Friday, September 29, 2006

I am an enemy combatant

Fellow Enemy Combatants:

The Senate of the United States, the US House of Representatives, and soon the American president have colluded to declare us all, Americans and un-Americans, unlawful enemy combatants. They have yet to fill out the paperwork making it official for most of us, but they've announced their legal right to do so at any time in the future.

We are supposed to be comforted that the new legislation retains the right of habeas corpus for American citizens. The other 95% of the world's population? Any of them can be kidnapped at the order of our president, thrown in jail forever without charge or trial, deprived of sleep, subjected to disorienting sounds pummeled in through high-decibel loudspeakers, left in rooms barely above freezing, and waterboarded, with no legal recourse outside of the same military authorities that have kidnapped and tormented them. It's even legal to kill people during interrogation if it's an "accident." Us lucky citizens, we can just be labeled, kidnapped and given a public defender (or spend our life savings getting real representation) in order to defend ourselves against the same list of practices.

We are supposed to forget that three years ago our same government floated the idea of "Patriot II" (PDF) legislation that would enable the government to strip people of their citizenship and deport them for providing "material support" to terrorists. Under this proposal, anyone giving money to a group labeled as terrorist would be subject to the new provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. We are supposed to be comforted that Patriot II has not yet been introduced, even though there is little preventing Congress from reviving the legislation at any time. We are supposed to be comforted by the idea that surely our government would never falsely accuse us of terrorism, even though we know it has done so for thousands of others so far. We are supposed to feel confident that the same Congress that happily signed off on waterboarding by a 31-vote margin would not possibly vote for Patriot II. We are supposed to be confident in the Democratic Party or the Supreme Court to one day reverse some or all of this legislation.

I'm not confident that any of this will be reversed. I'm not comforted that the destruction of our rights is still not complete. I haven't forgotten what has been done to take away our rights, and I don't trust this government not to do more of what it has already admitted it wants done. Already, the Congress has begun debate to massively expand wiretapping efforts against American citizens.

Make no mistake, we are all targets of this government. Until we end the current administration and its Congressional rubber stamp and restore our previous rights, until we repeal not only the Military Commissions Act but the entire original Patriot Act itself, until we refuse our consent for this madness, we will remain active targets of our government. Denial is not an option. George W. Bush has said that we are either with him, or against him. If so, I am against him. So long as there are enemy combatants with no rights as defined by the whim of the president, any president, I am an enemy combatant. And so are you.

(Cross-posted at:

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Blogger Fugitive from Gilead said...

I followed the link from your comment on Bravo! To see brave people speak out in this way restores just a little bit of my faith in humanity. The administration can't take all of us down, despite declaring us their foes.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Francesco Franco said...

It's intersting to recall that only about a year or so ago (before all these revelations about wiretapping came out) my brother (who shall remain nameless here) and I used to discuss, kind of half-jokingly, the possibilty that the CIA was listening in on our trans-Atlantic phone conversations, which were not ever generous twoard the current President of the US and his fellows. Now, we KNOW that it has been happening, the American people do not seem particularly outraged and legislation has been passed to legalized these wiretaps (among the other horrors of the "Torture Bill").

I'm genuinely reluctant to even post this comment!! But this sort of BS has to be challended at every opportunity.

Incidentally, or coincidentally, there's been a huge wiretapping scandal over here in Italy. But the people are digusted and the Prodi government is actually trying to do something to stop it.

3:26 AM  
Blogger Cas said...

What's most dispiriting about the recent attack on civil liberties is how weak the political opposition has been. There have always been people in the United States who wanted to expand government power. What's new is that no one in the position to do anything is doing enough to stop them.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Francesco Franco said...

Why do you say "no leadership that is wiling to resist the assault on civil rights?" My impression was that a large proportion of the Dems (the majority?) actually voted against the so-called "Torture bill", at any rate.

That seemed a fairly courageous act (although they certainly calculated the risk based on the declining popularity of Republicans in the poles) in the face the of upcoming elections and the fact that there is still a somewhat pervasive climate of fear and "tough in terrorism" attitude among the American people.

The Democrats, especially the more socially liberal part of that party, are in a situation of extreme impotence right now. (Well, perhaps this is what you mean and I was thinking of party leadership actually). If you meant that the Republicans in power right now are not resisiting the assualt on civil liberties and that this is a historically unprecedented situation for the US, I think you're probably righ. But there are, at least, some people with some power and influence who are working hard to ameliorate the worst effects. The American seem a bit disgusted with the Congress. What this will translate into at the elections is still anyone's call. One must remain hopeful, but very cautious about polls. An entirely new set of leaders may be elected and have an opportunity to mitigate, or even undo, much of the damage. Strong pressure need to be brought to bear so that these new leaders do not wind up being corrupted, compromised, and bureacratized. That's the responsbility of the American people.

The situation in the US is NOT historically unprecedented in the rest of the world. You just have to learn from the extraordinary mistakes of 20th century Europe, China and other parts of the world and try not to repeat them.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Francesco Franco said...

Have you seen this thoughtful analyis in Slate magazine, BTW.

If, and it's a bif IF, the Democrats somehow manage to take control of one House of Congress, they has better remember what the Republicans did to Bill Clinton (over absolute nonsense) at the end of his reign. There's too much to be investigated: Lies, war crimes, torture, domestic espionage, corruption. But I must move on to other matters.

3:02 AM  

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