Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Republican mantra--be afraid, be very afraid

Dahlia Lithwick on Republicans' Terror Derangement Syndrome
Policies and practices that were perfectly acceptable just after 9/11, or when deployed by the Bush administration, are now decried as dangerous and reckless. The same prominent Republicans who once celebrated open civilian trials for Zacarias Moussaoui and Richard Reid, the so-called "shoe bomber," now claim that open civilian trials endanger Americans (some Republicans have now even gone so far as to try to defund such trials). Republicans who once supported closing Guantanamo are now fighting to keep it open. And one GOP senator, who like all members of Congress must take an oath to uphold the Constitution, has voiced his concern that the Christmas bomber really needed to be "properly interrogated" instead of being allowed to ask for a lawyer.

In short, what was once tough on terror is now soft on terror. And each time the Republicans move their own crazy-place goal posts, the Obama administration moves right along with them.

It's hard to explain why this keeps happening. There hasn't been a successful terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. The terrorists who were tried in criminal proceedings since 9/11 are rotting in jail. The Christmas Day terror attack was both amateurish and unsuccessful. The Christmas bomber is evidently cooperating with intelligence officials without the need to resort to thumbscrews. In a rational universe, one might conclude that all this is actually good news. But in the Republican crazy-place, there is no good news. There's only good luck. Tick tock. And the longer they are lucky, the more terrified Americans have become.

This week Glenn Greenwald summarized how far the goal posts of normal have moved when he pointed out that "merely advocating what Ronald Reagan explicitly adopted as his policy—'to use democracy's most potent tool, the rule of law against' terrorists—is now the exclusive province of civil liberties extremists."
Republican scare-mongering is nothing new. The same Republicans were falling all over themselves in the last election arguing who could torture the most (to the least effect). The same crowd scare-mongered the country into an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq and away from the actual perpetrators of terror. And the same crowd scare-mongered the country away from our basic civil liberties.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been in U.S. custody since 2003. Other al Qaeda terrorists have been held longer. It's long past time that final justice was served. It's in the country's interest that the trials take place.

The Republicans saw fit to delay justice through nearly six years of the Bush administration. Their scare-mongering led to a series of cockamamie procedures that couldn't pass muster with the military or even the Republicans' own activist, hand-picked Supreme Court ("sure we'll throw you the odd election, but even we have to drawn the line somewhere"). Now the Republicans want to delay justice longer. All the better to scare you with.

With a shaky economy, a resurgent al Qaeda and Taliban, climate challenges, 46 million uninsured people, and a looming structural deficit, there are enough problems to command our attention. Is it too much to ask for Republicans to stop gumming up the works and to allow the Obama administration to finally dispense with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

To borrow a popular phrase, "we've got an app for that"--it's called the remarkable U.S. justice system.