a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew


Posted by Thomas Nephew on October 7th, 2006

Via digby (“Hullabaloo”), here’s the New Haven Independent’s Melissa Bailey on the Joe Lieberman exchange with a college student on torture:

Student Kevin Miner, who said he’d voted for Lieberman twice in 2000, said one question had been eating him up for a long time: “I want to know what the moral reasoning is from a man who went from being a freedom rider to a torture apologist. I want to know what happened.”

The crowd — dozens of students joined by a lot of faculty and staff — applauded the question.

“I’m not a torture apologist,” said Lieberman, citing “outrage” at absence of due process for detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Then he went on to explain why he was one of only 12 Democratic senators to support a recent detainee bill. The bill prohibits some of the worst abuses of detainees, but many Democrats say it gives the president too much room to decide which other interrogation techniques are permissible and allow inhumane treatment of suspects.

Echoing Republican arguments, Lieberman told the student: “We’re at war. It’s hard for a lot of people to understand this, because it’s a different kind of war.” The people we are capturing are “enemy combatants,” and in many countries are given fewer rights than prisoners of war. “We are now giving them more rights than prisoners of war get in most countries of war.”

“I know it’s fasionable to say what you’re saying,” Lieberman told the student. But “these are people who people working for us suspect of wanting to kill us. All of us! Any one of us! And it doesn’t mean that they aren’t human beings … But they don’t deserve the same rights that citizens of the United States do.” The comment garnered a smattering of applause.

So let me get this straight. If someone working for me — not me, mind you, I’m delegating that chore — suspects you want to kill us (all of us! any one of us!) then I say let’s declare you an unlawful enemy combatant, lock you up, throw away the key, deny you due process, and let the president flip a coin whether he’ll have you waterboarded.

OK, not you, just some brown guy from Whateverstan. As digby writes,

He knows exactly what he’s saying and that’s more unforgiveable than some wingnut rube who says outright that all the people in Guantanamo are terrorists. Joe’s not actually making the decision to torture and imprison potentially innocent people, you see. “Somebody who works for us” is.

Lieberman’s voice is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard to me, but hearing it say “…wanting to kill us. All of us! Any one of us!” would have been unbearable. I think there’s a real whiff of self doubt in all this squeaky tough guy posturing he engages in. It’s clearest when he tries to scare his audience into agreeing with him, and when he whines how people like that student are just being “fashionable,” how they don’t understand how serious things are.

In effect, Joe is so scared of terrorists he condones locking up and tormenting hundreds of innocents on the off chance there are a few bad guys among them. In effect, this country is. But in his own scared mind, he’s long since gladly let his Big Tough Brother make the call that they’re really all bad guys — because why else would they be in jail?

Boy, do I hope Lamont wins. This country could use a break. We can follow Joe and continue to cringe and skulk and fear , or we can decide not to — without any guarantee of perfect safety, but with the ability to look at ourselves in the mirror again.

CROSSPOSTED to Never In Our Names, a collaborative blog focused on “human rights, especially anti-torture, as well as due process for detainees; Iraq, Afghanistan and the so-called Global War on Terror.”

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