Nothing to Lose

Senator Harry Reid, the minority leader of the upper chamber of the U.S. Government, infuriated the Bush administration and its Republican cronies on Tuesday by forcing the body into closed session. The move is allowed under a little used rule that permits any member to demand that the session be closed, ostensibly to facilitate the discussion of secret or sensitive information. Why now? Why this? Reid's statement may be the strongest of any Democratic Party leader to date: after years of stumbling into oblivion'by supporting the war and offering little but tepid opposition to the Bush cabal's most offensive policies--is it just possible that the Dems may finally have seen the light?

Don't get your hopes up. But it is at least interesting to note the language used by the relatively conservative Democrat from Nevada: he points out that Scooter Libby is "the first sitting White House staffer to be indicted in 135 years." Far from being a political witch hunt, the Treasongate prosecution targeting Libby and Rove is the tip of the iceberg, and the Republicans (and, judging from polls, the American public as well) know it. This fact is not lost on Reid or his colleagues who may finally see the opening they have been waiting for. Reid pulled surprisingly few punches, referring openly to the pattern of vindictive attack by the Bush junta against those who dare oppose its policies. It is not just about Joe Wilson: the Senator names other high-profile victims, among them General Shinseki, Larry Lindsay, Hans Blix, and Mohammed el-Baridei.

The point to be made, and made in as public a fashion as loud as possible, is that the Libby indictment is not about perjury, or Scooter Libby, or even about Valerie Wilson. It is merely a window into a vicious and immoral government that feels itself to be above the law--a long pattern of illegal and repugnant abuse of power to punish perceived enemies and squelch dissent. The ultimate goal, is of course, the worst: to be left unfettered in its prosecution of an illegal and unnecessary war.

Whence cometh such newfound cojones? Could it merely be frustration at the powerlessness of the minority party in a non-parliamentary system? Of course. In any parliamentary government, Bush's soaring unpopularity and the scandals and war crimes buffeting his ship of state would undoubtedly have led to new elections by now. But by the wisdom of our own slave-holding founding fathers, the duly 'elected' Bush administration is free (and quite willing, it seems) to continue to wreak havoc on the country and the world for another three years no matter what the consequences. The fear of jail is apparently insufficient; it is likely that every last one of them will have to be actually in jail for the crimes to stop. Staring in the face of such awesome power may have swayed Reid to lash out against the administration's most criminal enablers: his willing storm troopers in the Republican senate. Hence Reid's attack on the "Republican-controlled congress for its unwillingness to hold this Republican administration accountable for its misdeeds . . . ." And not only on Iraq, but also ". . . with respect to the cronyism and corruption that permeates this Administration."

Them's fightin' words, one might be tempted to conclude--and from a notoriously spineless and complicit opposition, no less. What's more, other Democrats promised to use the rule to shut down the Senate every day until the Republicans agree to a real, honest-to-goodness investigation into the bogus intelligence that led to the Iraq war. So who cares? Why would this stunt prove any different, even if it works, than all the other useless, blue ribbon panels that conclude everyone deserves a medal and some poor schmuck who drew the short straw gets a slap on the wrist?

Well, of course, history is not promising. Everyone is looking for this nightmare to end, and there is a tendency to see this or that event as The Sign, like some sort of Final Days cult looking for clues to the coming Rapture. And of course, there is no guarantee that the nightmare won't just keep on chugging or degenerate into fascism. But there are some signs and new developments that are heartening, at least on the surface. Bush's government is indeed up to its ass in alligators, as the saying goes, and all indications are that the people are onto their tricks.

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Daniel Patrick Welch's picture
Columns on STR: 15

Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. His website is at