When Barack Obama reversed course earlier this month, and pledged to fight against a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking to make photographs of acts of torture by American soldiers revealed to the public, I was concerned about President Obama going down the path of authoritarianism constructed by George W. Bush. As of this morning, I am concerned that the entire Democratic Party is headed down that path.
I understand that I’ve just made a very broad statement. However, the Democratic Party made a very broad move yesterday. The entire United States Senate gave its approval to an amendment to a war funding bill. The amendment gave the Secretary of Defense the power to censor any photograph of any captured and held prisoner by the US military. Take note of that – the legislation doesn’t just censor the specific photographs of torture that President Obama has chosen to withhold. It gives the Secretary of Defense the power to make any photograph of anyone held prisoner by the military a secret.
This includes photographs of prisoner abuse that are taken after the date of the passage of the legislation. This legislation is specifically designed to keep future acts of torture by the US military secret. If the Senate was an honest political arena, this legislation would have been entitled The Censorship of Photographs of Future Torture Amendment.
Stop for a minute and consider the following question: Why, if torture by the US military has really stopped, would the Senate create a new law that authorizes the Secretary of Defense to cover up photographs of torture by the military that will occur in the future?
It seems that the United States Senate is planning for further acts of torture by the US military.
Here’s the language, right out of the the legislation itself, amendment to S. AMDT. 1157 to H.R. 2346, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009:
Not a single voice was raised in dissent. Every single Democrat agreed to this amendment, and right wing independent Senator Joseph Lieberman was leading the way. Amendment 1157 was written by him, and introduced with the added support of Republican Lindsey Graham.
In a larger sense, this is not a partisan issue to trouble the Democrats in particular. After all, Lieberman is an independent, and not one senator Republican, Democrat or independent stood against his amendment – not even Vermont’s independent Bernard Sanders. On the other hand, it was the Democratic Party that promised in the election of 2008 a clean break from the politics of fear. It was the Democratic Party that promised a return to the rule of law under the Constitution. It was the Democratic Party that promised an open government and an end to interference with Freedom of Information Act requests.
Now, with 1157, The Censorship of Photographs of Future Torture Amendment, every single Democrat in the Senate has embraced the politics of fear, has interfered with the Freedom of Information Act, and has joined the Republican attack against the rule of law and the Constitution.
Yesterday, the Democrats of the US Senate moved unanimously to help cover up all past and future acts of torture by our government. Not one newspaper has yet reported on the full impact of this amendment. If the word got out about this legislation, and the Democrats’ role in helping it pass, it would become clear as day that the Democratic Party no longer has any scrap of a legitimate claim to represent the ideals of progressive Americans.