Thursday, June 24, 2004

Outrage Roundup

Sorry I've been minimally present for a while; I was (a) traveling, and (b) sick. (It's hard to write eloquent blog posts when scrolling text nauseates you.) While we're waiting for me to perk back up, you might want to check out some of these stories:

Kathryn Cramer, who has been on the civilian contractors story from the beginning, has some good comments and links on the indictment of a contractor for prisoner abuse. Most horrifying disclosure: "A U.S. official described him as a self-employed independent contractor." Yes, apparently we're hiring freelance interrogators. Entrepreneurship at its best.

Michael Froomkin has been on fire lately. Don't miss this brilliant Supreme Court wrap-up, which includes the best summary I've seen yet of the implications of the Jose Padilla case:
The basic question in Padilla is very simple: can the federal government grab a citizen off the street and hold them in a military prison without charging them with a crime, without giving them a hearing or a trial, without access to lawyers, family, friends. And, can it do it indefinitely. If the answer is yes it can, then our citizenship is devalued to nothing better than that of the citizens of Argentina during their military dictatorship, a period in which thousands disappeared into military jails, many never to emerge.

Does that sound over-wrought, given there’s only one person so far, and he hasn’t by all accounts, been tortured (other than being confined in solitary with no prospect of emerging) or killed? I don’t think so for two reasons.

First, we don’t call them “precedents” for nothing. If we set the precedent that people can be grabbed off the street, next time Ashcroft, or some future Ashcroft, or some horrible cross between Nixon, John Adams and Burr, won’t bother going through the civilian justice system at all (which is how Padilla’s case got attention — he was first held as an ordinary criminal, and it was only when the government realized it didn’t have the evidence to try him that they decided to reclassify him as an enemy of the state illegal combatant, and put him in the brig). Next time, whenever that is, the victim will just vanish.

That’s bad enough. But I don’t think I understood how much was a stake until I read the Torture Memos. Those memos claim the right to legally inflict hideous intentional pain — what I and most people would call torture — on enemy combatants. That’s right—on people whom this administration considers equivalent to Padilla. So the US government is not only asserting the right to Disappear people, but to torture them in secret as well.
Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged has the complete text of a memo outlining the Republicans' rhetorical strategy for the election, as formulated by Frank Luntz. I don't know why this hasn't gotten more attention:
The overwhelming amount of language in this document is intended to create a lexicon for explaining the policy of “preemption” and the “War in Iraq.” However, you will not find any instance in which we suggest that you use the actual word “preemption,” or the phrase “The War in Iraq” to communicate your policies to the American public. To do so is to undermine your message from the start. Preemption may be the right policy, and Iraq the right place to start. But those are not the right words to use.

Your efforts are about “the principles of prevention and protection” in the greater “War on Terror.” Please do not underestimate the importance of these rhetorical nuances. Let us understand the stark reality of public opinion which provides the context for this language research. Like it or not, the situation in Iraq is the poster-child for the War on Terror. It is today’s ground zero. You must develop a better way to talk about Iraq in the greater context of the War on Terror. Here are the five essential message points:


1) “9/11 changed everything” is the context by which everything follows.

No speech about homeland security or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11.
Also from Julia, this site, which speaks for itself. "Este quelpo es delicioso!" Indeed.