Before I say what it is, and get to the end of the story, I'd like to say a few words about this man whom I have never met, and only know through the circumstantial evidence that a (controlled) media provides. My most vivid information about Senator Leahy came from the reported encounter he had a few years ago with then-Vice-President Dick Cheney. You may remember: there was some sharp disagreement having to do with Halliburton contracts and government favoritism, and the Vice President told the Senator to go eff himself -- or words to that effect.
Well, at the time, I was thinking that Dick Cheney might do well to take his own advice, what with his gift for promoting policies that eff'd Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United States of America. I could imagine hearing the same thing from Cheney towards myself, if we had ever met and had an, ahem, "frank exchange of views." So I made a mental note that there must be something specific to like about Patrick Leahy. There is.
For one thing, he stepped up to the plate and raked Bush's contemptible Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, for the "extraordinary rendition" of Maher Arar to Syria. You can read about that here and here, and form your own opinion.
Furthermore, on March 2, 2006, he was one of only ten senators who voted against the Bush/Bipartisan "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act," a bill to extend the utterly revolting USA PATRIOT Act.
According to Wikipedia, "Leahy has been a long-time critic of the Iraq War. He has spoken in favor of timetables for troop withdrawal and has stated that the country needs well-trained foreign service and civilian workers to help fix the damage in Iraq." Actually, it is more specific than that. As the Senator's website declares, "Senator Leahy opposed the Iraq War since its beginning, and he has consistently voted against funding the war as an open-ended conflict. He also supported legislation to withdraw our troops, shorten deployment durations, and shift our strategy to focus on addressing the real threat of terrorism."
Well, just the other day he stood up to the Israeli government, which is a practically unheard of thing on Capitol Hill. Whatever affections and sympathies we have for the people in Israel, we have to begin to admit that the long-term behavior of their government on human rights issues has been somewhere between arrogant and evil. Their leadership, both political and military, has taken their sense of exceptionalism (as a people) and entitlement (to the land) beyond all human proportion. And they do not take kindly to questions or criticism.
Senator Leahy has proposed a bill that would hold Israel to the same human-rights standards that the US requires for other governments that receive military subsidies from us. According to a news report at Antiwar.com, "The bill would halt aid to certain Israeli 'elite forces' units, including the Shayetet 13 unit involved in the attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship, over growing evidence that the units are responsible for major human rights violations in the occupied territories."
The report goes on to say that "The proposal had Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak holding secret meetings with Leahy earlier this month, during which Barak demanded that the bill be withdrawn from consideration. It does not appear that it was successful." What is there about the assertion of human rights that Ehud Barak, and by extension the government of Israel, doesn't like?
"Major human rights violations in the occupied territories"?
Patrick Leahy is the senior senator from Vermont; the only Democrat they have ever elected; and he has served for thirty-seven years. I pray for him a long life, a strong heart, and a thick skin. I expect the attacks against him will begin soon.
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Comments welcome, pro and con.