The republic effectively ended today with the signing of the "Military Commissions Act." This law made into a farce the "Great Republic" as Winston Churchill described the United States. The forms continue but the substance is gone.
Bonaparte styled himself "Emperor of the French Republic" but he was still king.
With this new law the country became a place in which the president/commander in chief can classify whomever he likes as an enemy combatant beyond the reach of habeas corpus. This means that the executive branch can arrest and hold without trial anyone in the world (including American citizens). He can also hold that prisoner indefinitely without confronting the detained with the case against him/her or the evidence involved.
Americans, you are now "subjects" and not citizens. Accept your new role.
If you watched Generals Hayden and Pace who were artfully positioned behind the sovereign at the signing, you saw a lot of blinking. They know what they have done.
At the end of his program tonight Keith Olberman said to Professor Jonathan Turley, who had commented on the import of the day, "I’ll see you in Guantanomo."
Maybe we can start a chess tournament.
“Enormous and unchecked new power now has been given to a White House whose officials at first called Zacarias Moussaoui the “20th hijacker” but were wrong; who at first called Jose Padilla the “dirty bomber” but were wrong; who at first called Yaser Hamdi such a threat to national security that he could not even be allowed to talk to his attorney — until they decided to set him free. Freedom from judicial review now has been given to the same administration officials who allowed Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen whom we now know that they knew was not a terrorist, to be transferred to Syria for torture. Vague or narrow definitions of torture now have been given to the executive branch operatives who are responsible for Abu Ghraib. New powers have been given to the people who brought us the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program, the one that some legal experts say violates both federal law and the Constitution.”
[Andrew Cohen, Wash Post, 10/18/06]
At what point does George I (or is he II or IV?), call off the next elections? That is the point of all this, isn’t it? To not surrender power.
I fear for my grandchildren. I truly do. It reminds me of Martin Nieboller’s “When they came for the Jews, I said nothing…”
I thought it was only smarmy leftists who worried about this sort of thing? The way it sounded on NPR today, the bill is just about making sure we can properly prosecute terrorists…
So what is a citizen to do about it?
I think that the republic ended before today, mainly from legislation passed by the branch of government that is supposed to be closest to the people, namely, Congress.
The laws [sic] passed after September 2001 were a speeding up of the destruction of the democratic republic, but were not the beginning. The Anti-Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2005 (which established the National Intelligence Director), the Anti-Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, and now the Military Commissions Act are an acceleration of the process that began with the odd events of Sept. 11, 2001.
I recently came back from the place Def. Sec. Rumsfeld sardonically referred to as “Old Europe”, where I saw only three obese people in three weeks. But obesity is not our worst problem. The march to authoritarianism and oligarchy is really happening, as today’s signing of the Military Commissions Act shows.
I have only had time to skim parts of the new law, but the language is tricky, vague, and, as to torture, convoluted and seemingly contradictory.
The legislation demonstrates the worst features of written legal language.
Right off the bat is section 2. It says “The authority to establish military commissions under chapter 47A of title 10, United States code, as added by section 3(a), may not be construed to alter or limit the authority of the President under the Constitution of the United States and laws of the United States to establish military commissions for areas declared to be under martial law or in occupied territories should circumstances so require.”
What do you think that means?
The coverage of the law is set up in a devious way, which allows for easy expansion to cover all of us and indoctrinates the reader to accept definitions that could, with a change in one sentence, include all U.S. citizens as being triable before a military commission. The definitions section defines an unlawful enemy combatant as “a person who has engaged in . . . .”
This would include all U.S. citizens, except for section 948c, entitled “Persons subject to military commissions”, which purports to limit coverage by saying, “Any alien unlawful enemy combatant is subject to trial by military commission under this chapter.” An Alien is defined in section 948a(3) as a person who is not a citizen of the United States.
Just quietly remove the word “alien” from section 948c and–bingo!–everybody in the U.S. of A., citizens and non-citizens alike, can be detained and tried before a military commission for political dissent and demonstrations, because the term “unlawful enemy combatant” is nice and vague and is not limited to war, but makes you an unlawful enemy combatant if you engage in “hostilities” or “materially support hostilities” against the United States. It doesn’t limit the scope of coverage to those of you who kill someone or even cause serious bodily injury. All you have to do is engage in “hostilities”. You know, just being hostile to the U.S., as determined by the executive branch, is enough.
They will argue that the laundry list of crimes triable before the commissions in section 950v will protect you and limit the scope of coverage, but don’t bet on it.
A real bear trap is in section 5, which goes beyond aliens and says: “No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories.” So this means that outside of military commissions, even if you are a U.S. citizen, you cannot use the Geneva Conventions or any of its protocols if you are detained or even if you file a civil lawsuit.
The legislation as finally passed is Senate Bill 3930. You can view or download the obscene text at:
It will take several readings to try to get a handle on all the traps in this law, and we should try to force ourselves to do so.
And when it comes to laws passed by congress that end the republic, let’s not forget the Help America Vote Act, which promotes electronic voting machines. You know, your vote is now counted by a proprietary software program, the operation of which cannot be monitored, and which permits no recount. But since that statute is dependent on each state accepting the federal bribe money, which then obliges the state to follow that law, your state can reject coverage of the Help American Vote Act and can then outlaw the use of the machines.
As the November election approaches, we can remember the line that some attribute to old Joe Stalin: “it’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes.”
Once freedoms and liberty are handed over, it will be very difficult to regain. We have lost the republic while the majority of the citizenry are not even aware that it has happened – until one in their family is named an enemy combatant. Future generations will remember these days of infamy. It happened on our watch!
“Rep. Peter King: Conditions on the ground are different than what you see on television.—As we go through the city of Baghdad, it was like being in Manhattan. I’m talking about bumper to bumper traffic. Talking about shopping centers, talking about restaurants, talking about video stores, talking about guys–on the street corner, talking about major hotels. And so, at that moment, people must be amazingly resilient and you would never know that there was a war going on…
…in Mosul—I remember seeing news reports about roller coasters. Where you had two or three parking lots filled with their cars on a Sunday afternoon. Again, that’s not something you’d see on television, and at any given time a suicide bombers can walk into an amusement center, but the point I’m making is that the situation is more stable than you think….”
We can only hope that one day, our democracy is as good as Iraq’s.
I wait with baited breath as to miraculous nature of the repup victory in the next pres. election, that is, if King Cheney and prince Rummy feel we can afford such a destabilising event, in a time of war. A kind of war that we have never been in before, therefore it requires new ‘countermeasures’. I mean, the ‘tradition’ of Habeas Corpus has been been ditched to “fight this war”, so why not ditch democracy? it has been around alot less time than HC.
Instead of Brown shirts, they will have either blue or white shirts, I lean more to white, cos you get that Klan, business, private school feel, all in one colour.
ps: I am not to shabby at chess, Orange looks good on me and I am Agoraphobic.
“So while in theory he can continue to hold people in secret, he is clearly prohibited from engaging in the types of abuse that seem to be the entire basis and motivation for the program,”
Hmm, thats reassuring, makes for a great Court case: “your honor, during the said period in which my client was ‘not in custody of the US’, he was tortured by the US”, kinda hard to prove responsibility, if there is no evidence of being in custody.
While the US has before suspended habeas corpus in the civil war, we thankfully resolved this problem soon after. I can only hope and pray that this gross abuse of American politicking will be resolved with haste and those that support and encourage this behavior will be voted out. Otherwise, we have joined those notable governments that reserve the right to unilaterally and without review declare people enemies of the state.
I don’t know much about Hayden and Pace but I have admired Senator Warner for a long time. How did we come to the point where someone like Senator Warner would support a bill that would give the President the power to declare an American citizen an enemy combatant with none of the usual legal protections citizens get?
I was born in 1950 and lived through the cold war where we and the Soviets had thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other. What makes this time so different that congress would pass a law like the one the President just signed?
I understand that we have an executive branch that is extreme to the point of breaking the law when it comes to expanding its power. But what has happened to people like Senator Warner and much of the rest of the republican party in Washington, DC? Why are they going along with this?
A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Apparently we can’t.
Fly your flag at half staff. It’s the least we can do to show respect for the late Republic.
Robert Willman: I think you’ve been reading the original version of S 3930. The currently posted version has already taken care of that pesky little “alien”. The orginal House version of the bill (HR 6166) included a provision to define “Illegal Enemy Combatants” as “(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.”
The original Senate version (S 3930) omitted this definition. The Senate later added it in (after publishing the version omitting the changes after the bill was passed: the first Thomas posting of the bill as passed is the one I think you are referring to.). The MSM picked up the original Senate version, and rushed to assure us that it only applied to the aliens.
We are all subject to the whims of his Majesty now.
I look forward to President Clinton declaring John Yoo to be an illegal enemy combatant just prior to signing the repeal of this travesty.
Whether it’s chess or checkers, smoke moves before fire.
Lina, you forgot the non-existant Lodi (CA) branch of Al Qaida–and the guy who’s still doing time for being a part of it.
Colonel Lang, you are right.
1.) “Triumph of the know-nothings”. Modern politicians seem to avoid information the way vampires avoid sunlight, for the simple reason that if you know the facts of a situation, they might conflict with the most expident or ideologically correct policies. How can we expect people who have turned avoiding thinking about the possible consequences of their actions into an art form to consider the dangers of the legislation they sign?
2.)”The personality cult”, Bush has positioned himself as the protector of the nation, rather than an official in charge of executing the laws. They have managed to, in many cases sucessfully frame oppostion to the president as an atempt to undermine America’s security. The wheels are quickly coming off this one, but he’s had a good five years to cudgel people with that narative.
3)”If you can keep it”. Periodically a poll will come up like this one: http://www.constitutioncenter.org/CitizenAction/CivicResearchResults/NCCTeens'Poll.shtml
Uneducated people cannot be functioning citizens in a republic or a democracy. If you can’t critically evaluate events, you wind up as part of one mob or the other, depending on which demogogue is most appealing to you. What we’re seeing now is the consequence of a neglected educational system.
4.)”Cash, Rules, Everything, Around, Me”. Look at the Abramoff scandall, or the K street project. Laws are not just written to reward lobbyists and doners, they’re sometimes written by lobbyists. How can an organization where survival depends on maintaining the flow of cash be effective at anything besides maintainign the flow of cash?
5.)”People who watch The Daily Show are better informed than people who watch Cable news” When a comedy program that describes itself as a ‘fake news show’ provided as much information as traditional news outlets, well, something is badly badly broken in the mechanisms that are supposed to keep the citizenry informed about their world.
They think they’ll never lose another election.
If it wouldn’t be so miserable for me and my three hundred million fellow residents, I would wish on them that they lose the next election to a north-american Džugašvili.
Most of the venal politicians who voted for this know that the Supreme Court will declare it unconstitutional. It is a pre-election political stunt, albeit an extremely damaging and dangerous one. As Juan Cole points out today, it gives Bush (and any other president, provided elections are not also suspended to protect us from terrorists) the power to issue lettres de cachet.
So America eventually got herself her enabling act, and formalised the ‘Unitary Executive Branch’ theory intop formal law.
Best of luck. She’ll need it.
There is a long history of the great and the good regarding any criticism of themselves as treason. While the removal of checks and balances usually results in the clowns-in-chief acting with exuberant self-destructiveness, perhaps chess is as good a way as any to while away the time before the Apocalypse. Or Go.
hmm maybe this is what makes new country projectes wher civil rhigets and libertarin ideas are strong made real ? maybe it will be a ideas to build up milita after all and not let anybody use youer owen propety… its start to lisen much like how A-C (freemarket anarchists )say how the state works..
In every dark cloud there is a silver lining…perhaps Rummy will resign now that he has immunity from war crimes prosecution?
It gives a new interpretaion of Ezekial’s statue at VMI The one with Liberty sitting down holding her head in her hand. Mourning the lost liberties fought for and won from 1776-1783.
Preserve democracy and freedom – arrest top Republicans now!
The Nuremberg Judgment included the following statement:
“The charges in the indictment that the defendants planned and waged aggressive wars are charges of the utmost gravity. War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Bush/Cheney/Rumsfield/Rice would look great in orange.
Mr Lang, I’ve pondered your choice of the term “subject” instead of citizen. When Bush says….’the safety of American citizens’ I hear PEASANT coming through much stronger than the word “subject”. What say?
A sad day.
I read, and have heard, lots of assertions that this law will be declared unconstitutional. Justice Stevens is 89 years old. Let’s hope he has a lot more good years in him. Because I doubt that any one Bush’s nominates to the court will vote to overturn this. And that makes it 5-4 for upholding the law, by my reading.
Well, this Canadian won’t be setting foot in the United States ever again. When I travel I’m going to go to great lengths to ensure that my connecting flights don’t touch down, or even fly over U.S territory. I’m urging my government to declare a travel advisory regarding the lack of the rule of law and risk of arbitrary detention and torture in the U.S. I will fly to Europe to get to Costa Rica if thats what it takes.
“the law is so badly written…”
Oh really? In fact, Congress did such a good job at mouthing King George’s desires that NO SIGNING STATEMENT was needed to clarify the legislation.
The parallels between the 2 Bush administrations and Gerrmany in the early 1930’s is very frightening. Read your history books and shudder.
This is the new American dream, perfect safety in a tightly controlled police state, everything black and white and no more shades of grey. This is what the majority of Americans want for themselves — they want a bigger version of Singapore, a perfect Big Brother government to protect them and keep them safe, even it requires giving up every right that Americans in the past ever held dear.
Hope you’re happy with the blackjack. ‘Cause you’re going to see a lot of it in upcoming years.
The only good news is that the Busheviks aren’t Lee Kuan Yew or Goh Chok Tong, and, in their incompetence, may botch things so badly that the American people decide they aren’t so happy with the blackjack after all. I’m not betting on it. I’m working on escape strategies, because I’m betting it’ll get worse before it gets better…
Perhaps you should reapply to become a British colony. Then you would have an eighty-year old housewife as head of state instead of The Decider
BTW, I suspect one reason that Bush doesn’t like the North Koreans is that Kim Il-sung has already bagged the title “The Great Leader” and that even though he is dead he is still The Eternal President of the Republic of North Korea. Something I am sure that King George the First would like to emulate.
Dreams need wings to become reality.
From ‘family security matters’ Ray Kraft
(Kraft make really bad cheese in Oz, more akin to bog filler)
“Americans who oppose the liberation of Iraq are coming down on the side of their own worst enemy.”
This quote illustrates a nice little shell play: oppose invasion therefore support terr. oppose torture > supp. terr, oppose Bush > supp. terr.
I am usually good at predicting future events, I predicted alot of people would get fat from eating too much McDonalds. I cannot seem to conjure a vision of Dick Cheney (chain) leaving White house.
I wonder how Generals Pace and Hayden can square this with their oaths of office? Clearly, Mr. Bush has no such problems. Sadly, too many seem to have forgotten the clause about “…protect the Constitution of the United States from ALL enemies, foreign and domestic…”.
Whatever happened to honor?
Got A Watch,
I made that Nuremberg reference to Americans a couple of times when the issue touched the legitimacy of war against Iraq.
They didn’t accept that America’s actions today are in fact, on a legal basis, comparable to Nazi-Germany’s assault on Poland in 1939. The mere suggestion was deemed as ‘irrational’, ‘US bashing’, ‘Amtiamericanism’ and ‘blame America first’, and eventually ‘love for Saddam’.
While I agree with you, that American Exceptionalism cannot make up for the lack of legal basis (at least I do understand your reference in this way), don’t expect too many of your fellow citizens to share your view. In my impression the principles of international law, especially those of Nuremberg, that America had helped shape since 1945, seem alien at least to those Americans who prefer to view conflicts like the one in Iraq in terms ‘the good guys vs. the bad guys’.
In neo-con world, rule of law is for the losers, or subjects. The principles of pre-emption and the so-called unitary executive complement each other seamlessly. US subjects have to obey US laws. The executive branch does not. Saddam had to obey the UN resolutions. The US did not. Iraqi violations of UN resolutions were cited by the US as a reason to go to war. But nobody else shared that extreme legal minority opinion. And so the US ironically went to war in violation of the very UN charter they claimed to want to uphold. Except that the irony was completely lost on the American people. As was the perilous precedent set.
What I want to say is that there is popular support for the neo-con idea that the Nuremberg Principles are binding for the bad guys, while Ameria’s superior virtue exempts her from such restrictions.
I think that’s plain hubris, and the results as for US legitimacy, reputation and credibility abroad, speak for themselves.
confusedponderer, interesting description. I detect a parallel between the way the Israelis view themselves vis-a-vis the Palestinian conflict. “We’re the good guys, and therefore what we do is virtuous.” It’s also the same idea that al-Qaeda holds about itself, except there is no exchange of ideas between al-Qaeda and the neocons (one hopes), whereas there’s certainly an exchange of ideas between the Israelis and the neocons.
We are all entitled to our opinions, however many Canadians would disagree with Charles, as they pack to leave this great country for very happy and in the case of “snowbirds” long visits to the USA.
When America discovers what Bush did to them and America, it will still take about a decade to roll-back what he has put into law – especially all the critical issues like the military comission act, the patriot act and his torture legislation.
Who knows, maybe America eventually benefits from this, by fracturing it’s monolithic two-party system, and bring in other players, libertarians, or, horrors, greens. America would today urgently need factual debate rather than bipartisan bickering. Dems and the GOP together form a political cartel. They need more competition. But unless campign finance is reformed thoroughly and honestly that won’t happen.
Yesterday I saw on CNN that today a representative works a ridiculous 100 days a year in congress. Considering this, it’s no miracle why bills are passed that voting representatives made no effort to read, let alone comprehend. This lack of competence and diligence on part of members of congress, made possible excesses like Bush’s legislation. We witness a broken process.
I came upon this debate by accident, I was in fact trying to trace the origins of my national anthem. As an Englishman (a statement all but banned by my own government)I have been amazed that any such act could be contemplated in the US. I have also lived through the past decade where my government has become more oppressive than the Soviet regimes they claimed to oppose. This also has been done in the name of anti terrorism. You probably aren’t aware in the US that England has almost ceased to exit, we are now occupied and controlled by Scotland. We have laws passed by the Scots that cause the English hardship but don’t apply to the Scots. United Kingdom? rubbish we’re now simply a cash cow for the Scots to milk. Thogh to be fair, it would appear to be the same for anybody else. Beware these people have a long term agenda and if your not careful you’ll go the same way as us. Death by a thousand cuts.