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Desperate measures from desperate men

Jerry Mazza | October 1 2006

And I might add, for desperate times. I’m talking about the US Senate passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that discards key human rights protections. This is an act of a desperate president, seeking to rally support for his failed and brutal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, by further rallying the spineless and frightened Congress round the flag. The more Bush is cornered by failure, the more he goes on the attack and flails fearful legislators with the loss of their jobs if they’re not patriotic enough.

He also rips at the human and legal rights of "alien unlawful enemy combatants." First of all, this handle for the detainees allows Congress to rush to legislate on whether to bring them to trial or -- not. It is the “not” that is knotty. Because it means that a detainee can be allowed to rot indefinitely in some randomly assigned hellhole, deprived of his Geneva Conventions rights as “prisoners of war,” which is what they are, despite the sophistry of calling them “alien unlawful enemy combatants.”

Are they not said or suspected to be enemies in the War on Terror? If so, they are prisoners of that war.

What’s more, the president and his administration don’t inspire confidence as to their loyalty to define these categories accurately. Enemies of the government can be termed also as those who don’t “support” America. Millions of American citizens who don’t support many of these egregious policies can potentially get swept off the streets like old newspapers. Nazi Germany gives you a dishonorable but apt example, Stalinist Russia as well, not to mention the backwaters of Caspian Basin nations currently inflicting terror for a fee on all drop-off prisoners.

In fact, the president’s desire to suspend “habeas corpus” underscores this concern. This concept of “show me the body,” the evidence of the crime, to support conviction and incarceration was conceived in 1697 as the Habeas Corpus Act by the English Parliament, and subsequently written into our Constitution. It was the keystone for the arch of just law in our society for over three hundred years. If we remove that, we are back to the days of the Visigoths, subject to a random conk on the head with a club, thrown in a dungeon, assets taken, disappeared for not supporting an increasingly insecure despot and his court.

This is a violent disorder which is no order or law at all

We don’t know until detainees are tried whether they are guilty or not. Some may be and some may not. By dismissing due process summarily we suspend the liberties which we claim to be fighting to protect. But these are old, almost tedious arguments, though their challengers have provided the insidious intent to repeat them until they are heard and understood. That is, given the record of torture at Abu Ghraib, the humiliating human experiences of Guantanamo, the slow and steady decent into the pits of ethical and moral depravity.

Desperation has never been a fair judge of character or criminality. The hanging noose, that early instrument of Western justice (or injustice according to The Oxbow Incident), is not the answer. And the Bush Detainee is exactly that. Not just for those sitting in solitary somewhere, but for any of us who disagree with or don’t “support” the policies of this government and sit at this moment at our desks at home, writing as I am right now.

This bill favors the rights of those trying to take away ours. And as all such bills, whether to create the Japanese internment camps of World War II or to conduct public witch hunts for communists as Senator Joseph McCarthy did in the 1950s, we end up in the same place: at the gates of chaos. To wrap oneself in the flag while denying others their rights is an old chestnut, currently rescued from the fire to burn others one more time. But ultimately it will burn most with shame those who support it most. Even if it seems still more shame cannot be heaped on Bush and Chaney and their corporatized drive (Halliburton, Kellogg Root and Brown, et al) for world hegemony, enriching their henchman, disgracing our country, heading for disaster.

Trust me. There is a cell in hell waiting for them all. And I believe it is right here on earth.

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