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The Senate Confirms Our Country's Errant Path
by Carl Doerner
February 4, 2005

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Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

-- W.B. Yeats

The contentious confirmations of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State and Alberto Gonzales to be Attorney General are now in place, but they rest uneasily with respect to both contemplation and our history. More senators voted against Rice than any State nominee since 1825, and Gonzales was acceptable to only six Democrats and the compliant Senate majority.

During recent weeks I was either present as a photojournalist in the hearing room in Washington or closely following the daily C-SPAN coverage of both Senate hearings and debate. In addition, I have keenly observed moves the Bush administration has made in the past four years that undermine the Constitution, that manipulate the public on both foreign and domestic issues through the use of fear, and the lies to the American people and to other nations. All of these are designed to serve its elite and corporate sponsors, consolidate undemocratic power, and advance an ideological program of foreign and domestic ambitions written before it illegitimately grasped power in 2001 and instituted after allowing the major terrorist attack on this country to occur.

It should be added this Bush-Cheney imperialist agenda includes racism and intolerance, cloaked domestically in a phony religious mantle. The reader may recall that until his language was tidied by his handlers, George Bush linked these neo-conservative endeavors to earlier ignominious Western assaults on Islam by publicly referring to his post-9/11 unfolding policy in the Middle East as "a crusade." And, as it is asymmetric and is provocative, the actions actually promote a terrorist response.

Though the electorate has failed to provide the opposition party sufficient seats to adequately challenge runaway war-making, ideological packing of the Supreme Court and federal courts, and a coming systematic dismantling of the nationís social programs, Democrats have finally been stirred by the same anger that the general public has felt upon revelation of the lies for war and repeated criminal abuse of the electoral process. Except for recalcitrant John Kerry, Democrats who did so are slowly revealing they erred in their votes supporting invasion of Iraq.

Seated between the interrogators and nominee Rice, I felt the senatorsí palpable outrage at the years of administration lies about Saddam Hussein. Senator Boxer in particular -- but Senators Biden, Dodd, and Sarbenes as well -- leveled on Rice in a manner that drew Republican rebuke characterizing their questions as "a cross-examination."

The most contentious issues in Bush choices of Rice and Gonzales were lies to promote war and torture of prisoners, as well as each of the nomineeís role in developing objectionable policies. Rice repeatedly ducked committee criticism of her speeches suggesting Iraq was about to detonate a nuclear weapon in one of our cities. In turn, Gonzales sidestepped his two-year endorsement of the Bybee memorandum, which fundamentally made inhumane treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, and at Abu Ghraib our governmentís policy. Patrick Leahy said all Democrats were prepared to support Gonzales until he failed to disassociate himself from use of torture, and Carl Levin of Michigan added that Gonzales clearly "provided the legal framework" for the abuse we have witnessed.

Dodd of Connecticut ripped the nomineeís counsel given to Bush regarding denial of due process to prisoners, saying, "Churchill suggested we just execute the Nazis, but at Nuremberg we gave every one of them a lawyer. Thatís the core of this issue."

How ludicrous and irrational, then, were Republican speeches during Senate debate. While allowing to stand the Gonzales characterizations of the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and "obsolete," they charged Democrats with simple partisan attacks on Bush and argued, variously, that Al Qaeda prisoners donít deserve humane treatment because "they donít obey the rules of war" and "they oppress women." (Adolph Hitler, too, called the Geneva Conventions "obsolete.")

Orin Hatch declared prison abuse was committed by low-ranking "renegade soldiers" who needed to be punished. Writing in the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh has clearly established how torture policy flowed down through the chain of command.

Equally spurious was the repeatedly sung Republican rags-to-riches refrain about the Gonzales childhood and rise, its exemplification of success for minority aspirations. Look folks, even the Hispanic Caucus in Congress opposed his nomination.

But what is implicit in this inter-party sparring over the Attorney General -- this proxy struggle -- is the Bush plan to place another ideologue -- his Texas buddy Alberto Gonzales -- in the Supreme Court, one who will secure the vote to reverse womenís right to choose.

As if his counsel on torture did not sufficiently demonstrate his betrayal of law for ideology, Gonzales brings another defect. Two years ago the Atlantic Monthly carried an account of the Gonzales record in Texas. As legal advisor to then Governor Bush he wrote the pre-death briefings for the first 57 of the 152 Governor Bush-era executions. Researchers found that mitigating circumstances and outright evidence of innocence were frequently omitted from these reports.

You can add up this matter either way; Gonzales provided unlawful advice or Bush let it be known he didnít want to be confused by the facts; the sum is the same. Neither of these nominees should have passed muster and been allowed to lead the public and country further astray.

Carl Doerner writes news analysis for New England media and is the author of Ashes and Embers, a work of fiction. He can be reached at:

Related Articles

* The Case of the Ticking Time Bomb: Or, How Not to Argue Against Torture by John Turri
* The Light is Going Out by William Fisher
* The Moral High Ground? by William Fisher
* Where Will It End? by William Fisher
* Gonzalesí Appointment is a Danger to Human Rights by Joel Wendland
* Globalizing Homeland Security (Part One) by Lee Hall
* Globalizing Homeland Security (Part Two) by Lee Hall
* Rice Never Spoke About Al-Qaeda, Osama Before 9/11, Investigation Shows by Jason Leopold

Other Articles by Carl Doerner

* Ship of Fools
* Tribunal Convenes, Convicts Bush
* Glimmers of Hope