Is America Burning - a Forum To Discuss Issues

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Skyline - Houston, Texas

Friday, September 29, 2006

Our Worst Fears Realized?

We've all been joking (somewhat) about our outspokenness against the current Administration and its misbegotten policies. WA and I have kidded each other about our adjoining cells (wheelchair accessible in consideration of our advanced age?) . Still, I never really believed deep down that the Constitution would become totally meaningless. Surely they wouldn't dare.

They did. The bill is either on its way for signature or has been signed by now.

I know they will say it's intended to combat terrorism and the ordinary citizen has nothing to fear. Tell me, has anything that comes out of their mouths been true? I didn't think so. So I'm afraid. All they have to say is "aid and comfort" to shut us down or worse.

They've stifled most of the MSM (press and t.v.). Will we be next? Will my girls grow up waiting for the pounding on the door in the middle of the night?

With one stroke of a pen, they've wiped out well over 200 years of freedom and are doubtless gloating at our stupidity.

I went to bed last night in America. I woke up to a country I no longer recognize but not the one I grew up believing in so fiercely.

Here's William Rivers Pitt in Truthout today:

In Case I Disappear
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 29 September 2006

I have been told a thousand times at least, in the years I have spent reporting on the astonishing and repugnant abuses, lies and failures of the Bush administration, to watch my back. "Be careful," people always tell me. "These people are capable of anything. Stay off small planes, make sure you aren't being followed." A running joke between my mother and me is that she has a "safe room" set up for me in her cabin in the woods, in the event I have to flee because of something I wrote or said.

I always laughed and shook my head whenever I heard this stuff. Extreme paranoia wrapped in the tinfoil of conspiracy, I thought. This is still America, and these Bush fools will soon pass into history, I thought. I am a citizen, and the First Amendment hasn't yet been red-lined, I thought.

Matters are different now.

It seems, perhaps, that the people who warned me were not so paranoid. It seems, perhaps, that I was not paranoid enough. Legislation passed by the Republican House and Senate, legislation now marching up to the Republican White House for signature, has shattered a number of bedrock legal protections for suspects, prisoners, and pretty much anyone else George W. Bush deems to be an enemy.

So much of this legislation is wretched on the surface. Habeas corpus has been suspended for detainees suspected of terrorism or of aiding terrorism, so the Magna Carta-era rule that a person can face his accusers is now gone. Once a suspect has been thrown into prison, he does not have the right to a trial by his peers. Suspects cannot even stand in representation of themselves, another ancient protection, but must accept a military lawyer as their defender.

Illegally-obtained evidence can be used against suspects, whether that illegal evidence was gathered abroad or right here at home. To my way of thinking, this pretty much eradicates our security in persons, houses, papers, and effects, as stated in the Fourth Amendment, against illegal searches and seizures.

Speaking of collecting evidence, the torture of suspects and detainees has been broadly protected by this new legislation. While it tries to delineate what is and is not acceptable treatment of detainees, in the end, it gives George W. Bush the final word on what constitutes torture. US officials who use cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment to extract information from detainees are now shielded from prosecution.

It was two Supreme Court decisions, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that compelled the creation of this legislation. The Hamdi decision held that a prisoner has the right of habeas corpus, and can challenge his detention before an impartial judge. The Hamdan decision held that the military commissions set up to try detainees violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.

In short, the Supreme Court wiped out virtually every legal argument the Bush administration put forth to defend its extraordinary and dangerous behavior. The passage of this legislation came after a scramble by Republicans to paper over the torture and murder of a number of detainees. As columnist Molly Ivins wrote on Wednesday, "Of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place."

It seems almost certain that, at some point, the Supreme Court will hear a case to challenge the legality of this legislation, but even this is questionable. If a detainee is not allowed access to a fair trial or to the evidence against him, how can he bring a legal challenge to a court? The legislation, in anticipation of court challenges like Hamdi and Hamdan, even includes severe restrictions on judicial review over the legislation itself.

The Republicans in Congress have managed, at the behest of Mr. Bush, to draft a bill that all but erases the judicial branch of the government. Time will tell whether this aspect, along with all the others, will withstand legal challenges. If such a challenge comes, it will take time, and meanwhile there is this bill. All of the above is deplorable on its face, indefensible in a nation that prides itself on Constitutional rights, protections and the rule of law.

Underneath all this, however, is where the paranoia sets in.

Underneath all this is the definition of "enemy combatant" that has been established by this legislation. An "enemy combatant" is now no longer just someone captured "during an armed conflict" against our forces. Thanks to this legislation, George W. Bush is now able to designate as an "enemy combatant" anyone who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States."

Consider that language a moment. "Purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" is in the eye of the beholder, and this administration has proven itself to be astonishingly impatient with criticism of any kind. The broad powers given to Bush by this legislation allow him to capture, indefinitely detain, and refuse a hearing to any American citizen who speaks out against Iraq or any other part of the so-called "War on Terror."

If you write a letter to the editor attacking Bush, you could be deemed as purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States. If you organize or join a public demonstration against Iraq, or against the administration, the same designation could befall you. One dark-comedy aspect of the legislation is that senators or House members who publicly disagree with Bush, criticize him, or organize investigations into his dealings could be placed under the same designation. In effect, Congress just gave Bush the power to lock them up.

By writing this essay, I could be deemed an "enemy combatant." It's that simple, and very soon, it will be the law. I always laughed when people told me to be careful. I'm not laughing anymore.

In case I disappear, remember this. America is an idea, a dream, and that is all. We have borders and armies and citizens and commerce and industry, but all this merely makes us like every other nation on this Earth. What separates us is the idea, the simple idea, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our organizing principles. We can think as we please, speak as we please, write as we please, worship as we please, go where we please. We are protected from the kinds of tyranny that inspired our creation as a nation in the first place.

That was the idea. That was the dream. It may all be over now, but once upon a time, it existed. No good idea ever truly dies. The dream was here, and so was I, and so were you.



  • At Friday, September 29, 2006 9:02:00 PM , Blogger The Future Was Yesterday said...

    Hi Ann:
    My wife and I were watching TV here in our computer room, when it became evident Bush's CYA was going to pass. She turned to me and said; "Hon, do you think it's wise to continue your blog in the vein you have in the past?" No, I don't think it's "wise", but as I told her, "That blog is as much for you as it is me." It's gone past the tinfoil hat stage. It's terrifying real now. Democracy, with all it entails, was formally pronounced dead today.

    Always have my guns within hands reach, and wait, I guess. I don't know what else to do. All I know for certain is I won't be taken alive.

  • At Friday, September 29, 2006 9:09:00 PM , Blogger Jenorama said...

    Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit. I don't know what else today except that I feel like a participant in a Kafka novel.

  • At Friday, September 29, 2006 9:42:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I think that it's time to start a series of "Senator XXX Is A Traitor," posts. I mean...what do you call it when a Senator willingly abbrogates their duty to defend and uphold the Constitution. Personally, I'm going start with the Lone Star State and work my way through all the state's I've lived in as an adult.

  • At Friday, September 29, 2006 11:08:00 PM , Blogger Granny said...

    I read these comments and want to sit here and weep.

    For all of us and for our country. How in the hell did we allow it to get this far?

  • At Friday, September 29, 2006 11:36:00 PM , Blogger SheaNC said...

    I share all the sentiments above. It is a dark day for our country. The darkest. Our worst fears have come to pass. And, the days of carefree blogging are over for us now. But as hard as it is, perhaps we shouldn't give up hope. Germany survived Hitler. I guess it's our turn now.

  • At Saturday, September 30, 2006 2:25:00 AM , Blogger Endorendil said...

    Seems time to scrap the Constitution and write something better. The suspension of habeas corpus is actually allowed in it, and that has to change.
    Revolution anyone?

  • At Sunday, October 01, 2006 10:31:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Seems time to scrap the Constitution and write something better. The suspension of habeas corpus is actually allowed in it

    True, but not on a Presidential whim. Bush now has the powers of a Pinochet--the ability to "disappear" people at will.


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