Sunday, September 09, 2007

A half step forward, a half step back

In May, Dick Durbin acknowledged that the line the White House was peddling to the public in the run-up to the Iraq War was contradicted by the classified intelligence being given to the Intelligence Committees - but he had kept silent. "I couldn't do much about it because, in the intelligence committee, we are sworn to secrecy," he said. "We can't walk outside the door" and say White House PR flacks are telling the public things he knew weren't true.

I slammed him bitterly, declaring
God dammit, why the hell not? ...

Why the hell couldn't you "walk outside the door" and tell the people, tell the world, that the White House was populated by a cabal of power-hungry liars? You knew, you knew, you knew that the country, your country, was being lied into a war. A war, Senator, not some pet pork barrel project of some bureau in the Executive Branch. A war.

But you kept silent. You kept your mouth shut. Because propriety, because protection of your privileged position, was more important than truth. More important than justice. More important than decency. More important than human lives.
The bad taste left in my mouth by that has not lessened in the months since. Durbin has been one of the white hats on several issues (such as the pro-labor RESPECT Act) but it's not enough to wear the white hat only when there is no risk to you. It is rare that any of us are in the position that our one action could make a real difference in a larger issue. When given that chance - as Durbin was - there are higher demands on conscience than those imposed by an oath of silence. That none of us know if we would have done better than Durbin did does not lessen his guilt, it merely acknowledges the possibility of our own.

Still, credit where it's due and Reuters for Friday gave me cause to offer some:
The No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate said on Friday he could no longer vote for funding the war in Iraq unless restrictions were attached that would begin winding down American involvement there.

"This Congress can't give President (George W.) Bush another blank check for Iraq," said Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, who has always opposed the war but until now voted to fund it.

"I can't support an open-ended appropriation which allows this president to continue this failed policy," he said in a speech at the left-leaning Center for National Policy.
Well, congratulations to Durbin for his commitment to voting against funding without restrictions. It's only a half-step because the "restrictions" he envisions apparently allow for maintaining who knows how many US troops in Iraq for who knows how long for "counterterrorism" and training, but at least instead of just talking about limits he insists he won't vote for funding without them. So it's only a half-step, but it is a half-step forward.

But as it always seems to be with him, just like when he voted against the war while keeping silent about the lies, just like when he denounced torture of prisoners at Gitmo only to cravenly apologize, he can't let something good stand on its own.
Durbin said he was increasingly troubled by his votes to pay for military operations [in Iraq].

"Now I just realized I can't do this. It's perpetuating a policy that is taking more American lives. We have to wind this war down," Durbin said, adding he would not use his leadership post to demand other Democrats follow his lead. [Emphasis added.]
So great. One vote, good. But that's all it is. No more. No more even though it could be more. "Oh, it's just me, I won't push anybody else." That is just another type of silence when being vocal is what's required. When it comes to Iraq, the Democratic leadership continues to insist on being no such thing.

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