Sunday, February 21, 2010

GOP: No Matter What Happens, America's Losing

Latest Newspaper Column:

First off, it seems that we need to start with a correction.

Last week, we discussed the silliness, hypocrisy and downright dishonesty of the wingnut tantrums over the fact that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a.k.a. the Undiebomber, was read his Miranda rights immediately upon being taken into custody. As it turns out, he wasn't "Mirandized," as they say, for almost nine hours.

According to a timeline released by administration officials, and reported in The Washington Post, Abdulmutallab was taken into custody and then taken to a hospital for treatment of the burns he suffered in his botched attempt to detonate the explosives in his undershorts.

He was interrogated about three hours later by a specially picked pair of questioners (one a bomb specialist), with the questions -centering on immediate emergency concerns, like whether there were other bombs about to go off. During this session, the report asserts, the agents got "some useful intelligence."

Then Abdulmutallab went back into surgery. When he came out, a second FBI team questioned him again. At that point, the report says, he stopped talking, and only then was he Mirandized.

This report clearly shows that assertions by Republicans like Kit Bond, Pat Buchanan and Lindsey Graham that the Undiebomber was "read his rights within 50 minutes" were dead wrong. I await their retraction. And wait, and wait, and wait...

Of course, wingnuts being wingnuts, whatever the truth of the matter may be, they'll probably find some way to spin it as being some colossal failure by the Obama administration in the War on Terror.

Nowhere was this more clear than in a recent editorial in the journal Foreign Affairs, where former Bush speechwriter turned regular Washington Post columnist Marc Theissen complained that the Obama administration was killing too many terrorists.

"With every drone strike that vaporizes a senior al-Qaeda leader," Theissen groused after such a strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, "actionable -intelligence is vaporized along with him. Dead terrorists can't tell you their plans to strike America."

But wait. Didn't Dick Cheney just tell us that Obama wasn't treating the fight against terrorists enough like a war? And now the problem is that he's killing too many of them?

Wait, it gets better. A recent joint operation between U.S. and Pakistani forces captured the military leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. This mook was the highest-value target captured in the Afghan War since 2001. But that, according to supposed "terrorism expert" and perennial Fox News commentator Michael Scheuer, was "no big deal," because "you win wars by killing people, not capturing them."

To the casual observer, this might seem a tad confusing. Are the Republicans saying we're killing too many terrorists, or not enough? Do they contend that killing top al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists in Afghanistan is a good thing or a bad thing? What's the overriding principle here? Or is it that they have no real principles at all?

Well, there is one principle operating here, of a sort. I've noted here frequently that the Republican Party during the Bush years abandoned every principle it once claimed to stand for - fiscal responsibility, limited government, the rule of law - in favor of a single belief, that everything's permissible if you're a Republican.

And the principle here, if you can call it that, is the flip side of that: Everything a Democrat does or proposes doing is wrong. It's the same double-think/double-speak that lets the congressional Republican caucus scream about how deficits are destroying our future while voting, purely along party lines, against the same "pay as you go" rules that cut deficits in the '90s and left George W. Bush a surplus to squander.

Back during the height of the controversy over the Iraq War, one of the most infuriating slanders by the Right was that liberals "wanted us to lose." Now an increasingly hysterical right wing seems unconcerned whether we're actually winning or losing against terrorists, because they're so determined to call everything a loss.