Rush to Error:

AFTER BARELY three weeks of debate, the Senate today will take up a momentous piece of legislation that would set new legal rules for the detention, interrogation and trial of accused terrorists. …Yet rather than carefully weigh the issues, Congress has allowed itself to be stampeded into a vote on hastily written but far-reaching legal provisions, in a preelection climate in which dissenters risk being labeled as soft on terrorism.

…What's important is that any legal system approved by Congress pass the tests set by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) months ago: that the United States can be proud of it, that the world will see it as fair and humane, and that the Supreme Court can uphold it.

The compromise legislation cobbled together in the past week by administration officials and a group of Republican senators, including Mr. Warner, doesn't pass those tests… Senators -- and this includes Democrats who have been largely and cravenly absent from this month's debate -- would do best to postpone action on the bill. Failing that, they should support amendments to correct the worst problems.
And there are some very serious problems.

1. The legislation attempts “to prevent U.S. courts from ruling on the treatment of prisoners in the future, including any procedures the Bush administration might adopt for interrogations… Normally the courts would provide a check on administration policies, but the bill would prevent this by banning prisoners from bringing lawsuits over their detention and treatment.”

2. The legislation allows “foreign civilians in the United States or even U.S. citizens” to be deemed enemy combatants and thusly “arrested and held without charge indefinitely on grounds that they supported hostilities against the United States.… Endorsement of this standard by Congress would give extraordinary power to the Defense Department to arrest and hold foreigners and Americans without charge.”

With the president’s “with us or against us” rhetoric, and the repeated insistence by members of the Bush administration and their media shills to refer to dissenters as “traitors” and “terrorist sympathizers,” the possibility that a line will be drawn from principled opposition to “supporting hostilities against the US” is chilling. What does it mean for someone with a blog who regularly criticizes the administration’s strategy against terror? What does it mean for peace activists? What does it mean for protestors? What does it mean for elected members of the opposition party who dare to speak out against the war? This is scary stuff—and the Democrats are sealing their own fates and ours if they don’t do everything in their power to prevent this bill from becoming law.

Unfortunately, the NY Times reports:

Democrats, who have found themselves on the losing end of the national security debate the past two national elections, said the changes to the bill had not yet reached a level that would cause them to try to block it altogether.

“We want to do this,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader. “And we want to do it in compliance with the direction from the Supreme Court. We want to do it in compliance with the Constitution.”
Deplorable. The Bush administration is eagerly trying to “give extraordinary power to the Defense Department to arrest and hold foreigners and Americans without charge,” and the Dems feel that isn’t enough to warrant a filibuster. Unbelievable.

Glenn Greenwald says: “It has been painfully obvious ever since the torture ‘compromise’ was announced that Democrats would not get near a real filibuster, but are we really going to have to be subjected to large numbers of Democratic Senators actually voting for this atrocity and even cheering it on? It looks that way.”

It certainly does. And over the next two years, if and when this legislation is used in nefarious ways we have yet begun to imagine (Susie Madrak points out “this would probably mean suspending habeas corpus for accused American drug dealers, since they have previously been designated as ‘supporting the war on terror’ by BushCo”), the Democratic nominees in 2008 will be dancing around trying to justify this vote, just like they’ve had to do for their war authorization. And their ridiculous dissembling, as they try to distance themselves from giving bipartisan cover to one of the grossest assaults on American principles ever legislated, will usher in another Republican administration, so the slow decline of a once-great nation can continue unabated.

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