Friday, September 29, 2006

One Day Forward, 900 Years Back : Democracy Murdered In Broad Daylight

Rage And Despair

The New York Times reports:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 — The Senate approved legislation this evening governing the interrogation and trials of terror suspects, establishing far-reaching new rules in the definition of who may be held and how they should be treated.
The legislation sets up rules for the military commissions that will allow the government to prosecute high-level terrorists including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"Considered the mastermind"? By whom?

What sensible person could possibly consider Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the mastermind of a plan of attack so far-reaching that it included more than a dozen simultaneous war games, "military exercises" which effectively stripped the Northeastern US of air cover on that fateful day?

But what am I thinking? We're not talking about sensible people here. We're talking about monsters!
It strips detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court...
And that's that. The president can declare anyone an illegal enemy combatant, the CIA can pick him up and throw him in a secret prison, and that will be the end of that. No evidence need be presented; no appeal will be permitted.

As the bill states: [my emphasis here, unless otherwise noted]
  `(e)(1) No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who--

    `(A) is currently in United States custody; and

    `(B) has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

  `(2) Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1005(e) of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (10 U.S.C. 801 note), no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien detained by the United States who--

    `(A) is currently in United States custody; and

    `(B) has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.'
So all they have to do is sit on somebody -- no charge, no trial, not even an effort to determine whether or not he's been properly detained. If they do that, he'll fall under this provision. And rot in jail forever.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote:
During the debate on his amendment, Arlen Specter said that the bill sends us back 900 years because it denies habeas corpus rights and allows the President to detain people indefinitely. He also said the bill violates core Constitutional protections. Then he voted for it.
The enemies of America who showed their true colors on this bill include Democrats as well as Republicans. Here's Greenwald again:
Jay Rockefeller (who voted for this bill) is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. When he was defending the amendment he introduced to compel the CIA to disclose to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees information about their interrogation activities, he complained that the White House has concealed all information about the interrogation program and that the Intelligence Committee members (including him) therefore know nothing about it. His amendment to compel reports to Congress was defeated with all Republicans (except Chafee) voting against it. He proceeded to vote for the underlying bill anyway, thereby legalizing a program he admits he knows nothing about (and will continue to know nothing about).
A New York Times editorial described the bill this way:
Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.
Captured in error? ... or simply sold into captivity!
The Pakistani tribesmen slaughtered a sheep in honor of their guests, Arabs and Chinese Muslims famished from fleeing U.S. bombing in the Afghan mountains. But their hosts had ulterior motives: to sell them to the Americans, said the men who are now prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, the detainees testified during military tribunals, according to transcripts the U.S. government gave The Associated Press to comply with a Freedom of Information lawsuit.

A former CIA intelligence officer who helped lead the search for Osama bin Laden told AP the accounts sounded legitimate because U.S. allies regularly got money to help catch Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Gary Schroen said he took a suitcase of $3 million in cash into Afghanistan himself to help supply and win over warlords to fight for U.S. Special Forces.
You don't believe the AP? Read this:
PRESIDENT Musharraf of Pakistan says that the CIA has secretly paid his government millions of dollars for handing over hundreds of al-Qaeda suspects to America.

The US government has strict rules banning such reward payments to foreign powers involved in the war on terror. General Musharraf does not say how much the CIA gave in return for the 369 al-Qaeda figures that he ordered should be passed to the US.

The US Department of Justice said: “We didn’t know about this. It should not happen. These bounty payments are for private individuals who help to trace terrorists on the FBI’s most wanted list, not foreign governments.”
Notice how nobody denies that it happened; they simply claim not to have known about it. If it didn't happen, surely somebody would say so, wouldn't they? Hell, yes! They would say it didn't happen even if it did!

But I digress. Here's the NYT editorial again:
These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.
I won't bore you with more excerpts from the bill itself. You can read the whole thing here.

More from Glenn Greenwald:
[I]t is fair to say, given how lopsided this vote was (both in the House and the Senate), that the Republicans are the party of torture, indefinite and unreviewable detention powers, and limitless presidential power, even over U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.
Sure, Glenn, but let's be fair: more than a quarter of the Democratic Senators voted for it too. And the rest of them have sat there with their mouths shut for the most part. Not only for the past week, but for the past six years. So this is not strictly a Republican problem.

Back to the NYT news report:
“We should have done it right, because we’re going to have to do it again,” said Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon, who had voted to strike the habeas corpus provision, yet supported the bill.

The legislation broadens the definition of enemy combatants beyond the traditional definition used in wartime, to include noncitizens living legally in this country as well as those in foreign countries, and also anyone determined to be an enemy combatant under criteria defined by the president or secretary of defense.

It strips detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of a habeas right to challenge their detention in court, relying instead on procedures known as combatant status review trials, which have looser rules of evidence than the courts.

It allows evidence seized in this country or abroad to be taken without a search warrant.
In other words, it shreds The Bill of Rights (especially the Fourth and Sixth Amendments), makes a mockery of The Constitution of the United States, debases -- probably forever -- the one document which above all others made the USA a symbol of freedom, of enlightenment, of decency, morality, tolerance and equality under the law.

Not that America ever really embodied these virtues -- but it did symbolize them. Once upon a time, long, long ago. Eight or nine hundred years ago -- yesterday. But now -- today -- that's all gone. And all we have left is greed, and filth, and shame, and shamefully transparent lies, and craven politicians who care about nothing, save covering their asses.

The NYT again:
“I believe there can be no mercy for those who perpetrated the crimes of 9/11,” said Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York.
For once I agree with this particular Senator. But I've always wished that -- before we started showing "no mercy" -- we could at least have tried to find out: Who perpetrated the crimes? Who (i.e. which FBI assets) sheltered them? Who (i.e. which US military flight schools) trained them? Who motivated them? And who financed them? Wouldn't we like to know?

Given the very simple fact that we do not know the answers to these questions, the bill in question is a grotesque travesty of ... What am I saying? Even if we had the answers to those questions, this bill would still be a grotesque travesty!

"Grotesque Travesty" Is An Understatement

Glenn Greenwald again:
Opponents of this bill have focused most of their attention -- understandably and appropriately -- on the way in which it authorizes the use of interrogation techniques which, as this excellent NYT Editorial put it, "normal people consider torture," along with the power it vests in the President to detain indefinitely, and with no need to bring charges, all foreign nationals and even legal resident aliens within the U.S. But as Law Professors Marty Lederman and Bruce Ackerman each point out, many of the extraordinary powers vested in the President by this bill also apply to U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil.

As Ackerman put it:
The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.
Similarly, Lederman explains:
this [subsection (ii) of the definition of 'unlawful enemy combatant'] means that if the Pentagon says you're an unlawful enemy combatant -- using whatever criteria they wish -- then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to 'hostilities' at all.
A Tiny Flicker Of Hope

In my twisted and frozen little mind, I harbor a tiny flicker of hope -- that this draconian legislation can somehow be used against those who begged for 9/11 to happen, who made it happen, who have striven endlessly to reap political benefit from a national tragedy, and who now -- once again -- have shamed us all, destroying our birthright in the process. And then, once they have all been hanged for treason, that this bill -- and every other anti-American, anti-democratic bill passed in the last five horrible years -- can be summarily repealed.

Of course I'm dreaming. But am I dreaming in technicolor? Surely not! For there are only two colors in this nightmare: scarlet and black; blood and darkness.

Thunder On The Mountain

As all four or five of my regular readers will surely have noticed, I rarely run out of words. I can usually go on and on and on ... but not this time. I have reached my limit. For this and other -- better -- reasons, I'll leave the last word to Chris Floyd: [emphasis in the original]
Who are these people? Who are these useless hanks of bone and fat that call themselves Senators of the United States? Let’s call them what they really are, let’s speak the truth about what they’ve done today with their votes on the bill to enshrine Bush's gulag of torture and endless detention into American law.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Sold our liberty to keep their coddled, corrupt backsides squatting in the Beltway gravy a little longer.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Cowards and slaves, giving up our most ancient freedoms to a dull-eyed, dim-witted pipsqueak and his cohort of bagmen, cranks and degenerate toadies. For make no mistake: despite all the lies and distorted media soundbites, the draconian strictures of this bill apply to American citizens as well as to all them devilish foreigners.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Traitors to the nation, filthy time-servers and bootlickers, turning America into a rogue state, an open champion of torture, repression and terror.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Threw our freedom on the ground and raped it, beat it, shot it, stuck their knives into it and set it on fire.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
If there was an ounce of moxie left in the American system, these white-collar criminals would be in shackles right now, arrested for high treason, for collusion with a tyrant who is gutting the constitution, pushing terrorism to new heights and waging an unholy, illegal war of aggression that’s killed tens of thousands of innocent people and bled our country dry.

There is no honor in them. There is no decency, no morality, no honesty – nothing but fear, nothing but greed, nothing but base servility. Cringing, wretched little creatures, bowing to the will of a third-rate thug and his gang of moral perverts. This is their record. This is their doing. This is the shame they will have to live with. And this is the darkness, rank, fetid and smelling of blood, that now covers us all.
Read it and weep! Read it and scream!! Then listen to Chris read it at Gorilla Radio, courtesy of Atlantic Free Press.