Written by Chris Floyd
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, “Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?”
The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, “Death to all those who would whimper and cry”
And dropping a bar bell he points to the sky
Saying, “The sun’s not yellow it’s chicken”
— Bob Dylan
“Beat, beat, beat, and beat again.”
— Joseph Stalin
Scott Horton has just put up an important, hard-hitting post: Bush and the Art of Breaking Human Beings. Horton amplifies the harrowing details of the Bush Administration’s Stalinist persecution of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, reported yesterday by the Christian Science Monitor’s Warren Richey. You should read the whole piece right away, but this passage that Horton quotes from Jack Balkin puts the case in its larger — and most chilling — perspective. Says Balkin:
It’s important to remember that the Bush Administration did everything it could to deny Padilla even the basic right of habeas corpus. It argued that courts had no power to second guess the President’s determination that Padilla was an enemy of the United States and could be held in solitary confinement indefinitely. It argued that no one had the right to contact Padilla and that no one had the right to know what the government was doing to him. It argued that courts should defer to the President’s views about who was dangerous and who was not—that once the President declared a person an enemy, that person had all the process that was due them and courts should respect that determination.
It argued, in short, that the President always knows best. If the President had his way, the government, on the basis of information that never had to be tested before any neutral magistrate, could pluck any citizen off the streets, throw them in a military prison, and proceed to drive them insane.
Those are the powers that the Bush Administration sought. I will not mince words: They are the powers of a dictator in an authoritarian regime. They are the powers of the old Soviet Union, of the military junta in Argentina during the time of the disappeared.
We are all Jose Padilla now.
I’ve been writing about Bush’s seizure of arbitrary powers since November 2001, when I first took note of the universal license to kill that he had granted himself:
The Washington Post reports this week that George W. Bush has signed an executive order giving himself the right to issue death warrants for any individual he deems a terrorist or terrorist supporter. These people will be killed in secret by the CIA, without any pretense of due process, without defense or appeal…
Bush’s license to kill leaves the meaning of “terrorist” and “terrorist supporter” deliberately vague. The definition is entirely up to the president: there is no legislative oversight, no judicial review, no public scrutiny. If he wants you dead, he can have you killed. It’s as simple as that.
This official acceptance of the principle of extra-judicial murder degrades the American government to the level of moral savagery. It is the same “principle” underlying all terrorist activity: a threat to a group’s interests is arbitrarily defined by its leaders, who then act arbitrarily, lawlessly, to eliminate the threat…It is the principle of evildoers, men of blood, murderers and beasts. And it is now a guiding light of the “civilized” world.
All of this was enshrined in “law” by Congress last fall, when it passed the “Military Commissions Act” — an “enabling act” for tyranny that the new, Democratic-led Congress has not bothered to repeal. As I noted at the time:
It was a dark hour indeed last Thursday when the United States Senate voted to end the constitutional republic and transform the country into a “Leader-State,” giving the president and his agents the power to capture, torture and imprison forever anyone – American citizens included – whom they arbitrarily decide is an “enemy combatant.” This also includes those who merely give “terrorism” some kind of “support,” defined so vaguely that many experts say it could encompass legal advice, innocent gifts to charities or even political opposition to US government policy within its draconian strictures.
All of this is bad enough – a sickening and cowardly surrender of liberty not seen in a major Western democracy since the Enabling Act passed by the German Reichstag in March 1933. But it is by no means the full extent of our degradation. In reality, the darkness is deeper, and more foul, than most people imagine. For in addition to the dictatorial powers of seizure and torment given by Congress on Thursday to George W. Bush – powers he had already seized and exercised for five years anyway, even without this fig leaf of sham legality – there is a far more sinister imperial right that Bush has claimed – and used – openly, without any demur or debate from Congress at all: ordering the “extrajudicial killing” of anyone on earth that he and his deputies decide – arbitrarily, without charges, court hearing, formal evidence, or appeal – is an “enemy combatant.”
That’s right; from the earliest days of the Terror War – September 17, 2001, to be exact – Bush has claimed the peremptory power of life and death over the entire world. If he says you’re an enemy of America, you are. If he wants to imprison you and torture you, he can. And if he decides you should die, he’ll kill you. This is not hyperbole, liberal paranoia, or “conspiracy theory”: it’s simply a fact, reported by the mainstream media, attested by senior administration figures, recorded in official government documents – and boasted about by the president himself, in front of Congress and a national television audience.
And although the Republic-snuffing act just passed by Congress does not directly address Bush’s royal prerogative of murder, it nonetheless strengthens it and enshrines it in law. For the measure sets forth clearly that the designation of an “enemy combatant” is left solely to the executive branch; neither Congress nor the courts have any say in the matter. When this new law is coupled with the existing “Executive Orders” authorizing “lethal force” against arbitrarily designated “enemy combatants,” it becomes, quite literally, a license to kill – with the seal of Congressional approval….
The first officially confirmed use of this power was the killing of an American citizen, along with several foreign nationals, by a CIA drone missile in Yemen on November 3, 2002. A similar strike occurred on December 4, 2005, when a CIA missile destroyed a house and purportedly killed Abu Hamza Rabia, a suspected al-Qaeda figure. But the only bodies found at the site were those of two children, the houseowner’s son and nephew, Reuters reports. The grieving father denied any connection to terrorism. An earlier CIA strike on another house missed Rabia but killed his wife and children, Pakistani officials reported.
However, there is simply no way of knowing at this point how many people have been killed by American agents operating outside all judicial process. Most of the assassinations are carried out in secret: quietly, professionally. As a Pentagon document uncovered by the New Yorker in December 2002 revealed, the death squads must be “small and agile,” and “able to operate clandestinely, using a full range of official and non-official cover arrangements to … enter countries surreptitiously.”
What’s more, there are strong indications that the Bush administration has outsourced some of the contracts to outside operators. In the original Post story about the assassinations – in those first heady weeks after 9/11, when administration officials were much more open about “going to the dark side,” as Cheney boasted on national television – Bush insiders told the paper that “it is also possible that the instrument of targeted killings will be foreign agents, the CIA’s term for nonemployees who act on its behalf.”
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