The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based legal advocacy organization hosted a panel Saturday afternoon on Guantanamo and Habeas Corpus and what the president can do in the first 100 days of his term to restore the Constitution and the Rule of Law.
As Americans we are hooked on the idea that any problem can be solved with 10 simple solutions or in some given number of days. Yesterday, former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke plugged his 12 solutions for our national security crisis at his panel.
The consensus on today’s panel, however, from the lawyers and journalists present was that it would take more than one hell of a push broom and 100 days to clean up George Jr.’s mess. The picture was bleak: our Constitution is in tatters and the Supreme Court and Congress have descended into an Alice in Wonderland world where right is wrong and up is down.
Admittedly, it was depressing. Still it was energizing to see a large room nearly filled with extremely concerned and pissed off citizens. At one point, an attendee stood up and asked what bloggers and activists could do to turn the sinking ship around.
Panelist Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (yes his book was plugged at the panel) encouraged attendees to spend less time behind the computer and more time in the streets protesting.
Scahill saved his most scathing remarks for Democrats in Congress, including Barack Obama, commenting that instead of defining themselves as a real opposition party they had undermined efforts to hold Bush’s administration accountable. “Bush is operating in an enforcement-free zone inside the United States and outside the United States,” he said.
Scahill warned that the U.S. was in the midst of the most radical privatization agenda in history with a record number of private contractors carrying out government duties around the world. To illustrate this, he reminded the audience that Blackwater and Dyncorp were at the moment guarding Senator Obama as he toured Afghanistan and Iraq.
ACLU Lawyer and panelist Jameel Jaffar, told the audience that it was wrong and dangerous to blame Bush for everything. He cited the Supreme Court and Congress as miserable failures when it came to defending our Democracy and the Constitution.
“Ultimately, it will take more than a change in Administration to effect the change we want,” he said. “The most important thing in the first 100 days is to set up a truth and accountability mechanism like the 9-11 Commission,” he suggested.
The take home message was that American citizens need to keep a close eye on their government — now more than ever — and hold political leaders accountable. This includes Barack Obama, no matter how badly Democrats want to see him in the White House.
Scahill exhorted the crowd — many of them not surprisingly Obama supporters — to cheat on their love affair with Barack Obama with a little bit of conscience.
“John McCain and a head of lettuce could get the same number of votes,” he said, drawing laughs from the crowd. “Now is when you really need to hold Obama’s feet to the fire, because he needs your votes and he needs your money — he won’t need them after November.”
Forget that "Blackwater guarding Obama" part for the moment. As George W Bush helpfully reminded us almost four years ago, there comes an accountability moment, one time and one time only, in each presidential cycle. It's called Election Day.
The guy who appoints Supreme Court Justices for life gets a four-year contract with no corporate board oversight (at least not when Democrats are in charge). Probably the least we ought to do, as shareholders and all, is point out his mistakes to him when he makes them. Especially since he hasn't quite earned the promotion yet.
You've had that experience if you've worked for any corporation: you've worked hard, spent long hours at the office, paid your dues, kissed the right asses, there's a slot open -- or about to open; that dumbshit is going to get fired soon enough-- but the boss makes you keep toiling away for months or even years waiting for the promotion.
Just to make sure you don't fuck it up after he promotes you. Like the last guy. You know what I'm talking about (and it ain't Dubya).
If we don't hold Obama accountable for our convictions now, do you really think Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are going to after January next year?
Honestly, this is how the Democrats could screw the pooch in 2010, or 2012 at the latest. Do you actually believe that Obama and and a veto-proof Congress are going to turn on a dime in six months and stop the wars? They're going to bring our soldiers home from Iraq, negotiate a peace with Iran, have the good fortune to be on watch when we capture Osama, free the wrongly imprisoned in Guantanemo and force Karl Rove to testify?
Then lower gasoline prices and create millions of new jobs and fix the financial markets and all else that's wrong with our economy? And the climate?
And thereby win the love of a grateful and still mostly conservative nation?
That's a big to-do list. Shit needs to be fixed, cleaned up, some bad practices need to be ceased (torture and warrantless spying on Americans and holding corporations accountable and blahblahblah). I just don't think they can get it all done. I don't think they even want to try to fix or clean up some of it. Call me crazy.
I don't know, maybe we all should just go back to watching Dancing With the Stars. Sorry I bothered ya.