Today, the stakes of this year's congressional elections got much, much higher. Today, George W. Bush admitted that he has committed war crimes.
Oh, he didn't call them war crimes, but that's what they are.
1. Bush admitted that he has set up secret prisoner of war camps in undisclosed locations around the world, and refused to allow human rights monitors access to those camps.
2. Bush admitted that he personally authorized the use of what he calls "alternative procedures" of interrogation. "“I cannot describe the specific methods used — I think you understand why — if I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning,” Bush said.
These actions, taken by Bush himself, are in clear violation of the laws of war that have passed into American law by the United States Congress and are legally binding upon the President of the United States and all government employees, military and civilian, who work under the orders of the President.
Those so-called "alternative procedures" Bush talks about are nothing more than torture. What, after all, makes them "alternative"? What is Bush saying that those procedures are alternative to? They are alternative to the laws of the United States of America, which appply to everyone, including President Bush.
This is serious stuff, folks. It's serious because President Bush's justification for these activities is that the laws of the United States of America don't apply to him any longer. I'm not making that up. That's actually the argument that Bush's lawyers are making.
Now think - if President Bush is not bound by the laws of the United States of America any longer, then what is left to stop him from doing anything he wants to do? What is there that can stop him from throwing you into prison and never give you a fair trial?
Think that's a far-fetched scenario? Think again. It's already happened, to people who have later been shown proof positive never to have engaged in any terrorist activity. There are people who have been picked up off the streets, thrown into airplanes, and sent to these secret prisoner of war camps that Bush admitted to today, tortured, and then released when it was discovered that they were not criminals of any kind, but were just cases of mistaken identity.
This isn't some kind of Tom Clancy thriller we're talking about here. It isn't a conspiracy theory. This is for real. These war crimes are being done in your name. Will you allow it to continue?
There is one group of people in America who have the power to stop George W. Bush's insane grab for the powers of a dictator: The Congress.
So far, President Bush has asked the Congress to look the other way while he breaks the law. So far, the Congress has complied. In this year's election, we have the opportunity to change that.
President Bush is betting that we won't have the guts to do anything about it. He's made the calculation that the American people just don't like to talk about difficullt things like torture, and the Geneva Conventions. Oh, he knows that we'll impeach our President for getting oral sex, because oral sex is fun to talk about. But, President Bush knows that there is no way that the hosts of Entertainment Tonight will ever bring up something so serious and unsexy as the Geneva Conventions and laws prohibiting torture. President Bush is betting that if the news doesn't hit Entertainment Tonight, you won't care about it.
Our candidates for the House of Representatives in the 24th district of New York state now have a grave responsibility of leadership. It is their responsibility to bring this matter of national interest to our attention. It is their responsibility to discuss this matter, the violation of the law by the President of the United States, and tell us voters what they intend to do about it.
It is the responsibility of Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier to discuss this difficult matter, even though the discussion will probably not help them to get elected. This matter is not the kind of thing that can easily be used as a political tool. It is not a safe matter for a congressional candidate.
Yet, Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri have the responsibility to discuss this matter precisely because it is unsafe. When the President of the United States abuses his power, breaks the law, and endangers the Constitution of the United States of America and the democracy that it protects, all Americans are made unsafe.
It won't be enough for them to bring the matter up at private meetings with small audiences. It won't be enough to refer to this matter in a few lines of a stump speech. Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri are both lawyers. They know what the law is, and they have the ability to discuss the law with intelligence and detail. We, the voters of the 24th district, deserve to see that kind of discussion of the illegal actions of the President of the United States. We deserve to be told by Meier and Arcuri both, without condescension, how they regard the situation and what they intend to do about it if elected.
These are serious times. Will Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri show the ability to be leaders, and not just salesmen? Will they issue adequate statements on this matter?
Honestly, I don't have confidence that either Ray Meier or Michael Arcuri will rise to the occasion. Give their past behavior, I think it's more likely that the candidates will take the easy way out, and pretend that there isn't a problem. If I had to make a bet on it, I'd wager that Meier and Arcuri will stick to the tried-and-true campaign formulas they've been following so far. They'll talk about how many jobs they'll bring to the district. They'll nitpick about campaign donations.
I'd very much like to be proven wrong, by either candidate. This should not be a partisan issue. The issue is the good of the United States of America, and the continuation of our system of laws and democratic government.
This is a time to stand up for the values that form the foundation of the United States of America - corny stuff like liberty, equality, and the rule of law. This is a time for politicians to rise above politics and become statesmen.
This is a challenge for us all, as citizens - not just for those who are running for public office. It is a test of our moral character. Do we really love the American way, or are we willing to allow it to pass out of existence out of mere laziness and indifference?
Will you take the challenge? Will you pass the test?