– with apologies to Bob Dylan.
The Senate has failed to move forward on a bill to restore the ancient right of habeas corpus to captives of the Bush Regime's Terror War, many of whom have proved to be innocent people -- sometimes kidnapped, sometimes sold into captivity by bounty hunters -- caged without legal protection, often for years on end. With a few momentarily honorable exceptions, the Republicans voted in near lock-step to support George W. Bush's perversion of the Magna Carta and the U.S. Constitution. The Democrats, who soft-pedaled the legislation, making no rousing public campaign about the measure before the vote (indeed, scarcely mentioning it at all), once again saw their impotent majority go down to defeat.
The result is a further entrenching of the lawless authoritarian state that has now fully supplanted the remains of the constitutional republic founded in 1787. It's curious that on the very day the United States Senate was on bended knee once more to the shabby sovereign in the White House, over in the Old Country, where monarchy still reigns (but doesn't rule), a major political figure delivered a wholesale rejection of the Terror War and its destruction of long-held, hard-won liberties.
The figure was Lord Ashdown -- Paddy Ashdown as he used to be called, when he was the swashbuckling leader of the UK's Liberal Democrats. Later ennobled by Tony Blair, Ashdown also served as NATO's viceroy in Bosnia for several years. The consummate British Establishment mandarin -- ex-military, titled, diplomat, politician, internationalist, consensus "wise man" hailed and consulted by all parties -- Ashdown is hardly the "far left" bogeyman of the rightwing (and "centrist") imagination, which paints all critics of the Texas Twerp as wild-eyed radicals suffering from "Bush Derangement Syndrome."
Yet Ashdown, speaking at the Lib Dems' annual convention, decried the entire ethos of the Terror War, with its dependence on brute force and military conquest. "Our problem is that we have chosen the wrong mindset, the wrong battlefield, the wrong weapons and the wrong strategies to win this campaign. We have chosen to fight an idea, primarily with force," Ashdown said, in remarks that were released before the speech.
As the Guardian reports, Ashdown "suggest[ed] that the threat has been exaggerated if compared with 19th-century anarchism or the bombing campaign of Irish republicanism in the 70s, two threats that had not led to the current erosion of civil liberties. Lord Ashdown is currently jointly chairing a committee of inquiry into terrorism with the former defence secretary Lord Robertson."
"The west seeks to control territory; they seek to capture minds," Ashdown declared. "We have chosen language and means which unite the moderates in Islam with the fanatics, when we should be uniting with the moderates in Islam against a common enemy. We have adopted methods, or connived at their adoption, which undermine the moral force of our ideas and strengthen the prejudices of our opponents.
"We are seeking to win a battle of values by sacrificing our most precious and most potent value, our freedoms and our civil liberties. We concentrate almost all our efforts on the short-term struggle to prevent the next outrage, and almost none on the long-term task of winning the hearts and minds of moderate Islam."
These are stirring words, and largely true; and it is good to hear someone of power and influence speak them. But we must disagree with the worthy Lord in one important respect. Ashdown seems to believe that the chief purpose of Bush's Terror War is actually fighting terror. But the history of the past six years has repeatedly given the lie to that fanciful notion. Every policy adopted in the Terror War seems deliberately designed to increase terrorism, to increase chaos and insecurity and fear -- and to reap the political and financial rewards from these horrific conditions. How long will it take for people like Ashdown to realize that there is no "seems" here, that the policies are deliberate, that they are engineered to produce the monstrous effects we see in the world today?
Or to paraphrase Bob Dylan: How many times must a duck go "quack," before you call it a duck?
How much more evidence do we need -- how many more years of war, how many new wars, how many more mountainous slag-heaps of corruption, how many more hammer-blows at our liberty, how many more collusions with death squads and terrorists and violent extremists, how many more smirking, stinking lies do we have to witness before we recognize the truth: that the Terror War is a machine for loot and domination by ruthless political factions, and their profiteering cronies, and their numerous sycophants who suck up the superflux of the elite's power and glory?
No matter what else the principals of the Terror War say they are doing, no matter what purposeful lies they tell or self-deceptions they practice -- this rapacious, ravenous, sinister Machine is in fact and in truth the bedrock reality of the so-called War on Terror.
And any opposition or dissent or critique that does not acknowledge this bedrock reality will never be able to do anything more than just chip away a few flecks of paint from the Machine -- if that. Even a majority -- in Congress, or in the public as a whole -- will remain impotent and ineffective as long as it doesn't recognize the true nature of what confronts us.
UPDATE: And now, in late-breaking news, comes yet another example of the powerless majority: Democrats Fall Short in Vote on Home Leave for Troops (NYT).