a bird and a bottle


What do they really want?
January 14, 2007, 9:20 pm
Filed under: news & views, politics, Uncategorized

Everyone acknowledges that the midterm elections were a referendum on the war in Iraq. And the votes were clear — we want out of Iraq. And fast. Yet the Bush administration, blinders on as usual, pushes ahead with the surge, which in turn has many people (my parents included) terrified of a draft. This has left many of us scratching our heads and wondering what the hell they’re up to, and how they have managed to do such great damage to the democratic process in just over six years.

In today’s Washington Post, Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick puts her finger right on it:

But it has finally become clear that the goal of these efforts isn’t to win the war against terrorism; indeed, nothing about Padilla, Guantanamo Bay or signing statements moves the country an inch closer to eradicating terrorism. The object is a larger one: expanding executive power, for its own sake.

And she’s right. Since day one, the Bush Administration has been maneuvering to bring its dream of the unitary executive into being. Whether by bypassing Congess altogether in the march to war, spying on Americans without warrants (or cause), using “signing statements” to try to unconstitutionally amend Congressionally-approved legislation (only allowed by veto) or appointing cabinet members (Cheney) and judges (Alito and Roberts, and several more on the appellate level) who support the unitary theory, the Administration has shown it has little respect for the other branches of the federal government and even less respect for the American people. Lithwick has been giving the warning call about the Bush Administration’s unitary push for some time now (see here and here too), but with the exception of an article here and there in the major newspapers, the fear hasn’t spread. But now we’ve gotten way beyond chicken little scenarios.

And the surge, which is essentially a big F*$& you to the electorate, is just the latest symptom of a years-old campaign. Nevermind that for many American soldiers stuck on third or fourth tours of Iraq, this snub of democracy may mean the final nail in their coffin (and not proverbially). Lithwick puts what’s at stake with this surge into stark relief in her piece’s closing paragraph:

In a heartbreaking letter from Guantanamo Bay last week, published in the Los Angeles Times, inmate Jumah al-Dossari writes: “The purpose of Guantanamo is to destroy people, and I have been destroyed.” I fear he is wrong. The destruction of Dossari, Padilla, Zacarias Moussaoui, Yasser Esam Hamdi and some of our most basic civil liberties was never a purpose or a goal — it was a byproduct. The true purpose is more abstract and more tragic: to establish a clunky post-Watergate dream of an imperial presidency, whatever the human cost may be.

What’s the solution? There’s little short of impeachment that we can do on the presidential level before November 2008. But looking ahead to the ’08 elections, we can make sure that no one who supported this countermajoritarian surge ends up in the White House (that would be you, John McCain and Joe Lieberman). At least that’s a start.

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