Yesterday, Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol’s new group released a new ad which accused lawyers who challenged the Bush administration’s detention practices with being Al Qaeda agents. There’s already been some good pushback, with the Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman getting retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the Guantanamo military commissions, to go on record against the Kristol/Cheney attacks as “outrageous”:
“If you zealously represent a client, there’s nothing shameful about that,” said the retired Air Force colonel. “That’s the American way.”
Ken Gude of the Center American Progress also noted that what Cheney was doing “is exactly what Joe McCarthy did. Not kind of like McCarthyism, this is exactly McCarthyism.”
Adam Serwer has a great item today in the American Prospect tracing the provenance of Cheney and Kristol’s smear, contrasting this with conservatives’ veneration of people like Jay Bybee and John Yoo, the Bush administration lawyers who connived to develop a legal justification for the Bush-Cheney torture program. Lt. Colonel David Frakt, who has represented detainees both in military and civilian courts, put it as clearly as possible:
“The right is treating the lawyers who came up with the justification for torture as heroes, and the lawyers like Katyal who helped restore the rule of law as villains,” says Frakt. “They’ve just got their heads screwed on backwards.”
It really can’t be overstated how far from American traditions of justice Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol have strayed with their latest attack. The idea that individuals are entitled to a capable legal defense and presumed innocent until proven guilty has deep roots in American history — exemplified by Founding Father John Adams’ willingness to defy public outrage and defend in court British soldiers accused of the Boston massacre in 1770.
Moreover, one of the goals of terrorism against democracies is to cultivate such fear and paranoia that democracies abandon their principles in an attempt to obtain some greater sense of security, thus proving to the world that “democratic values” are meaningless. Osama bin Laden would probably observe Keep America Safe’s latest ad with a lot of pleasure. I hope and expect we’ll disappoint him — and Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney — by not giving in to his terror.