by: Craig Wiesner on January 5th, 2012 | 8 Comments »
When I first heard about Congress adding a provision to a Defense Authorization bill that would allow for the U.S. MILITARY to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens, without trial, just for being suspected of supporting anyone who was “engaged in hostilities against the United States,” I assumed it was just the work of some whacky right-winger who knew that the language didn’t have a chance of surviving the first round of mark-ups in conference committee. When the Senate and House overwhelmingly voted for the bill, with the President signing it in the dead of night when no one was looking, it struck me that something very strange was happening, and so far, no one has offered a serious explanation of why this bill came to be and is now law.
My friend Ray McGovern (former presidential CIA briefer among other things) wrote about this strange new law today in Common Dreams, saying:
Under the law, the president also may lock up anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the U.S. or its coalition allies “without trial, until the end of the hostilities.” The law embraces the notion that the U.S. military can be used even domestically to arrest an American citizen or anyone else who falls under such suspicion – and it is “suspicion” because a trial can be avoided indefinitely.
Ray and I share much in common, including both of us having taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. In his article, Ray points out something that I hadn’t thought of. Our oaths of office have no expiration date. Just because we both moved on from our military lives to civilian lives (or in Ray’s case from military to CIA to civilian), the oath still stands. So with that oath in mind, I have a question to ask. Without exposing any military secrets from my past, I’ll use the acronym WTFO? (What the F**&, Over?)
What could possibly have caused even some of the most liberal and conservative of members of Congress to vote for such sweeping power, handed to whoever happens to be president, for as long as “the long war” (as the Pentagon supposedly calls it), continues? Since we fought a revolutionary war against England for, among other things, allowing the military to trash the lives of civilians, it has been clear that the United States military can not and should not have the power to arrest American citizens, on American soil, and disappear them to places like Guantanamo Bay forever.
What terrible and frightful scenario is going on at this very moment that caused an unholy trinity of Republicans, Democrats and the President to literally trash the Constitution and 200 years of successful separation of military and civilian authority?
Somewhere, I suspect, there’s at least one American citizen already being held by U.S. military forces, whom they suspect of being involved in something so horrible that they have to keep him or her locked up while they try to unravel the mess that he or she is involved with. And… if the past is any teacher, that American probably worked for the U.S. military, some American contractor, or the CIA before becoming an enemy of the state. The president must have called key members of Congress into his office and told them the story, showed them horrifying pictures, and told them he needed the authority to do whatever it was he wanted to do or the world as we know it would end.
If this, or something like it, wasn’t the case, why are we not hearing howling from the rooftops over this absolutely unconstitutional and dangerous law? Sure, Jon Stewart is talking about it, but I’m beginning to agree with my husband who sees Jon Stewart as part of the “Dilbertization” of America. Dilbert allows people who work in corporations to laugh at the absurd and life-sucking practices of their overpaid and incompetent taskmasters. Laughter is much less a threat than revolution, so laugh away little drones! Now Jon Stewart gets Americans to laugh at the absurd and liberty-sucking practices of our overpaid, pampered, and incompetent government rulers. Haha. The president just signed away our right to a trial by a jury of our peers. Hahahahaha Jon Stewart is using a sock puppet that looks like Nancy Pelosi! Oh darn I spilled my soda I laughed so hard.
Ray McGovern is having none of that soda though. He’s wondering when Americans will get off the couch and rise up.
What about us? Can we not get up from our armchairs and do what we can to insist that those liberties be protected? How have we reached such a pass? Have we grown so inured to the repetition from our leaders, including both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, that keeping us “safe” is their first priority, that we have forgotten that the Founders risked everything for liberty, not for “safety”?
Madison already knew far too well what could pose the greatest danger to the Constitution. He recognized the inevitable effects on our liberties of “continual warfare” of the kind we have been waging for more than a decade now:
“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.”
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” [Or put in today's parlance, the 99 percent under the boot of the one percent.]
“The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
I’m with Madison and McGovern and I’m not laughing. This isn’t funny. This law is, if I may be not overly dramatic, treasonous. Congress and the President have violated their oaths of office by writing and signing this law. If the United States military is holding a U.S. citizen in military custody and has not allowed that person to have a civilian lawyer and access to a civilian court, members of the military involved in that imprisonment have violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and are committing treason.
Someone needs to speak up. Someone needs to expose whatever dirty secret the President and Congress are keeping. There’s a new Pentagon Papers out there. All we need is a Daniel Ellsberg.
What can we do? This goes beyond letter-writing. We need to go to our representative’s offices and demand a meeting, asking for an explanation of why this language was inserted into the appropriations bill and why it remained there.
Click here to see how your representative voted.
Even if your representative voted no, you need to meet with them to ask what they’re going to do about it. We need to demand that this stain on the bill of rights be erased, quickly. While I don’t agree with the concept of “American Exceptionalism” I will say that we are unique in our history of standing for freedom, even at the risk of our safety. Today, however, we’re laughing our way into the gulag. This is a time when whoever your representative is, he or she needs to be told that we are not a Dilbert/Stewart country. We’re not laughing any more. This is not funny.
Click here to read Ray McGovern’s powerful message on Common Dreams.