Where’s the outrage?!?!


rageI like President Obama.  I thought he was a viable and even American alternative to the excesses of the Bush presidency,which were rooted in lies and secrecy that I thought threatened the existence of America as we know it.  However,  close examination of Obama’s record, vis-a-vis foreign policy shows that at the least there is no difference between the two administrations or worse that Obama has surpassed Bush’s excesses.

Unfortunately President Obama has gone from an America where detention of American citizens was something hinted at or debated in foreign policy circles in the Bush administration to indefinite detention being codified with NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act.  By widening the ‘war on terror’ or accepting as did Bush that it is an infinite conflict in both time and borders, and with the appropriate laws in place, Obama has made the federal government an usurper of the rights of American citizens to habeas corpus meaning any American anywhere in the world can be captured and held indefinitely for as long as the federal government wants.  This also means, should the government wish it could act  as  executioner of those it wants to target for assassination without giving them a chance to turn themselves in or  have access to the judicial system, so says this  latest bit of news to come out of Washington

…the president can order the killing of a US citizen who is a member of al-Qaida…(without any specificity on)  the “minimum legal requirements” for launching such an operation, (the Administration) insists that the killing would be constitutionally justified as the United States is engaged in an “armed conflict” as defined by international law and authorised by Congress, with al-Qaida and its affiliates.  In a key passage in the document – which is unsigned – (the Administration) argues that for a US citizen who has rights under the due process clause and the fourth amendment, “that individual’s citizenship would not immunise from a lethal operation”.

The Administration also goes on to assert all of this can be done without any over sight from the judiciary…..it is considered too intrusive and burdensome and would get in the way of the President’s ability to act swiftly  against citizens.  Obama also says that such lethal and deadly force can be carried out against Americans even if they are not in the planning stages of an attack or if they are “associated” with terror organizations.  Just what he means by associated with is left up to his discretion alone.  Therefore, it is conceivable that an American citizen can be targeted for assassination by his government because he knows someone who is a member of a terrorist organization even though he may not share the views of his friend or the group to which he belongs.  The prospect is frightening and  horrifying.

If there is any doubt that these measures are designed for Muslims and Muslim Americans, that doubt should be erased just by a casual glimpse of those organizations deemed terrorist by the US government….an overwhelming majority of them are situated in the Middle East and most likely made of those who call themselves Muslim by faith.  That does not mean that the organization is driven by any Islamic ideals or philosophy, however, because of the many different groups the one area of the Middle East which has the most groups designated as a terrorist organization is Palestine with 8 followed by Iraq with five.  Clearly while these groups may be made up of Muslims they  exist to drive out what their members consider invaders or occupiers of their territory, or violators of their sovereignty.  Absent such a foreign influence it may be safe to assume these groups would blend into a normal political structure consistent with governments and politics the world over.

The other indication that Muslims have become targeted by this Administration in ways that exceed what Bush did is with the denial of return to American citizens living and working abroad, forced exile,  or those who may want to travel from America to other countries.  We’ve written extensively here at Miscellany101 about the pesky no-fly list since it was imposed on the American public.  Unfortunately, the Obama administration has chosen to expand upon no fly lists and means of denying travel  in ways that seem to point to it targeting specifically American Muslims.  This from the president who spent most of his first term weathering rumors that he himself was Muslim, now seemingly oppressing Muslims in order to exorcise the label from him. Fix this America!

 

 

 

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“….with liberty and justice for all” unless you’re an American Muslim


kafka-justice-for-muslims

If you thought DWB, ‘driving while black’ was bad for those American citizens who are of African descent, you can expect if you are a Muslim you will not receive any justice under the American judicial system.  In fact it is SO bad for American Muslims the New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal asserts in an oped entitled ‘Liberty and Justice for non Muslims‘,

Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, genuine concerns about national security as well as politicking and fear have led to a shift in the balance between civil liberties and law enforcement. That much is indisputable, and widely discussed. Yet it’s rarely acknowledged that the attacks have also led to what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims. In this system, the principle of due process is twisted and selectively applied, if it is applied at all.

he then concentrates on special detention centers, due process and the lack thereof as it applies to Muslim defendants and extra judicial surveillance by government law agencies.

It is unfortunate to witness that in the second term of a “progressive” president we have seen the steady, unabated encroachment of the exclusion of due process for Muslim Americans.  This dates to the Clinton administration’s special administrative measures, SAM, which ended calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limited contact with family members.  Bush introduced the dreaded Patriot Act which further muddied the waters and made due process even harder for people who came under government scrutiny by expanding government’s role in the rather nefarious and broadly defined “terrorism prosecutions”.  Glen Greenwald has  adroitly gone on to show how charges of “terrorism” make it a cinch for the government to win against defendants so charged

…when someone is accused of terrorism, the rules governing trials and law completely change. All sorts of things that the state is normally barred from doing on the grounds that it is unjust suddenly become permissible when someone faces terrorism charges. Indeed, so “prejudicial” are these special rules of “justice” for terrorism cases that anyone convicted under these rules is, by definition, treated unfairly if terrorism is inapplicable.

…It’s a separate system of justice so intrinsically unjust and unfair – designed to ensure that Muslims accused of “terrorism” have basically no chance of acquittal…

It is hard to overstate the centrality of the term “terrorism” when it comes to state power, policy and law. It is the term that launches wars and sustains the US posture of endless war..

Yet this term, arguably in the abstract and certainly as applied, has no fixed meaning. It’s just a manipulative slogan legitimizing all forms of American violence against Muslims…it’s the overarching foundation for a completely separate system of justice for Muslims that is in exactly the same category as the most shameful episodes of US history.

President Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA, another heinous piece of legislation all but ensures that American citizens can be held indefinitely without legal recourse for as long as the “controlling legal authority” outside of the judiciary deems appropriate.  It strips a citizen’s access to due process and isolates him to a labyrinthine parallel system of government restrictions that can go on in perpetuity.  This is the kind of system people fled from before the formation of this country and until very recently it is this kind of randomness that has escaped us, but now it seems to be much more common than not.

If there’s any doubt about that ask Saadiq Long, an American Muslim and Air Force veteran with no criminal record who was denied the possibility of returning to America because he was placed, unbeknownst to him, on the dreaded no-fly list.  He lived and worked in the Middle East for America’s allies in places like Egypt and  Qatar, both of them countries of stability that have managed to avoid or eliminated, you choose the term, radicalism that has plagued the area, and it’s pretty safe to say that Long had too.  So it was, although because of recent history should not have been, a surprise that he was told he could not fly back to America from Qatar. Publicity and the advocacy of lawyers and civil rights groups, notably among them the Council of American Islamic Relations were able to secure a remedy for him…..seven months after initially being told he could not fly into American air space. Even now, Long does not know why he was told he could not fly back in April, 2012.  Unfortunately, his troubles  did not end there.

In a recently held press conference, Long claims the FBI has harassed him since his return to Oklahoma that led to a dramatic standoff between him and federal agents in front of his hometown police department.  Long claims reason given by one of the agents for the standoff which ended with guns being drawn on Long and his party, was Long’s refusal to speak with the FBI without legal counsel being present.  Had he agreed to meet with agents without a lawyer, so goes the theory, none of the dramatic, heart stopping action of the encounter would have taken place; but isn’t it a right of American citizens to have a lawyer present when talking to law enforcement officials? Evidently that right does not exist if you are an American Muslim, and why should it, if over the past decade an enormous amount of legal maneuvering has made it possible for what was formally known as rights to due process available to ALL citizens are now being denied people of the Islamic faith.  Common knowledge and wisdom about a person’s rights to legal access and the necessity thereof seem to be irrelevant and inapplicable to America’s Muslims, and this seems to be continuing into the second term of America’s latest progressive president who happens to have been a constitutional professor.

America must stop this decline into the illegal abyss because if it’s possible to make this step with one group of American citizens it can extend to each and every one of us; once precedent is accepted it becomes the rule of law and there is very little likelihood of retreat from the abuses that will arise thereof.   I hope that EVERY American can see the disadvantage of remaining silent as this happens to a very disliked, despised group of Americans and support them even if it’s to keep the same abuses from happening to them.  Wake up America, please.

A more focused criticism of the Obama assault on liberty


The last several posts here have been very critical of the Obama administration’s approach to domestic politics and particularly it’s heavy handed approach to dissent.  Unfortunately, it’s so extensive one article posted here listed 20 examples of the Administration’s assault on domestic liberties.  I began to think perhaps such a long article which underscores so many points might be as oppressive as Obama’s policies so this one very concise piece by Coleen Rowley from one of my favorite sources, Consortium News makes the point very well about a very frightening trend started by Bush and solidified by the current administration.

U.S. intelligence says the terror threat from al-Qaeda is receding, but Congress keeps on expanding the scope of this “war” so as not to look “weak on terror,” now adding new military powers that could be used against American citizens.

The political, military industrial, corporate class in Washington DC continues to re-make our Constitutional Republic into a powerful, unaccountable Military Empire.

The U.S. Senate has just voted 93 to 7 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, which allows the military to operate domestically within the borders of the United States and to possibly (or most probably) detain U.S. citizens without trial.

Forget that the ACLU called it “an historic threat to American citizens,” this bill is so dangerous not only to our rights but to our country’s security that it was criticized by the Directors of the FBI and the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Defense Secretary!

For the first time in our history, if this Act is not vetoed, American citizens may not be guaranteed their Article III right to trial. The government would be able to decide who gets an old-fashioned trial (along with right to attorney and right against self-incrimination) and who gets detained without due process and put into a modern legal limbo.

Does anyone remember that none of the first thousand people the FBI rounded up after 9/11, and who were imprisoned for several months (some brutalized) were ever charged with terrorism? Does anyone remember that hundreds of the Gitmo detainees who were handed over to their American military captors in exchange for monetary bounties were found, after years of imprisonment, to have no connection to terrorism?

When in doubt about a case, what do you think the government will again do? Does it prefer to submit its evidence to a jury’s scrutiny and its witnesses to the trouble of being cross-examined in court by a defense attorney or would it be easier to have no questions asked and dump the accused into detainee prison without rights? I think we already know that answer from the nearly ten years of experience at Guantanamo.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, declared that suspected citizens open themselves up “to imprisonment and death” He added: “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them: ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”

Of course, the politicians will say we are just talking about a few cases. But in fact the sky’s probably the limit given the current legal ambiguity in the Patriot Act expansion of “material support for terrorism” to now include humanitarian aid and even mere advocacy speech without any need to prove an accused person intended to support any kind of terrorist violence.

The Department of Justice has been currently using this ambiguity for over a year to investigate 23 American citizens who are anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. Additionally, the “war on terror” will undoubtedly expand even more when it is de-linked from 9/11.

See “The War on Terrorism Congress Never Declared — But Soon Might” by Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor, expert on these issues and associate dean for scholarship at American University Washington College of Law, which states:

“An individual may be detained for providing ‘direct support’ (which, in the government’s view, may be nothing more than minor financial or logistical assistance) in aid of ‘associated forces’ that are ‘engaged in hostilities against … coalition partners.’

“Thus, the NDAA effectively authorizes the military detention of any individual who provides such assistance anywhere in the world to any group engaged in hostilities against any of our coalition partners, whether or not the United States is in any way involved in (or even affected by) that particular conflict.”

Given this expansion of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force contained in the 2012 NDAA to encompass undefined “associated forces,” we could witness the U.S. government targeting a large range of political dissidents, human rights activists, humanitarians, and maybe even “occupiers.”

The NDAA is deliberately confusing for political purposes but much is at stake. President Barack Obama’s determination as to whether or not he will veto the problematic 2012 war funding bill will determine how Benjamin Franklin’s glib response to the woman waiting outside the Constitutional Convention is ultimately answered. Franklin and other founding fathers had created “a Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

But a lawless Military Empire could now await where U.S. “emergency war powers” trump the Constitution, where the Commander in Chief becomes king for a term(s), the military enters into domestic police-state actions in violation of 130 years of Posse Comitatus law, and the Constitution becomes as quaint as the Geneva Conventions were for Alberto Gonzalez and the Bush Administration.

Corrupted, compliant politicians have already allowed their fears to get the better of them by going along with pre-emptive war in violation of the Nuremberg Principles and international law and torturing in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture.

So why should they also not go for detaining American citizens without constitutional rights or trial?

You can tell President Obama he needs to live up to his threat to veto this legislation or you can sign Sen. Mark Udall’s petition.

This abdication to repression on Obama’s part led me to ask is it the position or our political system that makes presidents abuse their power and totally disregard the Constitution.  Indeed, Obama a Constitutional lawyer has turned out in many ways to be as bad as his predecessor even after suggesting, as Rowley points out, that he would be different.  I’m simply not at the stage where I believe in the lesser of two evils concession, although there are surely some good points made on that theory’s behalf.  We should hold our elected officials to their words; if they promise they will not abuse the rights of American citizens and then it turns out that they have picked up the baton of state sponsored, government endorsed oppression, they should be voted out of office and it should be made explicitly clear to them the reason is because of their betrayal.  I wish Obama supporters would get on board with this idea; his misuse of his executive powers should be no more acceptable to the electorate than Bush.