Editor's Note: Our readers comment on the superficial one-day hearing for Robert M. Gates to be Defense Secretary -- he was confirmed by the full Senate on Dec. 6 by a 95-2 vote with only two conservative Republicans, Jim Bunning and Rick Santorum, dissenting -- and on related issues, the Iraq War and the Military Commissions Act of 2006:

The [Gates] hearing indeed was a sad, and wholly unsurprising, state of affairs.  Is there any goddamn Democrat in a position of congressional power willing to stand up and proclaim that the emperor has no clothes?

I guess Conyers is the only member in the House leadership with any pull on Iraq who could laughably be called "liberal", "progressive", or whatever ... and from what I've read, he's being pretty meek at the moment.

No one in the Senate is a candidate, are they?  My "liberal" senator, Barbara Boxer, is a joke when it comes to anything beyond the most superficial opposition to this headlong rush to Hades in a handbasket.

And, of course, *no one* is talking about Afghanistan.  Even if, by some miracle, there's some actual progress on withdrawing from Iraq, that "splendid little war" will keep going and going and going ...

I didn't have any real hope for substantive change on US warmaking policy after November 7th ... but to see my pessimism borne out by this sham puts me in a funk so deep I could hang pictures.

Regards
Doug Latimer

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Has Pelosi forgotten that the Bush regime has yet to be elected?  You don't bargain with crooks without becoming one.  There IS no "bipartisanship" with the Bush crew.  They are supposed to be arrested and jailed awaiting trial.  What in hell is going on?

tedbohne

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Relax. The Democrats aren't even in charge yet.  It really doesn't matter who Bush puts in there. Nothing is going to change until Bush is either out of office or Bush and Cheney are impeached.   Now is not the time to get down on what might be our best hope for saving this country.
  
Cathy Brabant
Lincoln Park, Michigan

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Not to worry.  With Gates in place we'll end up after 2008 without another Republican president for a generation.
At least.

J

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21-0 for the dung beetle thanks to the sanitation work our democracy.  All the usual hue and cry and in the end nary a scrap left of the great election.  Bombast away,  Onward, lushly, O rhetoricians.
    gzentelis

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Dear Mr. Parry,

In focusing on the broadness of the term "Any Person," and its broad applicability to any one of us, you seem yourself to have missed an even more astonishing implication of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 in your article "Who is Any Person in Tribunal Law?". You said:

"It could take years before the U.S. Supreme Court even addresses these detentions and – given the increasingly right-wing make-up of the Court – there would be no assurance that the justices wouldn’t endorse the President’s extraordinary powers."

BUT, you had quoted the Military Commissions Act a few paragraphs before this in your article as saying (emphasis mine):

“[N]o court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever … relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions.”

Oh, boy. My word. Goodness gracious. Etc., etc.

"Procedures" is a broad and loaded term which can encompass much. "No court" means just what it says. In other words, not even the Supreme Court nor any of its Justices individually or severally will have jurisdiction to challenge - nor even to hear any challenge - nor even to consider hearing any challenge - to anything about the legality of how one of these military commissions conducts its business. This includes how it operates, whom it decides to prosecute, how or where it tries them, whether it allows access to counsel, or disclosure of evidence, or operates in secret - nothing. The inquisitors of the "military commission" could decide to boil a victim in oil, or stretch him on the rack, or have him torn into four pieces by wild horses, or spike him to death within the Iron Maiden, and none of these "procedures" may be challenged by "any justice, judge or court," not even the Supreme Court.

Of course, this is unconstitutional. The term "lawfulness" encompasses the term "constitutionality." Nothing in this country may be fully "lawful" without being also "constitutional," whereas something may be in the Constitution, or "constitutional," without having been codified into law, or "lawful." Therefore, in the language above, we may substitute "constitutionality" for "lawfulness."

Per the Constitution, given the separation of powers therein, Congress does not have the power to pass, nor the President to sign, any law which declares itself not permissible to be challenged, as regarding its constitutionality, before the Supreme Court or any lower federal court. If Congress wants to do that, they need to change the Constitution by two-thirds majority plus ratification by 38 states. But of course, as George W. Bush told us, he regards the Constitution as "just a piece of goddamned paper." The Republican Congress seems to agree with him.

So, your paragraph re. the Supreme Court is pure wishful thinking, under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. We have just regressed 500 years, back to the Spanish Inquisition. Only God has any jurisdiction any more over this Congress and its "military commissions," and He has been silent for 2,000 years. Except, of course, in the mornings when He speaks to George W. ("Torquemada") Bush.

Yours sincerely,
Chris Lihou
Arlington, VA

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President Bush has some admirable qualities like loyalty to his friends and the courage of his convictions. All human beings however, are prone to make mistakes. Mr. Bush still has time to rectify mistakes in Iraq and the opportunity to achieve a major success in the Middle East.
The argument that the only options available to the United States in Iraq are to "Stay the Course" taking pointless casualties, or, "Cut & Run" turning the Middle East over to the vicious ministrations of Islamic murderers is patent nonsense. "Stay the Course" fits one common definition of insanity; "repeating the same action over and over and expecting a different outcome." A drastic change of course was long ago indicated.
Other, and better options are available. I have repeatedly offered that the wisest change of course is to immediately take two concerted precise actions:
"1. All Allied Forces, withdraw to a strategic position within Iraq, possibly on the Syrian border at the Euphrates River (at the option of the military) and set up an impregnable fortified base with electronic and aerial surveillance."
"2. Blanket the Iraqi broadcast facilities with the following message. "Iraq now has a democratically Elected Government. Pacification and reconstruction are the responsibility of the Iraqi government. Allied Forces will provide a military strike force in assistance to the Elected Government if requested, but will not otherwise interfere. The Iraqi people are free to settle disputes within the framework of their Elected Government. If the Elected Government is overthrown by violence, Allied Forces will return to smash any opposition and restore the Elected Government."
Such a strategy removes the focus on Americans as occupiers, and refocuses on Iraqi self_determination. The key phrase is "Elected Government." It guarantees that any effort to promote a civil war is profitless and ultimately doomed to failure. It virtually eliminates
further Allied casualties. It is probable that some Iraqi casualties will continue until the wisdom of political_process_cooperation becomes apparent to enough Iraqi. All of these are solely Iraqi problems, not the responsibility of the Allied Forces.
Further, Allied Forces will leave when the Elected Government determines there is no longer any need."
Oft repeated phrases of American politicians is that we should not be engaged in "nation building" nor are Americans "the world’s policemen." It has a nice comfortable ring implying that it is the responsibility of the United Nations as if we are not the heart and guts of that organization. As the foremost champion of personal liberty and the most powerful nation in the world, it falls upon us to provide leadership within this family of nations. Thus we, more than any others, are the "police" who must enforce the Laws of civil intercourse and provide the model of democracy in action. We cannot ignore the rest of the world.
Foreign agents of dissension can then be identified and neutralized in Iraq. It would be absurd to believe that Peace is a viable objective. Power struggles are a fact of human life. The real objective could be to make most people aware that under a democratic form of government, thru the mechanism of free elections, ultimate power can be reserved to the people collectively, and not to a self anointed elite.
If the Iraqi cannot come to an agreeable compromise of their differences, Allied Forces can remain for an indefinite time at a minimum of cost, which cost could, and should be, covered by sales of Iraqi oil. After all it is a service to the Iraqi.
This is a practical strategy for the defense of America in this changing world.
Looking beyond Iraq, it is possible to project American influence over a wider area of the Middle East and beyond. There is an ongoing and implacable struggle over the "correct" religious philosophy. The absolutist doctrines of major religions will remain in conflict, and clash, as long as international commerce causes interaction among the differing cultures. Even within the United States, fundamentalists never cease to seek to instate religious bias into the laws of the land, and the functions of government. As long as religious doctrines are rigid, illogical, and incompatible, there are only three possible solutions,
1. secularity in government, or
2. isolation of incompatible cultural groups, or
3. complete eradication of opposition.
Planting the seeds of the concept of secular government, of maintaining a balance of power, and of reserving matters of faith to each individual, is the only logical solution.
Bungling is not an option. America must be clear on its objectives and speak with one voice.
A successful management of the Iraqi situation in which the United States projects both power and logic into the Middle East would restore respect for America and for this Administration. It can also provide the opportunity to create a power base within the region for even-handed adjudication of regional disputes.
There are voices in American media who decry that Iraq is hopelessly mired in ancient rivalries and tribal disputes about which nothing can be done. It is a false assumption. A majority of the Iraq population turned out, braving the hazards of the sectarian violence, to cast their ballot and to exhibit with pride, the ink-stained finger, a badge of their willingness to participate in a democratic process of government. America cannot afford to let the bravery of those people go unrewarded and unsupported if we wish the concept of personal liberty to prevail. Their actions echo that of those who founded the American nation some two centuries in the past. We must also guarantee that the sacrifices that have been made by our men in Iraq has not been in vain.
R C Rockafellow - Veteran WWII, Phoenix AZ

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