'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Big Two 

I've been criticized on occasion for devoting too much time and space on this blog to discussing the Plame scandal. Many readers feel that the whole Wilson-Plame-Miller-Libby-Rove thing was just so much Democrat on Republican cat-fighting. I don't agree with the sentiment. Firstly, as I have pointed out before, even to the extent that this scandal was so much partisan in-fighting, it was partisan in-fighting that had the possibility of crippling Karl Rove -- which would be a tremendous blow to the rightwing project of reducing all substantive policy decisions to political theater, and thus a positive development for those who are in favor of democracy.

Secondly, an interesting transformation occurred in the last several weeks, probably since it became apparent that Fitzgerald was going to make indictments. In the context of providing the reader with the backstory of the Wilson smear campaign, the corporate press's coverage of Fitzgerald's investigation began focusing on the White House's behavior in 2003 during the unveiling of, as Andrew Card characterized the Iraq War, the administration's "new product line." All of a sudden, for example, newspapers discovered that the case for the Iraq War was based in part on forged documents and there is now at least the possibility that some ambitious reporter might, god forbid, get curious about who forged those documents under whose orders.

Needless to say, this transformation is a good thing. Over the years we've seen this administration enmeshed in a startling array of crimes and misdemeanors, but there are two big ones that, to rip off a line from the quote I used in Perp Walk, contain within themselves the accumulated evil of all the others. One of the big ones was the deeply immoral marketing campaign that led to the United States engaging in an illegal war of aggression that has killed tens of thousands of people. If there is any possibility that Fitzgerald's investigation will make public more facts about crimes that were committed during this enterprise, the investigation is certainly an important topic of political discourse.

The other big scandal still awaits resurrection: the attempt to dismantle the framework of international law regarding the rights of those captured in armed conflict. The torture scandal is buried so deeply in the memory hole that even though Cheney is the unpopular Vice President of an unpopular president in the midst of political firestorm, he can still appoint a man not so tangentially connected to the torture scandal to replace Scooter Libby and suffer no political fallout.

The only whisper of the Bush administration's illegal extra-US prison system and the horrors that occur within it that we've heard in months was a Frontline documentary two weeks ago that apparently no one watched besides me and Nellie from Dancing with Derrida. At this point the ACLU can produce a press release like the following and it will result in not so much as a yawn from the corporate media:

The American Civil Liberties Union today made public an analysis of new and previously released autopsy and death reports of detainees held in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom died while being interrogated. The documents show that detainees were hooded, gagged, strangled, beaten with blunt objects, subjected to sleep deprivation and to hot and cold environmental conditions.

"There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable. America must stop putting its head in the sand and deal with the torture scandal that has rocked our military."

What will it take to give the torture scandal the Fitzgerald treatment? -- I think the only hope is for the never-released Abu Ghraib photos and video to make it to the public. Which leads me to the point of this post ... a federal court ruled against the government's attempt to block the release of the material in question almost a month ago now, but there hasn't been an update to the story. If anyone affiliated with the ACLU or other knowledgeable source is reading this blog, could you leave a comment apprising us of the state of this FOIA request?

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