Saturday, December 17, 2005

Soul Cleansing

It's hard to be the leader of the "free world" when your own citizens don't like you so much. President Bush's approval ratings aren't so great, and so he's been trying to do what he can to improve his image among his people. Along with four major addresses the past few weeks, a soft interview on NBC news, and a live broadcast speech to air tomorrow (Sunday) at 9EST, he's been doing a little confessin', doing a little soul cleansing.

The first confession was that he took responsibility for taking us to war on faulty intelligence. A little part of me says "good, I'm glad he finally owned up." It's not much of an "oops, I screwed up" since he still argues that going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do to bring democracy to the Middle East even if we had to kill, by his estimates, as many as 30,000 Iraqis in the process.

His second wash and rinse of the soul occurred when he stopped threatening to veto the McCain Amendment to the Pentagon spending bill. I doubt his motive was actually to do the right thing, but I'll take this particular cleansing, since the end product is that we still finally have a moral position on torture.

[As an aside, some of the faulty information connecting al Qaida to Iraq, which the president now recognizes as faulty, came from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who was an al Qaeda leader renditioned to Egypt, where he was tortured. During his torture he confessed that al Qaeda had contact with Saddam Hussein. He has since retracted this confession, and there is no credible evidence of any link between the former Hussein government and al Qaeda. See how useful torture is for getting reliable information?]

Maybe confession was feeling good, and he was feeling the joy of clean, and so revealed a little surprise. He authorized the "No Such Agency" to spy on Americans and others living in the United States without going through the usual legal channels, thereby violating basic civil liberties. Bush claimed that he gave such authorization to track and intercept communications occuring between people who have a link to al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations.

It turns out that not only is the NSA spying on American citizens. So is the Defense Department. Two SUNY Albany students have appeared on a watch list by the DoD as being threats to the military. The students are part of Campus Action, the same group I mentioned in my post about the Solomon Amendment a month back. The group is a non-partisan student group that has protested the Iraq War and military recruiters on campus. And, that's how they got on the DOD watch list. When military recruiters have come to the SUNY Albany campus, Campus Action protesteed their presence. That seems to have been enought to land them on the watch list entailing that their telephone calls and email messages have been monitored by the government.

As a communicative action, the confession is intended to redeem the confesser. The President aims to feel better, and as a by product, those who listen to the confession get to learn juicy secrets. But, for it to be a succesful redemption he needs to be forgiven. On this, I'm agnostic.


Rod Carveth said...

I'm afraid I can't forgive the man -- not when he gives his address today and says he will continue to violate our civil liberties by spying on us.

I also am angry that he said today that the revelations about the spying put us at risk, and that they are illegal. The policy is illegal. Bush is grabbing power he has no constitutional right to.

The only good thing is that the revelations have thrown a wrench into the renewal of the Patriot Act, at least for this weekend.

Anna said...

Doesn't it always seem as if it's the liberal student groups that make the government watch lists? Maybe I'm wrong -- do the right to life groups make the list because of the potential of domestic terrorism? Or am I being overly-biased?