Friday, October 13, 2006

The End of the U.S. as a Civilized Nation

Ted Rall has put the new legalization of torture and elimination of habeas corpus for anyone the Führer deems his (sorry, "the people's") enemy into apt historical context (click the title of this post for the complete essay):

... Had there been the political will, Hitler and his goons could have been arrested and tried under German law. The German government was a lost cause, but the German nation still had a (slim) chance. Until 1935.

That's when Germany officially codified the Nazis' uncivilized anti-Semitism by passing the Nuremberg Laws. Jews were stripped of citizenship and banned from marrying or dating non-Jews. The laws were a form of legalized harassment, prohibiting Jews from displaying German flags or shopping in stores at certain times. ... the barbaric ipso facto policies of the Nazi government had corrupted Germany's lofty and admirable system of legal guarantees. ... Germany was no longer a civilized nation in the clutches of gangsters. It had become a gangster nation.

Similarly, the recently passed Military Commissions Act [MCA] removes the United States from the ranks of civilized nations. It codifies racial and political discrimination, legalizes kidnapping and torture of those the government deems its political enemies, and eliminates habeas corpus -- the ancient precept that prevents the police from arresting and holding you without cause -- a basic protection common to all (other) modern legal systems, and one that dates to the Magna Carta.

Between 2001 and 2006, George W. Bush worked tirelessly to eliminate freedoms and liberties Americans have long taken for granted. The Bush Administration's CIA, mercenary and military state terrorists kidnapped thousands of innocent people and held them at secret prisons around the world for months and years at a time. These people were never charged with a crime. (There was good reason for that. As the government itself admitted, fewer than ten had actually done anything wrong.) Yet hundreds, maybe even thousands, were tortured.

Under American law these despicable acts were illegal. They were, by definition, un-American. Although it didn't help the dozens of Bush torture victims who died from beatings and drowning, the pre-Bush American judicial system worked. The Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court handed down one decision after another ordering the White House to give its "detainees" trials or let them go. For a brief, shining moment, it looked like there was hope for the U.S. to find its way back to the light.

Now, thanks to a gullible passel of Republican senators and an unhinged leader who is banking that Americans are just as passive as the Germans of the mid-1930s, we have our own Nuremberg Laws.

Under the terrifying terms of the radical new Military Commissions Act, Bush can declare anyone -- including you -- an "unlawful enemy combatant," a term that doesn't exist in U.S. or international law. All he has to do is sign a piece of paper claiming that you "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." The law's language is brilliantly vague, allowing the president to imprison -- for the rest of his or her life -- anyone, including a U.S. citizen, from someone who makes a contribution to a group he disapproves of to a journalist who criticizes the government.

[Partner to the MCA is AETA, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, with vague enough language to brand as a terrorist (i.e., "unlawful enemy combatant") anyone handing out flyers in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken or publicizing the abuse of elephants in the circus or even advocating vegetarianism -- any activity that cuts into the profits from animal abuse and slaughter is a threat to the nation. The AETA bills are still in committee: check the status of H.R.4239 here and S.1926 here.]