“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Ah, what a goodly old chestnut from Thomas Jefferson, a man who disdained Christianity, liked his women dark and thought Americans should be nomadic agrarians. Who could argue with him?
Not this guy.
I do, however, have a major fucking problem when gun-toting Libertoons excerpt the quote for the purpose of inciting political assassination. All over a Government OPTION for health insurance? Nixon wanted a goddamn employer mandate, not to mention a “guaranteed income” for impoverished Americans. So who’s the socialist? (After your read this here essay, check out “Five Myths About Health Insurance Around the World.”)
No, the “blood of the tyrants” aphorism is better pointed at creeps like Dick Cheney/Don Rumsfeld, who clearly articulated a national strategy of aggressive government expansion (the still-booming and impossible to dismantle national security industrial complex) and outsourced militarism (Blackwater/Xe). Those are your tyrants, kids. And as far as I know, they haven’t lost a drop.
Meanwhile, Department of Justice chief Eric Holder has appointed federal prosecutor John H. Durham to conduct a “criminal review” into illegalities in detainee interrogation. President Obama has — rightfully, in my opinion — stepped aside on the issue, letting DOJ run the show. This is important for two reasons. First, it shows that the president is not as concerned about protecting the Executive as he is about freeing DOJ from its recent history of extreme politicization.
Of course, there’s a major political motivation for allowing these investigations to continue. On Monday, DOJ released a formerly classified report about interrogation tactics used against alleged terrorist conspirators in US custody. There’s a buncha new and grisly info in there, and it would look pretty silly if Justice didn’t “examine the facts and to follow the law,” in the words of Mr. Holder. Though a troubling percentage of the report is still redacted (intelspeak for “blacked out with Sharpie”), what we can see is highly disturbing. Mock executions, threats of murder and rape of detainees’ families, power drills, aggressive physical handling, and everyone’s favorite summer sport, waterboarding.
Makes you wonder what was on those interrogation videotapes that CIA officials ordered destroyed back in 2005. Actually, it makes me wonder what the nation’s top intelligence agency was doing using an analog medium. Do they record their audio on 8-track?
But I digress. Here’s the real concern with these investigations, from a purely political perspective:
None of this means I don’t think we should investigate, and ultimately prosecute. We live in a society of laws, where the “blood of the tyrants” is metaphorically spilled in the Courts, not on the streets. Without a Department of Justice that’s free to conduct investigations with credibility and autonomy, we might as well hand the country over to Todd Palin. And I’m not quite ready for that yet. Are you?
[Update: the Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson says basically the same damn thing I just did.]