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Let’s Break Strom’s Filibuster Record!

Yesterday Kentucky Senator Rand Paul did a real filibuster – where you actually have the strength and courage to speak and inform the public instead of quietly, cowardly holding up the Senate’s business – to draw attention to the murderous drone program run by the president and his CIA Director nominee John Brennan.

There are many lowlights of Brennan’s confirmation, but one of my favorites is: not a single Senator asked why Brennan had famously lied about the murder of the lead suspect/witness in the crime of the century, 9/11 – and about the number of civilian casualties from drones, which prior to leaks, Brennan had claimed was zero (Senator Lindsey Graham recently put the number at more than 4000, including over a hundred children).

Brennan had claimed Osama Bin Laden died in a firefight, using women as human shields. We learned the next day that he was unarmed when he took two bullets to the head. The president’s press secretary sheepishly attributed the lies to the “fog of war”.

Bin Laden had been boasting for more than a decade that he had played a key role in the 9/11 attack – after denying any involvement until the US attack on Afghanistan. Finally here was a witness who knew the truth and hadn’t been tortured yet. Although he might have continued bragging, he would have to show some physical evidence or, as Chomsky writes, his “confession” of a key role would be akin to Chomsky “confessing” that he won the Boston Marathon. Was there an HSBC bank account or transfer date? A box cutter receipt? – Anything? The answer: two bullets to the head, followed by lie after lie. If Intelligence is about brazenly lying to people who don’t want to know the truth, Brennan is qualified. If it’s about getting vital information – not so much.

But actually I’m here to recycle a Gonzales filibuster diary. The reasons we should Break Strom’s Filibuster Record are the same eight years later. Now, with Democrats and Republicans fully endorsing warrantless assassination, along with kidnapping and torturing muslims and foreigners, it’s more germane than ever.

Let’s Break Strom’s Filibuster Record! (2/2/2005)
There are those who say it would be a waste of time to hold the Senate floor until Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales answers the questions he’s been asked, about those memos that redefined torture. It’s a lost cause. It’s energy better conserved to fight a right wing Supreme Court Nominee.

But that’s worse than cowardice. It’s a lack of self respect — a failure of imagination and passion. Doesn’t anyone remember “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”? Once upon a time, a Senator had that passion.

After Gonzales, Strom Thurmond’s black daughter has been the biggest newsmaker this week. She kept their secret, revealing who her father was only after he was dead. Now she’s released her autobiography and talks to everyone.

Strom (he deserves a worldwide first name basis – like Saddam) still holds the Senate filibuster record. The year I was born, Strom held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes all by himself, because he believed in something important and he wasn’t afraid to stand up for it. CNN quoted him when he died a year ago:

“I want to tell you that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.”
Except I heard a recording of this on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show – which was, as usual, more accurate than CNN – and Strom didn’t say “Negro” race. As a 21st century American of some African descent, I am permitted to use his vocabulary, though most often I choose not to.

The pool thing was a big deal. When black movie star Dorothy Dandridge was staying at a 5 star Vegas hotel, she dipped her feet in the pool without permission, and the next thing she knew, the management had drained all the water out.

Today as I watch CSPAN flashing ‘No Agreement on Debate Length,’ and the somnolent announcer actually uses the phrase “possible filibuster’ at the Gonzales hearings, I have hope. And I have an idea.

See, publicly Strom was full of passion and racism. Privately, he helped support his Negro daughter, and insisted he was just giving Americans in the south what they wanted – what they were used to, what would keep him popular with his people.

Last May, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham was stumbling out into the light after a screening of the other Abu Ghraib photos and videos – the ones that still have never been shown to the public. When asked what he’d seen, Graham answered, “Rape and murder.” Rape, like severe beatings, no longer fit the new Gonzales definition of illegal torture, because neither necessarily causes “organ failure or death”.

Then last week, the same Graham chastised Alberto Gonzales for his role in changing the official interrogation rules in ways that quickly led to Abu Ghraib, among at least 300 reports of abuse and murder in U.S. run prisons. “I think we’ve dramatically undermined the war effort by getting on a slippery slope in terms of playing cute with the law,” said Graham. “We’ve lost our way.”

And then he voted with his party – even though all of Gonzales’s other support had disappeared – to recommend his confirmation as the next U.S. Attorney General, the nation’s chief of law enforcement.

So let’s learn a lesson from Strom. Maybe he didn’t hate black people as much as we thought. Maybe it was just a popular act. But he sure put on a good show. He made it into the history books. And the 21st century history books still need to be written.

So whatever we feel deep down, let’s act as if we really, deeply hate rape, murder, and torture for just a day or two. We’ve probably got 30 Senators or more, so it’ll be easy to hold the floor compared to what Strom had to do. We could go for 25 hours easy, beat Strom’s record, and then give up if we want. Then we’ll be in the history books too.

And from that effort, future generations will believe we really hate it when Americans rape and murder arabs, just as much as we hate niggers in our pools.

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