Mitch McConnell: Obstructionist in Chief
I have repeatedly written Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently, since, unfortunately, he represents the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky (where I live) in the U.S. Senate. I have called him on the phone quite a bit, too. I have never been able to talk to him, only to an aide. If I were able to talk to McConnell, what would I say? Something like the following:
Senator McConnell, I realize you see your job as supporting the president’s war policies no matter what, but do you hate our troops? We pacifists, heck, not just we pacifists, but anyone who criticizes the invasion and occupation of Iraq, are constantly accused of “not supporting the troops.” But we aren’t the ones who sent the troops in ill-equipped so that their families had to have fundraisers so they could purchase better bodyarmor (while our tax dollars paid private security companies–mercenaries–enough to be much better equipped!). We aren’t the ones who voted in 2003 and 2004 to eliminate combat pay, hazardous duty pay, and benefits for Reservists and National Guardsmen (and Guardswomen) being used as frontline troops. We aren’t the ones whose privatization-at-all-costs policies led to appalling conditions in Walter Reed and other V.A. hospitals across this country. We have said all along that the best way to support our troops was to bring them home safe from this illegal and unwise invasion and occupation–which has turned, as many of us predicted, into the policing of a civil war.
Now, after you have repeatedly blocked all attempts in the Senate to end this war, Senators Leahy (D-VT), Webb (D-VA), and Spector (R-PA) forged a bi-partisan bill that would have at least made sure our troops got enough “down time” by insisting that that their home leaves be equal in time to the 15 month tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. But you blocked that, too. Any military or ex-military person will tell you, common sense tells you, that tired, on-edge troops make mistakes. During the long, hideous Vietnam War, our troops were only required to do one tour in most cases. Any further tours were voluntary and after sufficient leave. Yet, some of our soldiers and marines in this war are on their fifth tours of Iraq or Afghanistan–with nothing voluntary except their military enlistment. More of our troops will die because you blocked this bill. Others of our troops may make poor judgments that result in innocent civilians killed (thereby fueling the insurgency). The mental strain on our troops is resulting in family violence when they return home, suicides, and homicides. The more tours with less time to readjust to non-combat life at home in between, the more these trends to continue. So, I ask, Do you hate our troops? Do you hate their families? Or is your misguided loyalty to Pres. Bush simply so strong that nothing else matters?
Senator, at the risk that overeager police might have me tasered, I have some other hard questions. I’m sorry, is this a “free speech zone?” See, I have to keep reminding myself that America is no longer a “free speech zone.” Silly me, I didn’t realize the First Amendment had been suspended.
Speaking of suspensions of rights, Senator, Do you hate human rights and the freedoms for which this country once stood? You must. When you Republicans still controlled Congress, you pushed through the Military Commissions Act which gave a legal basis for the Bush administration’s denial of Habeas Corpus to anyone designated by the president as an “enemy combatant,” like those terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. You’re an attorney, Senator. So you remember habeas corpus, the legal principle (enshrined in Anglo-American law since 1215! and from there adopted as a firm principle of international law) that demands that anyone arrested and held has the right to know the charges against them and to challenge in court whether the detaining parties have any grounds for holding them? Yet, yesterday, you blocked the attempt to restore that ancient right to those detained at Guantanamo Bay for years without charge (much less conviction). Do you hate the rule of law? What if a new administration, a Democratic administration, declared you an enemy combatant and stuck you in Gitmo? Wouldn’t you want to be able to challenge their right to do this? Now, the fate of habeas corpus in this nation is left in the hands of the most rightwing Supreme Court we’ve ever had. I feel SOO safe, now, don’t you? I hope your disregard of the Constitution in this way becomes an issue in your reelection, sir.
Senator, Do you hate democracy? I ask because you blocked efforts to give voting rights to the residents of the District of Columbia, to give them a 1 vote representation in the House of Representatives. Aren’t we supposed to be “spreading democracy” in Iraq and Afghanistan? Then why are we denying it to D.C.? You state that you had to oppose this legislation as unconstitutional (Oh, now, you remember the Constitution!) because the District is not a state. Will you then sponsor a Constitutional amendment to make the District of Columbia a state?
If you don’t, Senator, outsiders might think you are afraid of the votes of the mostly African-American District. And with Republican presidential candidates refusing all minority-sponsored debates and fora, isn’t your party having enough problems looking like a whites only club? So, the District of Columbia remains an internal colony without representation–although it is the capital of a nation founded in protest against any such laws in which the ruled have no part in the making of the rules. Ironic, no? Somehow, I doubt the residents of the District appreciate the irony.
The latest rumor is that you will attempt to block the S-CHIP renewal (which the president threatens to veto) whereby several states, including Kentucky, have successfully given health insurance to previously uninsured children. Senator, Do you hate children also?
Get your resume updated, Senator. It is increasingly clear that any progress in these United States will happen only if we remove you as Obstructionist-in-Chief. Come November ’08, Senator, we Kentuckians will remember your role in these atrocities and help you decide to find new work in the private sector, spend more time with your family, and, generally–not have a job on our dime.
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