Thursday, August 20, 2009

Republicans and Impunity

Listening to National Public Radio this morning, I heard that the Republicans in Congress are pushing a bill to prevent any investigation of CIA operatives who violated the Bush administration's torture policies (by torturing too much, not by torturing too little). They say that we should not investigate good, patriotic Americans who were just trying to do their jobs to protect Americans.

There are two things you can say here, and I'm not sure which is worse. First, it's just typical bullshit (technically) in which they just wave a patriotism flag and accuse anyone who wants to investigate these crimes (and by extension the administration) of being unpatriotic. They don't really believe you should never investigate anyone whose job it is to protect Americans; they're just pumping the story for a little fake outrage.

The second possibility is that they really believe this, that people with the job of protecting people should never be investigated. (I say "Never" because here there is overwhelming evidence of torture and abuse so that it is hard to imagine what more could be required for sufficient evidence to begin an investigation.) If this is so, we could never investigate the police, customs, border patrol, military, CIA, FBI, Secret Service, etc. Anyone with military or police powers would be immune to oversight--we would have, in essence, a police state, a state in which the police (generally, see the truncated list above) could operate with complete impunity. I can scarcely imagine a worse situation for a democracy.

I'm not sure why we shouldn't include other categories of people as well. It would be unamerican to doubt our courageous teachers, doctors, road workers, fast-food burger-flippers, who are all working as hard as they can to make life better for all of us. Wouldn't it be unpatriotic to question their great sacrifices? If we could investigate only people whose jobs were such that they did not contribute to America, then I don't think we'd have anyone left to investigate except the unemployed. Perhaps that's their plan: investigate and prosecute only the weakest and most helpless in society, and let the powerful and influential act with impunity.

Obviously my point is that we have a responsibility to investigate anyone at any time when there is sufficient evidence that they have acted criminally; whether their job is to protect America, get kitty-cats out of trees, or feed the homeless is totally irrelevant to the legality of their actions.

To think we should not investigate our police apparatus for possible abuse is to adopt the worst aspects of a police state, allowing the police to act with complete immunity from prosecution. How could we be safe if people with power know that they can do anything without punishment?

So, Republicans: idiots, bullshitters or police-state enthusiasts, you decide.

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