Contempt of Congress? Contempt of history, too!
Now that it's become painfully obvious to anyone who knows how to read that it's not just the Constitution this administration has taken it upon itself to rewrite but, in preparation for trials by federal judges in civilian courts, Justice Department attorneys now want to play script doctors, and revise evidence such that they can optimize prosecuting Guantanamo detainees.
The prospective court hearings aren't just about whether or not "unlawful enemy combatants" have been held illegally, without charge, since 2001, but about whether they may continue to be detained. After the Supremes' recent ruling that detainees are now entitled to a trial in civilian court and, in essence, to the protection of habeas corpus, the president and all the president's men, including government lawyers are working overtime, so they can stack the deck strongly in favor of winning convictions.
Counsel for the remaining 200 or so detainees, at Guantanamo, insist that much of the government's evidence is ad hoc, anecdotal, "hearsay," and pieced together from reports by bounty hunters on Uncle Sam's payroll. Funny thing, too, who we might find, at one time or another, with their hand in Uncle Sam's back pocket---Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden, to name but a few.
For Bush et. al, the word fact, in itself, has become just another four letter word, an obscenity, as they seek to redact, or expunge, parts of these "factual returns," or evidentiary records, some of which may include confessions obtained through torture.
And, as we've seen since the born again right first occupied the Oval Office, back in 2000, the script doctors have made copious rewriting military reports, and other evidence, either to preclude prosecution, or to make their charges stick, whichever is most politically expedient, and morally bankrupt, at the time.
It was Justice Scalia's dissent from the recent ruling giving detainees legal entitlement to file petitions of habeas corpus in civilian courts that is most transparent in exposing the controlled environment of hyperbole, purple prose, distortion and fear that have fueled the illusory war on terror. In his dissent, it was Antonin Scalia who engaged in the kind of hyperbole unworthy of a Supreme Court judge when he exaggerated the number of released detainees said to be involved in other acts of terror. Hey, we all make factual errors from time to time, even Supreme Court judges.
But, let's be clear: this isn't about factual errors. This is about a premeditated, conscious, carefully orchestrated, and woven attempt to actively, knowingly, tamper with evidence, either through amendment, redaction, or by submitting "new records, which would allow it (the government) to add new intelligence and expand its reasoning for holding the detainees." (AP) It will be up to federal judges to decide whether Justice gets to fine tune justice such that its own mother couldn't recognize it. Remember, too, that the next president won't only have the pleasure, and privilege, of filling empty seats on the Supreme Court, but will get to appoint federal judges, too.
Oh, and keep in mind that script doctors don't only get to fool with the printed page, whether it be the Magna Carta, the Constitution, military reports implicating senior command in massacres like Haditha, how to spin the illegal outing of an undercover CIA operative, but their job description also screening applicants for entry-level positions as attorneys, in the Justice Department, to ensure, as Reuters reports, that those "with liberal or Democratic affiliations" were weeded out as "wackos," and not hired, which constitutes job discrimination, and is in violation of federal law.
The Bush administration's own office of professional responsibility issued a report that concluded that, in at least two known instances, candidates were "deselected" for consideration on the basis of their "political and ideological affiliations." The jury is still out with respect to attorney-gate, the firing of nine U.S. attorneys on Alberto Gonzales' watch.
Even Bush appointee, and current attorney general, Michael Mukasey, acknowledges that taking such things as political party into account when recruiting prospective U.S. attorneys is what he calls "impermissible and unacceptable." What Mukasey doesn't say is what he plans to do about it, anymore than he is saying what he plans to do about waterboarding, defiance of congressional subpoenas by White House staffers, or McClellan's revelation that Cheney and Rove were up to their armpits in both leaking, and covering up the leaked identity of Valerie Plame-Wilson.
And, that a respected general would suggest the president and his associates may indeed be guilty of war crimes is, in itself, mind boggling.
It's reassuring to think that the phrase "contempt of Congress" isn't a metaphor, but one doesn't earn frequent flier miles while standing still. Those who have been writing, and rewriting, the script that brought us into Iraq, and the one that will soon bring us into Iran, aren't planning to cash out their CD's anytime soon.
If things keep up at this rate, we may soon need to put a cautionary label on every neighborhood ballot box to beware of toxic shock syndrome.
But, the $60 million question (allowing for inflation) is--how much more will it take for lawmakers to acknowledge that this administration is no longer merely in contempt of Congress, but of history, too, and act on it?
A presidential election, in and of itself, is like a fool's gold. It won't undo the damage of the past seven years, or restore the balance of power.
Moreover, the only kind of fleet that can restore democracy is a fleet enema.
The only way to rewrite the script is to retire the script doctors, and reconstruct it ourselves, one page at a time.
Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.