Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Boehner Vs. Reality On National Security

Adam Serwer of the American Prospect is guest blogging on The Plum Line this week.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), the man likely to be the next speaker of the House, is slated to give a speech on national security today that takes the predictable shots at the president for opposing the surge in Iraq and characterizes the war as "won" while troops remain in the country, the efforts to form a government are still at a stalemate, and Iraqis still face daily threats of violence.
Where Boehner's speech truly goes off the rails though, is where he accuses the Obama administration of a return to a "pre-9/11 mentality" of dealing with terrorism "like a law enforcement issue." That would certainly come as a surprise to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, which just yesterday filed a lawsuit challenging the government's authority to kill American citizens abroad suspected of being terrorists. While there's at least one recorded drone strike on an American citizen in Yemen in 2002, there's no question that the current administration has expanded the use of targeted killings markedly, in places that are outside the scope of the original Authorization to Use Military Force. This is part of what the New York Times has called a "stealth war" against al-Qaeda and its allies that has "expanded" under the current administration.
Likewise, Boehner's argument that the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay "houses the worst of the worst" is at odds with the fact that the government has lost around three quarters of the habeas cases filed by Guantanamo Bay detainees since the 2008 Boumediene decision. His accusation that "there are signs of a return to this pre-9/11 mentality in proposals to house terrorists on American soil," is silly when you consider that at one point both 2008 presidential candidates, General David Petraeus and even President Bush agreed that Gitmo should be closed. And there are 33 international terrorists already in prison on American soil. Is Boehner really arguing that the current commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has a "pre-9/11 mentality?"
Boehner also takes a shot at the administration for postponing the military commissions trial of the suspected bomber of the U.S.S. Cole. Of course, while the idea that politics was involved with that decision is mere speculation, it's clear that the decision to subject him to torturous "enhanced interrogation techniques" have put the admissibility of evidence against him in doubt.
The craven attempts to glean some political advantage from an ambiguous end to an optional war that had absolutely nothing to do with the fight against al-Qaeda is bad enough, but worse is the distorted lens through which our current national security policies are evaluated. The Obama administration has retained the structure of Bush national security policies almost entirely, from the "hybrid" legal system for trying suspected terrorists, to the expansive surveillance powers he promised to end as a candidate. The administration has been similarly cavalier with its use of the state secrets doctrine to block court scrutiny of executive branch behavior, and in the case of targeted killings abroad, it has been more aggressive than the Bush administration ever was. The most significant actual policy departure from the last administration was the ban on torture, which, like Gitmo, was once a matter of bipartisan consensus.
In the eyes of most civil libertarians and parts of the left, the current administration's policies are as lawless and arbitrary as their predecessors'. But Boehner isn't remotely interested in reining in the current administration's near limitless executive powers on matters of national security; he's practically begging them to go even farther. 

Right-Wing "Cannot Wait" For Gov't Shutdown, "Just Like In '95 And '96"

The right-wing media is "giddy" over the possibility of winning a Republican majority in Congress in order to shut down the government. The shutdowns cost the government at least $800 million, furloughed over a million workers, delayed veterans benefits, shut down federally funded research, and suspended certain law enforcement activities, among other things. 

The 1995-1996 gov't shutdowns had massive impact on public and cost the government at least $800 million

Federal government shutdowns occur when Congress cannot agree to pass a federal budget.  According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, Federal government shutdowns occur for the following reasons:

Shutdowns of the federal government have occurred in the past due to failures to pass regular appropriations bills by the October 1 deadline; lack of an agreement on stopgap funding for federal government operations through a continuing resolution; and other impasses, for example, in 1995, the lack of an agreement on lifting the federal debt ceiling.

Then-speaker Gingrich was criticized for orchestrating two government shutdowns in FY 1996, which cost the government at least $800 million.  

Between November 1995 and January 1996, two federal government shutdowns occurred. As Time reported:

As the clocks struck midnight on Nov. 14, 1995, so began the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. For 21 days -- from Nov. 14-19 and again from Dec. 16, 1995-Jan. 6, 1996 -- nonessential government employees stayed home while their leaders fought to pass a federal budget. The shutdown was sparked when an agreement between President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress (led by then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich) could not be reached by Sept. 30, the expiration date of the previous year's budget. In the end, the shutdown, which cost the government $800 million in losses for salaries paid to furloughed employees, was settled when Clinton submitted a budget that proposed to eliminate the federal deficit in seven years.

Delay: Gingrich "told a room full of reporters that he forced the shutdown because Clinton had rudely made him...sit at the back of Air Force One." In his book No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight, Tom Delay, who was the Republican  House Whip at the time of the shutdown wrote:…

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