Shaker SpaceCowboy just reported back on having contacted the offices of his two Democratic Senators, Lautenberg and Menendez, for voting for the torture bill. Both offices explained that the Senators voted for the amendments, and when they failed, they felt compelled to vote for the bill, anyway, because their choice was vote for it or do nothing.

SpaceCowboy expressed his concern about war critics possibly being deemed enemy combatants. The Lautenberg staffer “seems to think that our rights of speech and assembly would protect us.” The Menendez staffer “thought my comment about anyone being seen as an enemy combatant was a ‘real stretch,’ and laughed.”

What kind of fucking responses are those to a constituent who’s genuinely concerned about his/her rights of free speech and assembly being suppressed, who’s reading an NIE that singles out leftist groups as a possible threat to US interests and watching his/her Senators vote for a bill that allows people identified as possible threats to have their legal rights withheld?

How will our rights of speech and assembly protect us, if we’re deemed enemy combatants by people who won’t even define precisely what methods they use to derive such definitions? If they will, fine—but explain how. How is it a “real stretch” to be concerned about being deemed an enemy combatant, based on the NIE and the administration’s insistence on conflating dissenters with traitors and terrorist-sympathizers? If it is, fine—but explain how.

This condescending bullshit is infuriating. Flippantly dismissing legitimate and genuine concerns after the passage of a bill that “sends us back 900 years because it denies habeas corpus rights and allows the president to detain people indefinitely” is pathetic. Not only is it a rejection of the responsibility to care about the concerns of all constituents, not just those who agree with your decisions, but it is a patent refusal to acknowledge that this vote was bigger than the midterm elections, that it may have other repercussions aside from what ends up on the Senators’ voting records.

Can Senators Lautenberg and Menendez—and the 10 other Democrats who voted for this extraordinary bill—guarantee that our concerns are unjustified? Can they explain why we shouldn’t worry about the focus on leftist groups in the NIE? Can they even be bothered to acknowledge that our fears are worth addressing, or do they prefer to marginalize and belittle our concerns just like the administration and the GOP and the media?

In case it’s escaped their notice, we were the ones who were right about the Iraq War. It was they, not us, who voted for that mess. In fact, we’ve been right pretty much every step of the way about what Bush is going to do, how badly he’ll fuck something up, the ways in which he’ll skirt the laws, leaving Afghanistan, election tampering, the lurking catastrophe of cronyism, and every other huge disaster perpetrated by this administration. We’ve got a pretty good goddamned track record of looking down the road and seeing the final destination, and every time, we’ve been called paranoid and delusional and partisan and traitorous to discredit us, but we’ve been right nonetheless.

And we deserve some bloody answers. If we’re wrong this time—prove it.

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