W. David Jenkins: We Are Really, Really Sorry
We Are Really, Really Sorry
By W. David Jenkins III
January 20, 2005 –
Winter finally came to this upstate New York conservative pothole I call home, and the snows allowed me to experience a mix of pride and pathos in my country. With the roads a complete mess of slush and ice, I decided to stay home and watch C-SPAN as the January 6 line-up consisted of the Alberto Gonzales confirmation hearings and the 2004 presidential electoral count in the House of Representatives. So while the snow and ice built up outside my house, I kicked back and watched - in utter disbelief – the lame attempt at confrontation which took place in one room of the Nation’s Capital that day and the brave, principled act in another. And through it all, one thing kept going through my head: We owe the Founding Fathers and the world one hell of an apology.
But first, the brighter side of that wintry day.
In what should have been a replay of four years ago, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus stood in protest of the results of the electoral tally of the state of Ohio. However this time, unlike four years ago when it came to Florida, a congresswoman was able to state that a senator had signed on to the formal protest – an action not taken in Congress in this capacity for over one hundred years. And for a damn good reason.
There were enough submitted complaints and reports of “irregularities” in Ohio regarding what happened on November 2 to warrant the protest – not necessarily to overturn the results, but to insure there would continue to be a dialogue of, if not a solution to, the problem facing America’s election process. This “problem” seems to have come to a head since George W. Bush entered the field of presidential politics.
The brave and principled Democrats who challenged the results out of Ohio wanted to make sure that the governing bodies in which they serve continue to address the problem that plagues this country. They wanted every vote to count. They wanted every voter to know he/she has equal access in which to exercise that privilege and responsibility. However, the Republicans decided to air their arrogance rather than acknowledge the problem – basically because they don’t see any problem. Their guy got in again and they don’t particularly care how.
So the conservatives used the two-hour session after the protest to try out their best Michael Moore jokes coupled with cutesy little “Move On” references in a vain attempt to paint the opposition in an unfavorable light. Instead they came across as petty and pompous – like fat little kings chastising their perceived subordinates. Y’know, when these parasites finally fall, and someday they will, they’ll be lucky to win the audience or support of a cockroach at a public urinal. They have definitely set the tone.
I only wish that Barbara Boxer and Stephanie Tubbs Jones had had more support when the vote to pursue the protest was held. Many Democrats talked the talk for two hours but when it came time to vote, they bailed out. And that’s not only a slap in the face to Ohio voters, but it’s just a damn shame – plain and simple.
This brings me to what was happening in another room in the Capital that same afternoon. When did you ever think you would hear members of an American governing body and a presidential appointee debating whether it was okay to torture somebody? I swear I could not fathom the reality taking place before my eyes and ears.
The future Attorney General, the nation’s “top cop” as they like to say, was dodging and weaving verbal punches like a boxer as he was asked over and over whether he supported torture or understood the implications that he would even explore the legality of torture. And it wasn’t just the Democrats on the committee.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham almost seemed to chastise the nominee, Alberto Gonzales, when he warned against the peril of taking this country down a road that puts us in danger of becoming “like our enemies.” Gonzales replied that because we hadn’t chopped off any heads that we were “nothing like our enemies.”
America is supposed to be a leader which sets a standard for other countries to aspire to and strive to achieve. We are the world superpower that should be an example of what is good and what is right. But there are those who feel that because there are some who do not “play by the rules” that we should do like-wise and that we are more than justified in doing so. What’s worse, these same people insist on using 9/11 as an excuse to engage in deplorable behavior. What else is new?
There were some strange and eerily revealing statements made during this hearing that should’ve made even the most devout Bush kissers wake up from their stupor. One of the most overlooked remarks Gonzales made was his acknowledgment that he understood he would, as Attorney General, represent the people rather than be just counsel to the president. But it has always seemed to me that the president is the representative of the will of the people. That Gonzales would derive that there was some kind of difference between counseling the president as opposed to acting on behalf of the people of America seemed odd at the least.
Most of the hearings consisted of a farcical back-and-forth between Gonzales and the senators as one by one they tried to get him to clarify his position on presidential power in terms of torture. This was centered on the 2002 Bybee memo which based upon information in a Department of Justice report Gonzales himself had requested. The memo stated that certain combatants captured in the war on terror did not fall under the protections of the Geneva Convention. We also learned of a recently released FBI document that suggests Bush secretly signed off by Executive Order on the use of “extreme coercive measures in interrogation.” The pictures from Abu Ghraib and reports from other prison camps reveal, in gruesome detail, the results of such a policy. ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) reports out of Guantanamo also tell of cruel treatment of prisoners, many of whom are still being held without charge.
So in the face of all of this and other documentation showing – beyond the shadow of a doubt – that Americans have committed acts of torture and that senior officials in this administration have gone to great lengths to seek legal counsel in order to defend these acts, the line of questioning went something like this:
Senator: ”Does the president have the right to ignore the law and permit acts of torture?”
Gonzales: “This president would never condone torture.”
Senator: “But does the president have the right……”
Gonzales: “That’s hypothetical…besides, this president thinks torture is bad, etc.”
So that’s the way it went – over and over again. Gonzales was evasive and seemed to have moments of convenient memory loss when it came to questions of who was responsible for pursuing the legalities of what constitutes torture and who was responsible for its results. And when Republican Senator Graham asked him if he agreed with Department of Defense legal experts when they said our policies on torture had made things worse for the troops stuck in Iraq, his meager reply was, “I have to get back to you on that.”
The only thing that angers me more than the behavior in that hearing room is the deplorable fact that this monster is going to be confirmed despite all that is known! Good Gawd, can’t somebody find a mystery nanny in this guy’s past?
The Democrats need to start standing and voting on principle. Sure, they’re a minority and they haven’t a chance of getting anywhere in the next four years. But if they think that kowtowing to the Republicans will get them even a morsel from the political plate of these fat little kings, then maybe they’re not as bright as we might hope they are. It has never worked during the last four years – it sure as hell isn’t gonna work in the next four.
The opposition – if there really is one – needs to realize that they are little more than geeky kids in the junior high gym class who think that if they can get by with only a wet towel snap to their bare asses then they’ll be doing all right.
The Democrats need to realize that the presidency of George W. Bush, forever in question about its legitimacy, is not good enough in the eyes of our allies and our people.
America is now a country which condones torture and is going to appoint a new attorney general who will attest to that fact in the eyes of the world and half of us here at home. America under Bush has become a high-tech third-world rogue nation. Our elections prove it, our foreign policies prove it and, if things keep going the way they are, our economy will end up somewhere behind the folks in Venezuela.
America owes the world and our soldiers an apology. We are not fighting in Iraq for the right reasons. We are not “protecting our way of life or our freedoms.” We are not the shining city on the hill. We are not a place that embraces high moral values nor do we embrace our freedoms, seeing as we’re passively allowing those who have had a part in removing those freedoms to become the newest leaders in Bush’s government.
We have become a nation that accepts no responsibility for its actions or its mistakes. We have become an apathetic people led by fat little kings who cater to a Boy King and the nasty little patri-idiots he surrounds himself with to do his bidding. Well, actually, they’re doing their bidding – it’s just that the Boy King really thinks he’s in charge.
Listen, world. We are really sorry. You are right – 59,054,087 Americans are really dumb. So please don’t blame us for the next four years – it isn't our fault. We hope our leadership in the opposition will not only prove that to you, but we hope they’ll prove it to us as well. On January 6 I saw both signs of hope and signs to despair. But when January 20 gets here, please try to remember that George W. doesn’t represent all of us! Only a spit over 59 million, and the sad thing is we can’t even be sure of that number.
It’s just part of being a high-tech third-world rogue nation. And there’s a bunch of us pretty ticked off about it.