Here at SLU we have formed a new group, Save Our Constitution, to fight the recent attack on basic civil rights by the Bush administration. Right now we are drafting up promotional material for a teach-in we will have Nov. 3. This is some copy I have generated that I think captures where the group is heading. I’m putting it up here in draft form for comments.
The Bill that Broke the Constitution
On October 18, 2006, George W. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act into law. The bill was described in the media as merely a “controversial” decision about what to do with the detainees in Guantánamo and elsewhere. In fact, it gives the President unprecedented powers and strips ordinary people of the most basic of rights. The right whose death we mourn the most is habeas corpus, a right so basic most people aren’t even aware it has a name, let alone that it can be taken away. Habeas corpus is your right to tell your case to a judge if you have been arrested. Millions of people no longer have this right. They can languish indefinitely in prisons for no reason, dependant entirely on the whim of their captors. And the collapse of basic human rights is not limited to foreigners or people outside America. Under the Military Commissions Act the president and secretary of defense can declare anyone they want, including American citizens, enemy combatants. Once this happens, you have almost no legal protection. Jose Padilla, an American citizen, was declared an enemy combatant, and he was held without charges and tortured for three years. There is nothing preventing this from happening to you.
We can never forget that real people are suffering horribly at the hands of our government, and no good is coming from it. More and more stories are coming out about people who were arrested on faulty information or no information at all, tortured horribly, and then released without any charges being pressed against them. Muhibullo Adulkarim Umarov a native of Tajikistan, was arrested in Pakistan following a bombing in Karachi, sent to Guantánamo No evidence was ever presented linking him to the bombing which was eventually shown to be the work of a Pakistani, Sohail Akhtar. After two years, someone realized that they had no reason to hold Umarov. He was taken to the office of an American official who told him he was going to be freed, asked him not to blame America, gave him a hug, and sent him on his way.
This can happen because there is no public oversight over who gets arrested, why they are held, or what is done to them. Bounty hunters in Pakistan pick up whoever they can just to get paid. Innocent people are turned over to the new secret police because someone wanted to settle a score or do in a rival. Trial by jury was developed long ago to prevent these abuses, but now we are slipping back into barbarism.
The Politics of Fear
How is this possible? Why have we allowed this to happen? The answer is simple, we have been made to fear. The president and his enablers in congress used the tragedy of September 11 to advance an agenda that had nothing to do with the attacks. This manipulation included inventing the “war on terror” a strange conflict against an undefined enemy for an indefinite period of time. Past leaders facing real armies have told us not to fear. This administration is now telling us to fear, to fear everyone and no one, and to take their word for it when they announce that someone is the enemy. We are in an era where big lies are used to destroy basic rights. The time has come to say “stop.”