Monday, October 13, 2008

War in the constitutionalist camp - what does Bob Barr believe?

On Saturday, I wrote a post entitled Narrowing down to Baldwin vs. Barr. And if you think that similarly-minded folk can't get into heated discussions...well, you weren't paying attention during the Clinton-Obama wars in the Democratic primaries.

In my post, I quoted from a Mary Starrett post which read, in part:

Barr is in favor of an interventionist foreign policy, arguing for intervention in Iran and South America, among other countries. Barr voted for the Iraq war. He praised Bush because "the surge is working."...Barr voted for the Patriot Act, and favored reauthorization of that liberty-robbing set of laws.

George Dance posted a comment which took issue with Starret's statements:

Barr "praised the surge"? Barr "favored re-authorization" of the Patriot Act? Mary Starrett (who is, BTW, a Constitution Party candidate) may have got these ideas from some isolated quotes -- or she may have made them up -- but neither are true. In fact, Barr opposed the Patriot Act from the beginning, and voted for it only to get the sunset provisions in. And he has opposed the war in Iraq since at least 2004; in fact, he says he never voted for the war as the 2003 'use of force' resolution was not a declaration of war. Barr's only difference from this Baldwin on this issue is that Baldwin wants "immediate" withdrawal, while Barr points out that you do not publicly announce withdrawal dates.

Here's what Bob Barr's website says about the Iraq War:

The invasion and occupation of Iraq were two separate mistakes, which collectively have cost thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Every day that the occupation in Iraq continues without a withdrawal plan is a day that more American blood and treasure (some $400 million a day) is needlessly wasted.

Unlike Republicans, who are calling for essentially permanent bases in Iraq, and Democrats, who have done nothing to counter Republican calls for an indefinite occupation, I would put in place plans for withdrawal without undue delay. While I support an exit from Iraq as quickly as possible, I would not publicly announce a timetable to our adversaries. However, as President, I would begin to immediately and significantly begin to reduce both the military and the economic security blanket we are providing the government.

The Iraqi government has come to rely too heavily on American forces to maintain control of its country, and our U.S. taxpayer dollars to artificially support its economy. A continued U.S. presence in Iraq emboldens both insurgents and terrorists, and discourages the Iraqi government from taking control of promoting peace and prosperity in Iraq.

And on privacy & surveillance:

Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, the government has asked or forced Americans to sacrifice their privacy rights in exchange for the promise of more security. In the face of relentless scare-mongering by the Bush Administration, the public — and most members of the Congress — has generally complied.

As a result, people can no longer reasonably assume their privacy or other civil liberties are secure from the government. The executive branch has illegally surveilled millions of telephone calls and e-mails. Neither emails nor even the records of library books that are checked out are now safe from the government’s prying eyes. These federal powers have been used all too often in creating a giant database of names and information on law-abiding American citizens — not the terrorists the Bush administration said it intended to track down.

We may not yet be in the nightmare world of George Orwell's classic novel “1984”, but time is fast running out for a society that values freedom and liberty. Certainly, the government must be able to confront crime and terrorism, but its powers must be limited to those truly necessary to protect Americans and which are consistent with the Constitution. Also, government officials must always be accountable for their actions.

The Fourth Amendment was designed for precisely this purpose — to protect Americans from illegal searches and seizures by the government. Yet the Bush administration, aided by many Congressional Democrats and Republicans, has worked to gut both constitutional and legal protections for the privacy rights and civil liberties of American citizens. The next administration must reverse course, demonstrating that it recognizes it is tasked to defend a free society not undermine it.

But, although Bob Barr says this in 2008, what did he actually do when the Iraq War and the Patriot Act came up for a vote? Marc Gallagher discussed these votes when he ran Barr through the Ron Paul-O-Meter:

Barr voted for the Patriot Act and for the Iraq War Authorization back in his days in Congress. Those two votes alone should earn him a zero here, however he has denounced those votes and worked towards repealing portions of the Patriot Act almost immediately after passage. Score: 1

So how could Barr vote for Iraq and the Patriot Act? Again, George Dance:

Many radical libertarians will tell you that Barr voted for the USA PATRIOT Act. What they will not tell you is that Barr initially opposed that Act, and took the lead in building the coalition that fought it. So why did he vote in favor? As part of a deal, in which he received two things: first, assurances that the Act would be used only in terrorism cases; and second, amendments under which the most onerous provisions of the Act would expire in four years unless re-authorized.

Sure, the assurances turned out to be bogus, and the Act has been re-authorized for another five years. But what would have been the better alternative? To have voted no, and had the Act pass with no such assurances, and no sunset? That may have made him feel good inside, but what else would it have accomplished?...

The Iraq war was sold by lies: Lies not just about what Saddam Hussein planned to do, but about what George Bush was up to. The Iraq war was sold as a military operation to take out Hussein, declare "Mission Accomplished," and go home. Occupying Iraq, much less the neocon nation building going on there right now, were things Congress never authorized. Nor did Barr vote for either occupation or nation building; he has always opposed nation building, as does Ron Paul (and as did George Bush, on the surface, at the time).

So regarding Iraq, Bob Barr can claim (just like Senators Clinton and Kerry) that he was for the Iraq War before he was against it. Or, as Barack Obama would put it, Bob Barr showed flawed judgement.

As did many of us.

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