Friday, September 29, 2006

Funeral for a friend, American liberty

Let us pause for a moment of silence in mourning our dear nation. Once the home of the brave and land of the free, "liberty and justice for all" was subverted by a cold-hearted nullification delivered by our own representatives. Congressional culprits willingly enabled an ambitious Machiavellian president to eviscerate our democracy.

Yesterday was the dark day, a historic moment of enormity. The detainee bill, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (S. 3930), passed in the Senate and America went rushing off a cliff with a thrust of an evil hand:

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system [in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld] that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators [Graham, McCain, and Warner] 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.

Mr. Bush and his Administration have officially been granted immunity for past and future war crimes.

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 [and women] captured in error.

NYTimes summarizes the bill's flaws, which are evil and anti-American:

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.

Unbelievable! But sadly true. Politically...

There [was] not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate [seemed] to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

Yes, the filibuster would have been the proper response but with the Republican noise machines working 24/7 to paint Democrats as soft on terror, to have done so would have served up an opportunity to lose the election in November. And nothing is more important now. Democrats must win. The NYTimes concluded:

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

America has been squeezed by the grip of a totalitarian cabal and most citizens haven't realized the dark shadow that has crept from sea to shining sea and transformed America, The Beautiful into a an ugly, evil twin cloned from the test tube of Big Daddy Bush. No one is safe from jackbooted thugs under King FUBAR's rule. No one:

..."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, [law professor] 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."

This last point means that even if there [had been] a habeas corpus right inserted back into the legislation... it wouldn't matter much, if at all, because the law [authorizes] your detention simply based on the DoD's decree that you are an enemy combatant, regardless of whether it was accurate or not. This is basically the legalization of the Jose Padilla treatment -- empowering the President to throw people into black holes with little or no recourse, based solely on his say-so.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is no more. DoD can falsely accuse anyone of us as a terrorist, an accomplice, or a conspirator, law enforcement can arrest and detain us indefinitely, and there will be nothing anyone can do about it---no attorney, no judge, no one--as you rot in a detention camp while tortured by a sick psycho "interrogator." Sounds like Nazi Germany or the former Soviet Union, doesn't it? The potentiality exists. The law not only targets terrorists, but with these new powers, Bushian commandos can play dirty tricks with liberals, antiwar protesters, Administration critics, with anyone they deem an "enemy." God help you if you are an American Muslim. What has already occurred and what will happen next is a tragedy. Any one of us can disappear when the Pentagon alone determines who is an enemy combatant. Do you trust our present government to prudently execute the law fairly? I don't. We have no evidence of fairness emanating from the executive branch.

Sen. Russ Feingold from his speech in opposition to the bill from yesterday:

Under this legislation, some individuals, at the designation of the executive branch alone, could be picked up, even in the United States, and held indefinitely without trial and without any access whatsoever to the courts. They would not be able to call upon the laws of our great nation to challenge their detention because they would have been put outside the reach of the law.

Sen. Hillary Clinton:

The implications are far reaching for our national security interests abroad; the rights of Americans at home, our reputation in the world; and the safety of our troops.

Sen. Barak Obama:

...We’ve already had reports from the CIA and various generals over the last few years saying that many of the detainees at Guantanamo shouldn’t have been there – as one U.S. commander of Guantanamo told the Wall Street Journal, “Sometimes, we just didn’t get the right folks.” And we all know about the recent case of the Canadian man who was suspected of terrorist connections, detained in New York, sent to Syria, and tortured, only to find out later that it was all a case of mistaken identity and poor information.

And yet, in the future, people like this may never have a chance to prove their innocence. And they may remain locked away forever.

Glenn Greenwald adds a bottom-line footnote to this black moment in U.S. history:

Nonetheless, it 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. By contrast, Democrats have opposed these tyrannical, un-American and truly dangerous measures. Even if Democrats didn't oppose them as vociferously as they could have and should have, this is still a meaningful and, at this point, critically important contrast.

As for Bush's dutiful Republican lieutenants, they have joined the ranks of Good Germans and will live in infamy for slitting the throat of American liberty. Although Tristero issued dire warnings against Democrats and added more flesh than the NYTimes editorial to which he linked, patriots must vote for Democrats if we have any hope of resurrecting freedom and the rule of law.

FOR THE RECORD: Who did not vote for the bill? The list:

NAYs ---34
Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Chafee (R-RI)
Clinton (D-NY)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Wyden (D-OR)
Not Voting - 1 Snowe (R-ME)

If you click the above link, you can also see who voted for the bill. All of the "yea" voters, IMO, have behaved like spineless traitors or right-wing authoritarian storm troopers. The Democratic Party must remove the liberal turncoats who voted for this bill or suffer an unrelenting harangue from the left blogosphere for years to come. Jay Rockefeller, you are a target. Lieberman, you proved you are a Republican. Landrieu, I am ashamed of you. We will work to put these cowards and Republican Lites out of office and I, for one, will not give the Democrats a penny until these liberal defectors are gone.

UPDATE: I found a few typos and updated the text. Also, I agree with Tristero's post, This Ain't Yer Grandpa's Democracy. Yup.