Guest Column: How Bush and Cheney broke down our democracy

President George W. Bush’s pandering to right-wing zealots in his support for the federal Marriage Amendment that the U.S. Senate correctly refused to pass, is his attempt to change the nation’s focus from the rising death toll of the Iraq war and his illegal policies of torture and NSA wiretaps. Moderate and progressive voters should, instead, focus on demanding that their congressional representatives seek to impeach the evil duo of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

The federal Marriage Amendment was proposed by one of the Senate’s more extreme and lackluster Republicans, Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado. Even in the Republican-dominated Senate, the amendment’s supporters could muster only 49 percent of the required 67 votes for passage. In 2004, lawmakers defeated a similarly mean-spirited amendment.

Of course, all of this nonsense about banning gay marriages is a weak and transparent attempt to distract voters from discussing Bush’s police-state tactics. So far, as the Iraq war sinks further into nightmarish chaos, nearly 2,500 American service members have died in this war that the Bush administration started after lying to the American people about weapons of mass destruction. As it turned out, the only WMDs found were Bush’s ineptitude and mismanagement.

The war is sinking into a quagmire that would make Vietnam look like a “cake walk” to paraphrase one of the Iraq war’s chief architects, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Even worse is the fact that now we are beginning to hear lurid reports of murderous atrocities like the one in Haditha, where Marines on a rampage killed 24 people including children.

Then, there are the horrendous reports of torture at the interrogation center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib prison, the infamous Iraq prison used by Saddam Hussein. These prisoner abuses are in violation of U.S. and international laws. Bush unilaterally declared that suspected members of al-Qaeda were “enemy combatants” and not entitled to the protections provided for under the Geneva Convention. This opened the Pandora’s box of torture. At Guantanamo Bay, prisoners are subjected to sleep deprivation for extended periods, exposure to cold and heat temperature extremes, and excruciating stress positions for such extended periods that prisoners would urinate or defecate on themselves.

Recent news reports disclose that soon after the interrogation center opened at Guantanamo Bay, prisoners began hunger strikes, and several prisoners attempted suicide. In one eight-day period in August 2003, there were 23 attempted suicides at the camp. Guards found three prisoners hanged in their cells on Saturday, June 10. Military officials claimed the deaths were suicides.

White House officials said the dead men were terrorists, but since they were never charged with any crimes or allowed to face their accusers in open court, we will never know for sure.

Torture methods used at Guantanamo Bay were later imported to Abu Ghraib. At Abu Ghraib, bizarre photos have been published that show a naked and terrified man being menaced by dogs controlled by uniformed soldiers, men forced to wear women’s underwear and another forced to wear a dog collar and leash while on his hands and knees. Another favorite torture is waterboarding, the grim technique where the victim is strapped to a board and plunged into a vat of water.

Meanwhile, USA Today reported in May that shortly after 9/11, Bush illegally ordered the super-secret NSA to search phone records of “tens of millions of Americans” using data supplied by Verizon, Bell South and AT & T. Bush claims these warrantless searches are legal. But this wholesale “vacuum cleaner” approach to gathering information on American citizens could lead to abuses. Consider the implications of the Bush administration monitoring the phone records of political opponents. Do we really want to trust the likes of Bush, Cheney or their sycophants with this much power?

Former Vice President Al Gore accused Bush of “repeatedly and persistently” breaking the law by spying on Americans without a warrant. Bush insists that we should trust him. He says that he is only looking for terrorists. Bush uses the spurious argument that Congress granted him special powers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He says that he would never use the information against loyal Americans or for any political gain. He only wants to protect us. These are the same promises that Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini used in their power grabs during the 1930s.

Since 1789, when the states ratified our nation’s Constitution, our democracy has never been in so much peril as it is now under Bush and Cheney. Bush and a Congress that has been paid off by the likes of ExxonMobil and Halliburton believe the president is above the law. Most Republicans and many Democrats are falling all over themselves to support Bush’s imperial notions that he can ignore any law he chooses.

Democrats continue to miss opportunities to rein in Bush and Cheney’s manic power grab. Instead of following the bold leadership of Sen. Russell Feingold’s call of censuring the president, the Democrats fled into a flurry of vague evasions. In his speech to Congress on Feb. 7, 2006, Feingold correctly pointed out that Bush admitted to violating the Fourth Amendment by ordering the NSA to spy on Americans.

Now is the time to demand members of Congress to grow a backbone and rid our nation of the plague that Bush and Cheney’s right-wing agenda has wrought on our nation’s freedoms. Impeach them now!

Edward B. Winslow is a free-lance writer in Kingston, Ill. He graduated from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colo., where he studied history and journalism. He can be contacted at

From the July 5-11, 2006, issue

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