If you grew up in America like I did, you probaly grew up fearing some dictator or despot from somewhere trampling on freedom. You had your nightmares of Hitler and Mussolini if you grew up during World War 2, the spread of communism during the Vietnam era or what Reagan called the Evil Empire during the ’80s. Or our younger folks are growing up hearing about Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il and all the various oppressive Islamic regimes. Maybe you read 1984, Animal Farm, V For Vendetta, the Handmaid’s Tale, Star Wars the official novelization. For life-long Americans, living under an oppressive regime is the stuff of cautionary tales. Thank God it’s hard for us to imagine living in a country or a planet where you have to fear the police coming and taking you away at night for your political beliefs, for a misunderstanding, for a vendetta, because your neighbor accused you of being a traitor, or for no reason at all.
But with the continually snowballing monumental incompetence and belligerence of the Bush administration, with the Patriot Act parts 1 and 2 still on the books, with the Iraq war still spiraling out of control, Afghanistan still falling from our grip, Osama bin Laden still on the loose, bodies still rotting in the streets of New Orleans, North Korea going nuclear thanks to our Conan the Barbarian approach to diplomacy, and the republicans facing the task of convincingly rigging the mid-term election when the whole world expects them to be crushed into oblivion by the angry populace, it’s easy to get paranoid about what these assholes might want to pull next.
What if, during all this craziness, the president decided he had the right to just lock up anybody he chose, for any reason, without a charge or a jury, and have them tortured while he sits in the corner jerking off? And what if Congress, in all their befuddling lack of wisdom, decided to pass that into law?
Well, there’s no point worrying about WHAT IF because this actually happened last month. In case you missed it, the MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT was actually debated and passed in Congress, and Bush signed it into law two weeks later. It’s for real. The part about him jerking off is not specified in the legislation, but is implied.
Basically, the new law allows Bush or Rumsfeld to declare anyone an enemy combatant. That person will not have habeas corpus, the right to challenge their detention (which is a pretty major policy change for anyone who has lived in this country at any time during the Constitution or the 800 years since the Magna Carta). The suspect (or “terrorist” as they are now called [presumed innocent is now only a John Grisham novel and not a principle we live by]) can be sent off to the secret CIA prisons to be tortured, but it won’t count as torture because the law allows Bush to define what constitutes torture, and how people can be interrogated. It specifies that Bush gets to interpret the Geneva Conventions however he wants, and since Bush can’t even fucking read, that pretty much gives him free poetic reign to make up whatever shit he wants. (I guess the idea is we can trust that this guy will want to set a good example for other countries when they capture our soldiers – never too late to be thoughtful and far-sighted for the first time in your god damn life.) If anybody happens to get a trial, the prosecution can use “classified” information against them without them being allowed to see what it is. The law also makes all the torture, rape and murder that took place in Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and other American prisons retro-actively legal, and shields Bush and friends from being tried under the War Crimes Act. (Almost as if they believe they are guilty of committing war crimes. Weird.)
Finally we know what Bush meant when he kept saying “we don’t torture” while people were passing around hundreds of photos clearly showing that we do torture. On the surface it seems hypocritical that they were saying “We don’t torture, it was these bad apples, we locked up that white trash bitch so everybody is safe now,” and then turned around and peddled this legislation saying “IF YOU DON’T SUPPORT TORTURE YOU ARE HUGGING THE TERRORISTS AND WHISPERING INSPIRATIONAL TALES OF TRIUMPH AND HEROISM IN THEIR EARS!” But we just didn’t understand what was being said because when Bush said “we don’t torture” he was speaking from a futuristic perspective. He knew in the future he would be able to retroactively legalize and redefine naked butt pyramids and sticking electrodes up people’s asses as non-torture. It was like that part in BILL AND TED where they run into themselves from the future. Except less excellent, more horrifying. We didn’t know it then but torture actually wasn’t torture, it was freedom and compassion. Now we know.
Now, I’ve talked to plenty of people about this act and they had no idea it existed. If this is the first you’ve heard of the Military Commissions Act, I hope you are asking “What the fuck? How in God’s name did this happen in America?” Well, it was the same old political bullshit. John McCain and some other “moderate/maverick” republicans “took a stand” and demanded that the part about torture be taken out of the legislation. (They were fine with all the other horrifying anti-American stuff, but they were against the torture). The democrats, instead of taking their own stand, thought it would be smart to sit back and let the republicans fight each other. Then eventually the media declared McCain the winner, Bush “compromised” by letting them take the torture part out, and everybody was happy. Then they put the torture part back in and nobody said anything and I guess McCain doesn’t care anymore it was just a passing phase he went through, he doesn’t care about that shit anymore now that the cameras are gone.
These guys are so great at coming up with euphemisms. In a press conference after the signing, Bush described the legislation as “a program that enabled us to interrogate folks.” But more often him and his henchman call it “tools.” Republican House Majority Leader John “seriously guys, it’s not pronounced boner” Boehner said, “It is outrageous that House Democrats, at the urging of their leaders, continue to oppose giving President Bush the tools he needs to protect our country.” Bush also used many variations on the “tools” theme, that they needed to give him the “tools” to fight the “war on terror.” The guy just loves his tools, he’s handy that way. I wonder if he ever visits Saddam in jail to talk tools. Because I seem to remember Saddam used tools too, he had all kinds of tools, and I thought we all agreed it was bad that he kept using tools like that.
Personally, I don’t want Saddam to have tools and I don’t want Bush to have tools either. Who am I, I’m just some dipshit who writes about action movies, nobody cares what my stance on tools is. Luckily I can back what I’m saying up with some other people and famous documents that are against tools. The Constitution, for example, is against tools. Benjamin Franklin was against tools. Thomas Jefferson definitely didn’t want Bush to have all those tools. And those guys knew alot about America so I trust their take on it. They were into it before it was on the Old Navy shirts and all that.
I know, I’m no Constitutional scholar either (although in my defense I never put my hand on a Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution). However, somebody did loan me a 1997 Civics text book purchased at a garage sale. It has some information on the Declaration of Independence (I know, pre-911 thinking, but bear with me). By reading this book I was able to glean a few things on this topic that apparently the president and the United States Congress are not privy to.
Now let me explain something to you fuckos. Long ago in a galaxy far away and what not, America was merely a colony. But some wise Americans now known as “the founding fathers” wanted out from under the thumb of King George (no relation), so they declared independence and started this whole “America” thing that you guys claim to love so much more than the rest of us. I’m going to give you guys the benefit of the doubt and assume that you never heard of the Declaration of Independence before and were only unintentionally shitting all over everything that this country was founded upon. It was a faux pas and not a deliberate act to stab America in the eye and laugh at us.
If that is the case you should look up this declaration I’m talking about. You would be surprised. At the beginning it says, “We hold these truths to be self evident…” That means we Americans consider these truths to be obvious. They are common sense. You would have to be a fucking moron to not notice these truths. No explaining should be necessary, especially to a fucking United States Senator.
“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
You see what that says, it says ALL MEN. It doesn’t say all men who are currently United States citizens or all men that Bush or Rumsfeld have not classified as enemy combatants yet. Now, it is also self evident that they had a race problem back then, but we settled that shit later with a civil war. (Still, it’s embarassing that it refers to “merciless Indian savages” in there. And that it doesn’t mention women at all.) Despite those mistakes, you gotta look at what Mr. Jefferson meant, and what he meant was that
- everyone has rights, no matter what
- God made it that way so if you got a fuckin problem with it then take it up with him, asshole and
- we all agree that you would have to be a moron to not know this.
It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence. 230 years ago Thomas Jefferson had already called this Congress morons. Because they didn’t see the truths that are self evident.
After the famous preamble, then it goes on to list some of the reasons why King George was an asshole and needed to be cut off. Some of them sound eerily relevant today. Like, “For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.” Or, “For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences.” (Although in this case it’s transporting people beyond Seas to be tortured in hopes that they’ll admit to something.)
For today’s politicians it is almost impossible to fathom, but back then these guys actually believed the things they said. The principles this country was founded upon were not just some bullshit they made up that sounded good. They wrote it down because they actually believed in it. They didn’t want some 21st century dickheads to come along later and try to figure out loopholes or technicalities to get around it. Loopholes and technicalities are just fine for Freddy Krueger escaping justice for his child murders, but they are no way to treat the very principles of America. The Founding Fathers would probaly feel pretty shitty about it being changed to “some men are created unequal, endowed by their Commander with enemy combatant status so they can have a cell, no right to see the evidence against them, and have to run away from attack dogs while they’re naked except for the bags or panties on their heads.” I’m pretty sure even after 9-11 these particular guys would’ve wanted America to stay America. Although, to be fair, they would’ve been frightened and confused to see airplanes because I don’t think they had airplanes back then when they were alive.
I had C-SPAN2 on while they were debating the bill, and that in itself was a form of torture. Sure, the usual democrats made speeches against it, a few of them even seemed passionate about it. And then the republicans would say how the democrats are defending the rights of terrorists.
I can’t believe how many times these assholes actually referred to these people not as “enemy combatants,” not as “suspects,” not as “some Taliban soldiers and some random dudes who happened to be in Afghanistan at the wrong god damn time,” but as “terrorists.”
Well, I guess I have to send you jerks some xeroxes from the 1997 civics book, because you guys don’t even know the very basics. It turns out in the United States we already had a justice system, it was actually a pretty important part of our whole deal here. It was based on the concept of “innocent until proven guilty.” If you don’t believe in that, you don’t believe in America. By going onto the senate floor referring to people you know nothing about, who have never been charged with any crime, who have not seen any evidence against them, and who have had unholy things stuck up their butts in ways that are now considered retroactively legal and patriotic, as “terrorists,” you have proven that you do not believe in one of the most basic concepts that make up America. And by voting for this bill you made it extra clear. America has a Congress that is literally anti-American.
I mean, the whole idea behind this bill blatantly ridiculous. Look it up, you will find that we already have a justice system. By making this bill, they seem to be openly admitting that they don’t have a case against all these people they have locked up. So they have to make up their own alternate universe justice system where the rules are different so they have a chance. The Special Olympics of prosecution.
I’ve said it before about Bush and I’ll say it again to this Congress. If you really want a country where the leader can just lock up the people he wants to without giving them a real trial, where prisoners don’t have to be able to see the evidence against them or hear what they are charged with or even be charged at all, that’s cool. Go find a country where they are into that, and see if you can be a politician there. But don’t come to a country where it is fucking SELF EVIDENT that you don’t do that kind of shit. Don’t come to a country that was FOUNDED on the notion that you don’t do that. I mean talk about pissing on a parade. We LIKED the principles of America, we were planning on always keeping them.
There is exactly one way you can justify the Military Commissions Act: we are scared of the spooky bad men, so we ditched our principles (they were weighing us down) and hid under the bed. If the republicans and Joe Lieberman (surprise! he voted for it) were gonna explain it that way, I don’t think most Americans would agree with it, but at least we would see where they were coming from. Oh, I get it, you guys are pussies. We could maybe sort of understand how these people could just be weak-willed, unethical cowards. Maybe they really believe the big bad terrorists are coming to get us and we can only save our asses by crying like babies and throwing away 230 years of American values and traditions.
Let’s say you really believe that. Well, not only are you a traitor, you’re also misinformed. None of these things are going to make America safer. Just like our own intelligence agencies admitted with the Iraq war, these horrible tyrannies put us in more danger. All of the professionals will tell you that torture just gets you false information, they only tell you what they think you want them to tell you. Even if you magically got real information, you couldn’t use it in a real court, only in this fake made up George Bush court, which will almost surely be declared unconstitutional, and if it’s not it’s even a bigger problem because it means our Constitution doesn’t mean anything anymore.
Our problem is that we are perceived as tyrants around the world, and our response to this is… to make it legal to be a tyrant? How does that work? Do you people really believe you are sane? What the fuck happened to you people to get this way? How did you turn America into a place where you actually have to have a position on habeas corpus? Well guess what, you guys may be against habeas corpus, but AMERICA, by definition, is for it. So you’re in the wrong place, fellas.
Some people tell me they like when I write these political columns, and sometimes I like to do it because it’s cathartic for me. But really, I don’t want to be worrying about this shit. I’m not a political junkie. I want to be complaining about BLADE: THE SERIES getting cancelled, not about the Bill of Rights being discarded. I don’t want to be a “political blogger.” I don’t want to be an activist. But there are things that you can’t be quiet about. It’s like, I’m not a guy that’s gonna be calling the cops on my neighbors for playing the music too loud or something. But if I looked out the window and saw a naked guy walking down the middle of the street holding a severed head, I would call. That’s the situation we have here, there is a naked guy walking down the middle of the street holding a severed head.
But I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like most people have noticed this guy. They have pummeled us with so many outrages over the years that to most people this is just the latest chapter. If they even heard about it. It’s not something I’ve seen discussed much on TV. If you read the Huffington Post, even they immediately moved on to the next outrage, whatever’s in the headlines.
But to me it seems like this one is at least as historic as when those chump senators and congresspeople signed off on that “we trust you, you can go to war without asking us” nonsense. Another day to go down in infamy. Well, there is a chance of a good day coming up next week. Assuming we can somehow prevent all the voting machines from getting hacked or the votes from being thrown out and if enough voters have not been illegally purged from the voter roles, there is a good chance that democrats will be able to have the majority in at least one house of congress.
Now, I do not consider myself a democrat. I’m not a fan of all of them. And I wouldn’t put my hopes in them for doing everything we want them to do to save our country. But that’s not even relevant here. If democrats have a majority, that means republicans no longer have the unchecked power they’ve had for the past 6 horrifying years. No more pushing through unprecedented assaults on American values and human decency like the Military Commissions Act. No more leaving the voting indefinitely open until enough votes have been bribed or threatened to pass a bill and then immediately closing voting. No more cancelling or postponing or stonewalling every commission or committee that wants to investigate what went wrong on 9-11, what went wrong during Hurricane Katrina, where the billions of dollars disappeared to in Iraq, why we were given fake intelligence before Iraq, etc. etc. I’m not saying they would definitely do it but at least they would have the OPTION to impeach Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the club. Most of America wants it, right now it is not possible, after next week it might be.
Alot of people, even the left-leaning comedy shows, like to make fun of democrats for supposedly not standing for anything or not having solutions. But I think that’s bullshit. You may not be hearing about them on TV but you don’t hear about me on TV either and I exist. Nancy Pelosi has already said what she hopes to do in her first 100 hours if she becomes the majority speaker: 1. new rules to break connections between lobbyists and legislators 2. finally enact the recommendations of the 9-11 commission 3. raise the national minimum wage to $7.25 4. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half 5. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients. 6. allow federal funding to be used for more types of stem cell research.
That’s the first 100 hours, after that I’m sure they could find time to throw some bones to the environment, the troops (maybe some body armor, I’m hoping). We’ll see what happens. The thing is, at this point we are in emergency mode, they wouldn’t even have to stand FOR something to improve our country. We need a congress willing to stand AGAINST all the shit being thrown down from the top. The solution to taking away habeas corpus: don’t take away habeas corpus. The solution to spying on Americans: don’t spy on Americans. They got solutions.
So please, if you’re an American who is registered to vote, you know what to do. Don’t flake out on us. If there’s long lines, that’s what they want, they want you to give up and go home. Don’t do it. We need you. The more decisive the victory, the harder the cheating us out of it.
Be brave, everybody.
p.p.s. Long time reader Josh R. asked me if I could write something about this John Kerry “botched joke” horse shit. I don’t really want to feed into the pathetic attempt to turn one of the most miniscule issues ever created into some kind of scandal or thing worth spending more than five seconds talking about it, but oh well. If you were lucky enough to miss out on it, here’s the score: Senator John Kerry (who, it turns out, is still a Senator, although when was the last time you heard his name before this?) was making a speech. In the speech he meant to make a lame joke about how if you don’t study hard in school you might become president and get us stuck in Iraq. But he said it wrong and it sounded like he was saying that the soldiers stuck in Iraq are the ones who didn’t study hard. So the republicans took time out from defending their failed policy in Iraq, their coverup of anti-gay closeted gay pedophile senators, the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal, etc. etc. to put on their “WHY, I NEVER!” phoney outrage hats and try to force Kerry to apologize for what it sounded like he was saying.
One thing Kerry did right, he stopped just short of telling them to stick up their asses in his press release and pointed out that everybody involved knows what he actually meant to say and that it is an insult to the intelligence of whoever they are pretending to cry to. I mean Jesus, even if he HAD said that soldiers were uneducated, we all know that HE was a soldier, and at least he now knows that it was a mistake to send these soldiers to war in Iraq (without body armor!). The guys who are pretending to be mad about what he said are the ones who still say with a straight face that they think Rumsfeld is doing a good job.
And by the way, when did John Kerry become the leader of the world to you guys? Last time you were talking about him wasn’t it trying to convince us he was a nobody has-been? Now all the sudden he’s the symbol for all the democratic senators who (unlike him) are running in the midterms?
So basically the point is this: every politician, pundit or media figure who is still talking about what Kerry said as if it is any more relevant than Paris Hilton losing her dog in one of her shoes is either a complete fucking moron, or believes that you are one. But probaly both.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.