Greenwald: The Right’s textbook “surrender to terrorists” is a level of cowardice unmatched in the world

I’ve got three quick items to cover today. Glenn Greenwald quoted two textbook definitions of terrorism in his column this afternoon – one from an article on combating terrorism written by a retired marine – and then argues that Republicans in this country have surrendered to terrorism by exhibiting extreme fear of harmless detainees.

That point ought to be all but obvious and universal by now. Republicans claim that terror detainees can’t and shouldn’t be held inside the United States because they pose too great a risk to the “safety and security of the American people.” There are two obvious problems with this fear mongering. First and foremost, we’ve already held a number of terrorists inside the United States, given them fair trials in civilian courts, and imprisoned them safely for years.

Michael Mukasey, one of Bush’s revolving Attorney Generals – who strongly opposes giving detainees civilian trials on American soil because they are too dangerous – was actually the judge for the Southern District of New York in several of those trials in which terrorists were safely convicted, sentenced, and then imprisoned.

Of all people he should know better than to fear monger like this.

Look up what happened to the principal players in the World Trade Center bombing and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Moreover, it’s a pretty nasty insult to the country itself that Republicans don’t think America is capable of safely imprisoning terrorists who are restrained, unarmed, and in some cases probably insane due to repeated instances of prolonged torture.

There’s a story from the Washington Post written in 2006 reviewing a book written by former gitmo detainee Moazzam Begg which perfectly illustrates the rampant fear and paranoia that defines the neo-conservative right. Begg fled his home in Afghanistan with his family when the war began in 2001, seeking refuge in Pakistan, where he was essentially kidnapped by the CIA and held at Guantanamo Bay without charges or access to lawyers for three years.

Begg was freed in 2005 “over the objections of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the FBI, who alleged that Mr. Begg could be a dangerous terrorist.” The only thing Begg has done since his kidnapping is make a film linking the war on terror to a war on Islam – which in the eyes of Britain makes him a “radical” – and he wrote a book about his experience. That’s who the CIA and FBI thought could be a dangerous terrorist, a man arrested with no evidence of wrong-doing and who has done nothing wrong since being freed other than speaking out about his experience.

I’m bringing this up because of an amusing quote in the book review from an unnamed “official” (meaning Bush administration official) who said the people detained at gitmo were “people who would chew through a hydraulic cable to bring a C-17 down.”

Our brilliant plan of allowing suspected terrorists to roam freely inside the cargo area of a C-17 in mid-flight, devoid of armed guards and restraints, would appear to have a few flaws in it. I’ve heard recently that some countries think it’s a good idea to handcuff prisoners, chain them to their seats, blindfold them, and guard them with armed soldiers. Maybe we should consider that, you know, in the future.

I don’t think Greenwald really thinks that Republicans have surrendered to the terrorists in the literal sense. It’s more of a rhetorical jab to make a point than anything. I think the opposite is true, I think Republicans learned how powerful you can become when you use fear to control people, and that these statements aren’t unintentionally showing how cowardly they are.

Statements like the one made by John Boehner only serve one purpose: scare Americans even more. People like Boehner haven’t surrendered to terrorism and fear, they have become terrorists and are actively using fear to attain their political goals.

*

The Associated Press has had a team of “reporters” reading and debunking Sarah Palin’s ghostwritten book this past week. Conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh are desperately trying to spin this book as an impressive accomplishment, despite the fact that Palin didn’t write most of it herself. Limbaugh called it one of the most important (or was it impressive?) “policy” books he’s read, despite Palin saying weeks ago that there was absolutely no policy in this book at all.

There are so many potential jokes in there that I can’t decide who to fire one at: Limbaugh or Palin.

Among the harmless but illustrative lies: Palin claims in her book that she only asked the state of Alaska to pay for reasonably priced hotels while she was governor. Presumably this is Palin still trying to gin up the “average American” heartland myth, that folksy facade that worked for Bush but just got Palin laughed at.

Of course it’s not true, Palin spent nearly a full week at a luxury hotel in 2007 (for a conference that lasted a grand total of five hours) that cost her state over $700 per day.

This dovetails nicely into the ethics complaint filed against her in which she was forced to amend expense reports and reimburse the state for travel she billed to the state where only her presence was required, but she took her entire family on the trip – billing the state for a family vacation of sorts.

The AP debunks distortions about where Palin’s campaign contributions came from, her on-again off-again support and opposition to Bush’s bailout of Wall Street and Obama’s stimulus bill, and my favorite:

PALIN: Says Ronald Reagan faced an even worse recession than the one that appears to be ending now, and “showed us how to get out of one. If you want real job growth, cut capital gains taxes and slay the death tax once and for all.

THE FACTS: The estate tax, which some call the death tax, was not repealed under Reagan and capital gains taxes are lower now than when Reagan was president.

Economists overwhelmingly say the current recession is far worse. The recession Reagan faced lasted for 16 months; this one is in its 23rd month. The recession of the early 1980s did not have a financial meltdown. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent, worse than the October 2009 high of 10.2 percent, but the jobless rate is still expected to climb.

There are some zingers over Palin’s claim to be a clean break from politics corrupted by lobbyists and shady backdoor deals that benefited her personally, but the AP debunks those claims as well. Supposedly there are at least two books coming out that will do nothing but debunk the lies and distortions in Palin’s tome. Presumably they’ll be at least as big, if not larger than her book was.

Perhaps they’ll come in multiple volumes to cover it all?

*

We’ve come to accept the narrative that liberals support health care reform and conservatives do not. Well, that narrative seems to be taking quite the beating with a recent Gallup poll which shows the job approval rating for Congress went up after the House of Representatives passed their health care reform legislation. The breakout is even worse (for that narrative) – approval for Congress increased amongst both Democrats and Republicans.

Since Republicans didn’t get what they wanted (to block reform) and Democrats did (to pass reform), the fact that both Democratic and Republican voters improved their approval of Congress after reform passed would lead one to believe that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans want health care reform of some kind.

If you want signs and portents for 2010, this is a big one. Forget the irrelevant gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey – local elections don’t reflect national politics and never have – and even the NY-23rd election where a Democrat took over a GOP House seat that has been held by Republicans for over a century.

What happens with health care reform is going to decide what happens in 2010, it’s just that simple. If robust reform passes, Democratic approval ratings are going to rise – that’s a given. If nothing passes at all, approval for Democrats will drop, probably plummet, which is perhaps the biggest incentive for Republicans to block reform at all costs. Not because they think reform is bad or that we don’t need it, but because they’ll gain power from it for their party, putting party first and country last.

If mediocre reform passes we may hit 2010 exactly where we are today.

Republicans in Congress should be terrified of this Gallup poll, this is bad, bad news for them. If the Senate passes reform with a public option, Congressional job approval is going to go up again, and if it makes it past the President’s desk, that’s the ballgame. (h/t Greg Sargent).

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

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