and KAS are accusing federal lawyers who counseled or defended detainees of being terrorists themselves. I'm surprised the organization didn't collapse under the weight of the colossal irony of the accusation. Think about it. KAS and Cheney are saying that lawyers counseling accused criminals/terrorists are being disloyal to America. Think about that. One of the core pillars of the US Constitution is our Judicial system. And arguably the most important tenet of our Justice system is the right to be represented by counsel. Am I the only one who thinks this is insane? By KAS's definition a lawyer representing a murderer could be accused of being an accessory to murder. See where this line of reasoning spins off the tracks? As part of what can only be called a political witch hunt, Cheney led the charge to demand information on all DoJ lawyers who ever represented detainees, then proceeded to persecute them as if she were unmasking master spies. Cheney and KAS apparently see nothing wrong with implying disloyalty and defaming the characters of Federal attorneys whose only 'crime' was upholding the most sacred traditions of America's system of Justice. It would serve them right if these attorneys filed a law suit for libel. If I were them and had any legal grounds to do so, I'd sue them to the limits of the law for attacking my reputation simply to undermine the Attorney General and the DoJ.

Need another argument? How about John Adams, one of the foremost Founding Fathers and the second President of the United States? In 1770, a confrontation in Boston turned bloody and was quickly christened the 'Boston Massacre'. The eight British soldiers charged with murder, after being unable to find a lawyer willing to defend them, asked John Adams. Though he worried about the effect it might have on his reputation, he felt strongly that these men deserved to have competent legal representation. Six of the soldiers were eventually cleared of charges and two, who did fire into the crowd, were convicted of manslaughter. Adams did this because it was the right thing to do. And it was. In actual fact, the incident was far more of an out of control gathering colliding with with panicky soldiers than any kind of 'Massacre'. But without Adams they would very likely have all been convicted out of shear vengeance. Defense lawyers are often vilified, and I admit I've done it myself, but the truth is that without them America's legal system would be far more about Conviction than Justice.

The bottom line is that Liz Cheney, like her father before her, along with the Conservative luminaries involved in 'Keeping America Safe' aren't focused on keeping America safe at all. I won't go so far as to say they don't care, as I'm sure they do, at least on some abstract level.  But if the focus was on the actual act of keeping America safe they wouldn't be tearing into the Obama Administration's anti-terror effort with such gusto. Why? Because almost nothing has changed in this policy since it was being run by the Bush Administration!!!  Yes, they are moving to close the Guantanamo Bay gulag, but even Bush talked of doing this towards the end of his term, so it's not particularly radical. There is a lot of noise related to moving the Gitmo detainees somewhere within the states, but 99% of that is purely political with no basis in logical thought. And therein lies the problem! So much of the volume is not about discussion or debate. It's about political maneuvering to hurt the opposition party and try and lay the groundwork for the next election cycle. The exact sort of thing the Bush Administration and its supporters would have called "Disloyalty" and "Treason", exactly as they did whenever they were seriously chided about Administration policies at the time. I won't cross the line and use the word Treason the way they did, but you can make a strong argument that this sort of gamesmanship has completely crossed the line. The needs of the political parties should NEVER trump the needs of the country. Yet that is what Liz Cheney, KAS and others like them are doing. While they were merciless in their attacks on anyone who dared dissent during the previous Administration, these same people see absolutely no hypocrisy in being even more publicly vicious in attacking Obama. Am I the only one sickened by this? The only one who thinks this sort of blind opportunism reprehensible? These individuals and organizations are nothing but 'fair weather' patriots. They wrap themselves in the flag and speak with reverence of the Constitution when it's convenient, then toss them in the gutter when it's not. I have no idea how much of it is pure calculated avarice and how much is simply a huge blind spot in the way they see the world. But either way they are doing anything BUT Keeping America Safe.

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