When Voting Isn't Enough

"Cultures that don't look at the dark become a perversion of it" - Novelist Anne LeClaire

Though the huge advantage Democrats had in the polls, predictably, has narrowed on the eve of the mid-term elections, the conventional wisdom still says that the House of Representatives is there for the taking.

Given the outcome of the 2000 and 2004 elections (ballot shenanigans and voter suppression included), I wouldn't bet on it. But, just to go along with the crowd, for once, let's assume the Democrats do end up running the House. Then what?

Regardless of the mounds of circumstantial evidence that point to grounds for impeachment, the potential Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already made it clear that she's not having it. Making Bush a lame-duck is good enough for her.

While regime change, or at least regime check, would be an important first step in restoring a sense of sanity to American politics, it's not enough. But before good legislation can be proposed on a number of vitally important challenges facing this country, there has to be an honest accounting of where we are, which brings us to the Word Up of the week: Congressional hearings.

Uncle Sam's definition of a Congressional hearing is: "a meeting or session of a Senate, House, Joint, or Special Committee of Congress, usually open to
the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law. In addition, hearings may also be purely exploratory in nature, providing testimony and data about
topics of current interest."

If the Democrats took take control of the House, then what? Congressional hearings, that's what.

We need an Iraq Exit Strategy hearing. On Iraq the only question should be is: how, not if, U.S. forces should exit. And for three good reasons: 1) Iraq is a threat to no one, except Iraqis. 2) The U.S. occupation is fueling the guerrilla insurgency. And 3), short of genocide, there is no military answer to guerrilla insurgencies.

We need veterans health hearings that would examine the extent of the physical and mental health needs of soldiers returning from Iraq. It's the least we can do for those who, without asking questions, sacrifice their lives to defend this nation, especially because they have served in a war launched for ideological, not sound strategic, reasons.

We need an asymmetrical warfare hearing. As the so-called Global War On Terror (GWOT) has shown, the days of conventional warfare where military battles are fought on a battlefield are over for the foreseeable future.

In asymmetrical warfare, the battle for "hearts and mind" -- propaganda, if you like -- is far more decisive than hi-tech shock and awe military tactics. And the idea that you beat the enemy by killing him/her doesn't wash either. As Israel's air war against Hezbollah in Lebanon showed us, bombing guerrillas doesn't get rid of them, it multiplies them, like feeding Gremlins after midnight.

It would be particularly insightful for a hearing to shed light on an open military secret: short of genocide, there is NO military answer to guerrilla warfare -- in case you didn't hear me twice the first time.

We need a Military Commissions Act review hearing. The MCA, which the president signed into law last month, gives him the authority to define "enemy combatant," torture them in secret prisons while barring "detainees" access to courts.

An MCA review hearing could seek to inquire about the constitutionality of the law. As the Center for Constitutional Rights points out, the Constitution is clear about when habeaus corpus can be suspended. "The writ of habeus corpus shall not be suspended, unless cases of rebellion or invasion require it."

This hearing could also probe the nonsense of the so-called ticking bomb scenario and how interrogation techniques like water-boarding are not designed to elicit actionable intel. They're designed to elicit confessions.

These are just the foreign policy related hearings we need, if we're going to re-deploy and re-focus. Because, Lord knows, there's a need for a slew of domestic hearings -- on Bush's wiretapping program; the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast; our energy and environmental policies.Geesh. There's a lot of work to do. And none of it'll get done unless we keep our elected leaders' feet to the fire. Voting just isn't enough.

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