Four Remaining British Guantanamo Detainees To Be Freed

  1. Four Remaining British Guantanamo Detainees To Be Freed
    Tuesday, January 11th, 2005
    http://www.democracynow.org/article..../01/11/1446246

    The British government has announced that the four remaining British citizens held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo will be released. The four Brits are: Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar. We speak with Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. [includes rush transcript]

    The British government has announced that the four remaining British citizens held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo will be released. This follows months of negotiations between Washington and London and a direct appeal by Prime Minister Tony Blair to U.S. President George W. Bush, as well as multiple lawsuits filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights. The four Brits are: Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar. It is not clear when they will be released.
    On Democracy Now!, we have covered these cases extensively, particularly that of Moazzam Begg. He was detained in Pakistan in 2001 and has been imprisoned without charge or trial in Guanatanmo after being transferred there from a base in Afghanistan. Last April, his father Azmat Begg joined us in our studio to talk about his son"s imprisonment

    Meanwhile, the Australian government says one of its citizens held at Guantanamo will also be released.
    Mamdouh Habib has been held at Guantanamo Bay for three years. He filed a lawsuit charging that in 2001 the U.S. transferred him to Egypt for 6 months, where he was electrocuted, beaten and nearly drowned. Habib alleges that while under Egyptian detention, he was hung by his arms from hooks, repeatedly shocked, nearly drowned and brutally beaten.
    Habib's case is only the second to describe a secret practice called "rendition," under which the CIA has sent suspected terrorists to be interrogated in countries where torture has been well documented. It is unclear which U.S. agency transferred him to Egypt. His was the first case to challenge the legality of the practice and could have implications for U.S. plans to send large numbers of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other countries with poor human rights records.

    Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and author of "Guantanamo: What the World Should Know."

    AMY GOODMAN: On Democracy Now! we have covered these cases extensively, particularly the case of Moazzam Begg. He was detained in Pakistan in 2001, has been in prison without charge or trial in Guantanamo after being transferred there from a base in Afghanistan.
    Last April, Moazzam's father, Azmat Begg, joined us in our studio to talk about his son's imprisonment. This is an excerpt of what he had to say.

    AZMAT BEGG: He was captured from Islamabad, which is the capital of Pakistan, where he was staying with his wife and children. Very small children, starting from the age of 1 to 4 or 5. He had three children at that time.

    AMY GOODMAN: And where was he taken? When was this?

    AZMAT BEGG: It was about two years now, over two years now. He was taken from his house in front of his daughter and his wife. Two American soldiers, assisted by two Pakistani soldiers, pulled him out, bundled him up, and put him into the trunk of the car, and took him away. And he rang me up from the trunk of the car, possibly he had a mobile, and he told me, in the middle of the night here in England, that, "Daddy, I have been arrested." I said, "What for?" It was a very [inaudible] sort of noise; I couldn't believe. He said, "I've been arrested, Daddy." I said, "Why?" He said, "I don't know. And they are taking me somewhere, which I do not know. Please take care of my wife and children who are" at so and so address in Islamabad.

    AMY GOODMAN: Where were you?

    AZMAT BEGG: I was in England. I was in England, half asleep.

    AMY GOODMAN: So he was taken to Guantanamo. Have you had contact?

    AZMAT BEGG: No. They didn't take him straight away to Guantanamo. They took him to Afghanistan and kept [him] in a provisional kind of house called a "Mantua cell." And then they transferred him to another place in Afghanistan, which is known as Bagram Air Base, where he was badly treated, very badly treated.

    AMY GOODMAN: How do you know?

    AZMAT BEGG: Because I received letters. Through the Red Cross. The Red Cross people came down to me to deliver the letters. [I was] having correspondence with him through the Red Cross all the time. And then when a little bit of noise raised in the U.K., they transferred him to Guantanamo Bay. He was badly treated. He was deprived of proper food. He was deprived of natural light: sun, moon, or anything. He says, "I haven't seen sun, moon, or sky for the last whole one year, except for two minutes. I'm being treated like an animal. They pull me and push me into cages, and that's how I am here now. At times I don't get food and my clothes are torn. They don't care, and I don't know whom to go to."

    AMY GOODMAN: Have you spoken to him?

    AZMAT BEGG: Never.

    AMY GOODMAN: He writes you letters?

    AZMAT BEGG: He wrote his letters when he was in Kandahar, in Bagram, and he also wrote letters from Guantanamo Bay when he was transferred.

    AMY GOODMAN: That was Azmat Begg, the father of Moazzam Begg, speaking on Democracy Now! last March. Meanwhile, the Australian government says one of its citizens held at Guantanamo will also be released. Mamdouh Habib has been held at Guantanamo for three years.
    He filed a lawsuit charging that in 2001 the U.S. transferred him to Egypt for six months where he was electrocuted, beaten and nearly drowned.
    Habib alleges that while under Egypt detention he was hung by his arms from hooks, repeatedly shocked, nearly drowned, brutally beaten.

    Habib's case is only the second to describe a secret practice known as rendition, under which the C.I.A. has sent suspected terrorists to be interrogated in countries where torture is well documented. It's unclear which U.S. agency transferred him to Egypt.
    He was the first case to challenge the legality of the practice and could have implications for U.S. plans to send large numbers of Guantanamo detainees to Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other countries with poor human rights records. Michael Ratner joins us, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Welcome, Michael.

    MICHAEL RATNER: Thank you for having me, Amy.

    AMY GOODMAN: So this is very big news that's come out. Tell us more about it.

    MICHAEL RATNER: Well, it's huge news. My first reaction, I had heard something in the last day or so that there might be a bunch of people released. I got up this morning and I saw that it was going to be the four English people and Habib.
    I have to tell you, the first reaction was just big tears rolled down my eyes. You and I know Mr. Begg's father Azmat, and we saw the cut where he just cried.
    He has been there for three years. When I was in England, I met with Richard Belmar's wife, and she just cried and cried and cried.
    It reminded me of the time ten years ago or more when we freed Haitian refugees from Guantanamo. So my first reaction was just joy for these families of the people, as well as the people. My second reaction was "What an outrage! What an amazing outrage!"

    People called the worst of the worst, three of these people put before military tribunals for possible life sentences, those three people also being released of course, one of them being Begg, one Mr. Abbasi and one Mr. Habib. Just shocking.

    AMY GOODMAN: Let's talk about this. What does it mean to say they'll be released? Have they ever been charged?

    MICHAEL RATNER: No. They have never been charged, even though they were put before tribunals, three of them, they were never given any charges. They were just said to be the worst of the worst.
    Our hope is that this is the beginning of a huge number of releases. What I really think is going on is now that we won the Supreme Court case in June of this year, in June of 2004, we're getting lawyers down there.

    The government soon will have to justify these detentions in an American Federal Court and I don't think they can do it.
    I think this was a fraud from beginning to end. Unspeakable fraud, something that I hope will never, never happen again. Of course, going forward, we have our issues.
    One is these people, of course, will go back to their countries and hopefully be released very, very quickly, as the Tipton people in England were, but there will be many that remain in Guantanamo.

    The U.S. is already planning a permanent prison there to indefinitely detain people. So we're going to have to still struggle for a number of people there. It is conceivable that not only was it the lawyers' efforts here, and the fact that the government couldn't justify these detentions, but also the fact that someone like Habib, who was charging the government with sending him to Egypt for six months of torture in what you accurately described as this rendition process. That's still going to be able to be sued upon. We still want to end it.
    One of my fears is that they use Guantanamo for a permanent prison now, where are they going to do all of these extreme measures of interrogation. They're going to be in C.I.A. holes around the world or in other countries around the world where they render people. So we're only at the beginning of the end of what has been a nightmare, a real nightmare for these people, for law, for morality, for politics.

    AMY GOODMAN: We go from what has happened to these people at Guantanamo. Again, now we have the four of them being released as well as the Australian government saying one of its citizens will be released, Mamdouh Habib, who was rend -- would you say "rendered" to Egypt?

    MICHAEL RATNER: It is the word we use, although it's a word used for killing animals, usually.

    AMY GOODMAN: At the same time, you have the latest news from the Charles Graner trial. This is the person who is considered the ringleader at Abu Ghraib involved in torture. The remarkable statements of his lawyer when showing the naked men piled up, the prisoners piled up on top of each other in the photographs of them, saying, "Isn't this what you -- isn't this what cheerleaders do all the time in the United States? Right? They get into pyramids."

    MICHAEL RATNER: What an utterly foolish and ridiculous statement when I read it, and what a misstatement of what we all know was torture and abuse on the worst level. Foolish, foolish defense. He did have and he does have a better defense than that. It's the defense that's what I would call the Alberto Gonzales-Pinochet defense. As we recall, Gonzales approved essentially a memo that said that torture is only organ failure or possible -- close to -- being close to death. So, his better defense would be, "Look at, there's orders out there. There's a memo out there that defines torture in such a narrow way, and that was the U.S. definition for the last two-and-a-half years that what you see in these photographs, it is not torture.

    According to Alberto Gonzales and the Department of Justice, it is not torture. My client was thinking it was a lawful order or had the understanding it was a lawful order. He heard from military intelligence to soften these people up." The defense here is chain of command. It's not that those pictures out there are some high school cheerleading team.

    AMY GOODMAN: Also, Graner's lawyer saying using a leash on the prisoners is a valid method of controlling detainees, especially those who might be soiled with feces. He said, "You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections in Texas. We'd lasso them and drag them out of there."

    MICHAEL RATNER: Well, unfortunately, that's probably correct, and as we know what our prison scandals reflect in Guantanamo and in Abu Ghraib and in Bagram are really a reflection of our own prisons in the United States where this kind of conduct is not infrequent and where some of the very people involved in the tortures in Guantanamo were people who had at one point been in American prisons.

    AMY GOODMAN: Now that these men are being released from Guantanamo, and there are still hundreds there, is that right?

    MICHAEL RATNER: Yes, there were 550. These are a half dozen being released. But I expect, I hope, I pray, that we get another couple hundred out in the next few weeks. I cannot say that. There was an article that said that might happen. But it does seem that to the extent this government, this Bush administration, has to justify these detentions in court, it cannot do so.

    AMY GOODMAN: Do they sue afterwards?

    MICHAEL RATNER: I think a lot of them have. We have one suit on behalf of the Guantanamo detainees already for damages against the Tipton people, the three English against Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and others. And yes, I think Habib will continue to sue. Others can, as well.

    AMY GOODMAN: You have recently returned, Michael Ratner, from Berlin, where you're involved with a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld. It's hardly gotten any attention here. What's it about?

    MICHAEL RATNER: In Europe it got huge attention. It's a case to try and bring ten high officials starting with Rumsfeld on down into the criminal court in Berlin to say they have to face charges for war crimes which are the tortures of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Bagram. As I said, it's a big issue in Europe which understands the nature of torture, indefinite detentions and disappearances. Unfortunately our country apparently doesn't. Right now, this government still, the Bush administration still, is trying to say it's Graner and no one else involved in these tortures. We know when you listen to the travesty of that Gonzales hearing we know this is all the way at the top.

    AMY GOODMAN: He is expected, Alberto Gonzales, to be confirmed, and that's according to the democratic senators, people like Charles Schumer, the New York senator, the democrats joining with the republicans. Your comment.

    MICHAEL RATNER: Anyone in their right mind could vote to confirm Alberto Gonzales is basically saying I approve torture. I approve those pictures at Abu Ghraib. I approve what happened in Guantanamo. I approve what happened in Bagram. That's what they're saying. It's just a moral, legal and political outrage.

    AMY GOODMAN: Most interestingly, the letter from the retired generals and admirals. It seems to be lawyers within the military who are most protesting his appointment to be Attorney General.

    MICHAEL RATNER: The lawyers in the military have been outstanding. First they did that, then the lawyers we work with on military commissions, of course, one of them, Habib's lawyer, basically said these commissions are nothing but a kangaroo court. On and on like that. It's the military lawyers. Even Powell objected to the original Gonzales memo saying don't use Geneva here.

    AMY GOODMAN: Finally, in this new year, Time magazine for 2004 named President Bush as "Man of the Year," but Time magazine Canada named Maher Arar, a name hardly known in this country.

    MICHAEL RATNER: Maher Arar is our client at the Center, someone who was transiting Kennedy to go back to his Canadian home, Canadian citizen. They pick him up, interrogate him here for ten days, send him to Syria. He is put in an underground torture chamber, is tortured for a number of weeks. Finally released because the Canadian government or some part of the Canadian government that had not cooperated with the United States in this effort got him out. He's back in Canada. There's a public inquiry started. He was the first guy we surfaced ever in one of these outrageous, extraordinary rendition cases. Tortured very badly. As you and I speak, the numbers are probably in the hundreds of people in C.I.A. holes around the world being tortured right now.

    AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner, I want to thank you for being with us. President of the Center for Constitutional Rights. His latest book is called Guantanamo: What the World Should Know.
    •  
  2. 21 Comments

  3. by   URO-RN
    Another terrorist free to kill again...nice.
  4. by   pickledpepperRN
    http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0110-33.htm

    Published on Monday, January 10, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
    First They Came For The Terrorists...
    by Thom Hartmann

    The Gonzales confirmation is not just about the torture memos. It's much bigger than that.

    If Bush continues to roll back human and civil rights - and the installation of Alberto Gonzalez as America's chief law enforcement officer is very much a part of his campaign to do so - we may be facing a "Pastor Niemöller moment" sooner than most of us could have imagined.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2005, is the third anniversary of the opening of America's first concentration camp since Japanese Americans were shamefully interred during WWII. Since the first Guantanamo camp was opened, the Bush administration has built additional concentration camps - the latest known as Camp Five - in Cuba, and is asking Congress for $29 million to build concentration Camp Six.

    These concentration camps detain uncharged, untried, unconvicted individuals, who may be held for the rest of their lives because, as the UK's Guardian newspaper noted on January 5th of this year, the Bush administration "lacks proof" that they are either criminals or POWs.

    This is one of the more visible parts of a much larger campaign the Bush administration has embarked on to reverse not only 229 years of the American rule of law regarding the rights of average citizens, but nearly eight centuries of human rights that go back to an epic moment in 1215 on a meadow by the River Thames.

    The modern institution of civil and human rights, and particularly the writ of habeas corpus, began in June of 1215 when King John was forced by the feudal lords to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Although that document mostly protected "freemen" - what were then known as feudal lords or barons, and today known as CEOs and millionaires - rather than the average person, it initiated a series of events that echo to this day.

    Two of the most critical parts of the Magna Carta were articles 38 and 39, which established the foundation for what is now known as "habeas corpus" laws (literally, "produce the body" from the Latin - meaning, broadly, "let this person go free"), as well as the Fourth through Eighth Amendments of our Constitution and hundreds of other federal and state due process provisions.
    Articles 38 and 39 of the Magna Carta said:

    "38 In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

    "39 No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land."

    This was radical stuff, and over the next four hundred years average people increasingly wanted for themselves these same protections from the abuse of the power of government or great wealth. But from 1215 to 1628, outside of the privileges enjoyed by the feudal lords, the average person could be arrested and imprisoned at the whim of the king with no recourse to the courts.
    Then, in 1627, King Charles I overstepped, and the people snapped. Charles I threw into jail five knights in a tax disagreement, and the knights sued the King, asserting their habeas corpus right to be free or on bail unless convicted of a crime.
    King Charles I, in response, invoked his right to simply imprison anybody he wanted (other than the rich), anytime he wanted, as he said, "per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis."

    This is essentially the same argument that George W. Bush makes today for why he has the right to detain both citizens and non-citizens solely on his own say-so: because he's in charge. And it's an argument supported by Alberto Gonzales.

    But just as George's decree is meeting resistance, Charles' decree wasn't well received. The result of his overt assault on the rights of citizens led to a sort of revolt in the British Parliament, producing the 1628 "Petition of Right" law, an early version of our Fourth through Eighth Amendments, which restated Articles 38 and 39 of the Magna Carta and added that "writs of habeas corpus, [are] there to undergo and receive [only] as the court should order." It was later strengthened with the "Habeas Corpus Act of 1640" and a second "Habeas Corpus Act of 1679."

    Thus, the right to suspend habeas corpus no longer was held by the King. It was exercised solely by the people's (elected and hereditary) representatives in the Parliament.

    The third George to govern the United Kingdom confronted this in 1815 when he came into possession of Napoleon Bonaparte. But the British laws were so explicit that everybody was entitled to habeas corpus - even people who were not British citizens - that when Napoleon surrendered on the deck of the British flagship Bellerophon after the battle of Waterloo in 1815, the British Parliament had to pass a law ("An Act For The More Effectually Detaining In Custody Napoleon Bonaparte") to suspend habeas corpus so King George III could legally continue to hold him prisoner (and then legally exile him to a British fortification on a distant island).
    Ironically, the third George to govern the United States now says, 190 years later, that unlike England's George III, he does not need an act of Congress to detain people or exile them to camps on a distant island.
    To facilitate this, our Third George, and his able counselor Judge Gonzales, have brought forth new "legal" terms - "enemy combatant" and "terrorist" - and invented a new set of law and rights (or non-laws and non-rights) for people they label as such.
    It's a virtual repeat of Charles I's doctrine that a nation's ruler may do whatever he wants because he's the one in charge - "per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis."

    Interestingly, the United States Constitution does provide for special exceptions to the involuntary detention of persons - it is legal to suspend habeas corpus. But the Constitution says it can only be done by Congress, not by the President.

    Article I of the Constitution outlines the powers and limits of the Legislative Branch of government (Article 2 lays out the Executive Branch, and Article 3 defines the Judicial Branch). In Section 9, Clause 2 of Article I, the Constitution says of the Legislative branch's authority: "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

    Abraham Lincoln was well aware of this during the Civil War, and was the first president to successfully ask Congress (on March 3, 1863) to suspend habeas corpus so he could imprison those he considered a threat until the war was over. Congress invoked this power again during Reconstruction when President Grant requested The Ku Klux Klan Act in 1871 to put down a rebellion in South Carolina.

    But President George W. Bush has not asked Congress for, and has not been granted, a suspension of habeas corpus for his so-called "war on terrorism," a "war" which he and his advisors have implied may last well beyond our lifetimes.

    Nonetheless, our President, with consent of his Counsel Mr. Gonzales, has locked people up, "per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis." Some of their names are familiar to us - US citizens Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, for example - but there are hundreds whose names we are not even allowed to know. Perhaps thousands. It's a state secret, after all. Per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis.

    But how do we deal with people who want to kill us, to destroy our nation, to terrorize us?

    Every president from George Washington to Bill Clinton has understood that there are two categories of people who can be incarcerated legally - Prisoners of War and criminals. The former have rights under both U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions, and the latter under the U.S. Constitution.

    These two categories encompass every possible actual threat to a nation and its people, and have withstood the test of time from the days of King John to today.

    For example, when Bill Clinton was confronted with a heinous act of terrorism within the United States - the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City - he didn't declare a "war" on whoever the terrorist may be, or suspend habeas corpus. Instead, he immediately defined the perpetrators as thugs and criminals, and brought the full weight of the American and international criminal justice system to bear, capturing Timothy McVeigh and using Interpol to search the world for possible McVeigh allies. Justice was served, the victims achieved closure, and our rights were left largely intact.

    But, just as Hitler and his close advisors used the burning of the Reichstag building to declare a perpetual "war on terrorism," and then moved to suspend habeas corpus and other rights, so too have George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales.

    The Founders must be turning in their graves. Clearly they never imagined such a thing in their wildest dreams. As Alexander Hamilton - arguably the most conservative of the Founders - wrote in Federalist 84:
    "The establishment of the writ of habeas corpus ... are perhaps greater securities to liberty and republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains. ...[T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious [British 18th century legal scholar] Blackstone, in reference to the latter, are well worthy of recital:
    "'To bereave a man of life,' says he, 'or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore A MORE DANGEROUS ENGINE of arbitrary government.''' [Capitals all Hamilton's from the original.]

    While the sexy stuff that members of Congress and the news media want to talk about when they question Alberto Gonzales is torture - after all, the pictures are now iconic and have worldwide distribution - the torture of these and other prisoners in US custody is really a subset of a larger issue.

    The bigger question here is whether George W. Bush has the right to ignore the U.S. Constitution and international treaties, violate human rights and civil liberties, promote "preemptive" wars, and build concentration camps for the permanent imprisonment of untried and unconvicted individuals - all simply because he says he can, per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis. And whether we want the chief law enforcement officer of the land, the man who would be charged with prosecuting Bush or those in his administration who may break the law, to be a man who agrees that Bush stands above the law and the Constitution.

    The question, ultimately, is whether our nation will continue to stand for the values upon which it was founded.

    Early American conservatives suggested that democracy was so ultimately weak it couldn't withstand the assault of newspaper editors and citizens who spoke out against it, or terrorists from the Islamic Barbary Coast, leading John Adams to pass America's first PATRIOT Act-like laws, the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. President Thomas Jefferson rebuked those who wanted America ruled by an iron-handed presidency that could - as Adams had - throw people in jail for "crimes" such as speaking political opinion, or without constitutional due process.

    "I know, indeed," Jefferson said in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1801, "that some honest men fear that a republican government cannot be strong; that this government is not strong enough.
    "But would the honest patriot,"he continued, "in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm, on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not.

    "I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it is the only one where every man, at the call of the laws, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern."

    The sum of this, Jefferson said, was found in "freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation.
    "The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civil instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."

    Modern conservatives still revere Burke and Adams and sneer at Jefferson, but many are nonetheless alarmed by Bush's unprecedented attack on the Constitution. As Russell Kirk wrote in his seminal 1953 book "The Conservative Mind" - the book which inspired a generation of conservatives from Buckley to Goldwater - a "New Society," abandoning the traditional values of America, could easily come into being if "radicals" such as Bush were to take over our government and discard the Constitution.

    This New Society, Kirk wrote in his chapter "The Promise of Conservatism," would be dominated by "the gratification of a lust for power and the destruction of all ancient political institutions in the interest of the new dominant elites. The great Plan requires that the public be kept constantly in an emotional state closely resembling that of a nation at war; this lacking, obedience and co-operation shrivel..." Kirk adds that "Big Brother remains to show the donkey the stick instead of the carrot."

    When I was working in Russia some years ago, a friend in Kaliningrad told me a perhaps apocryphal story about Nikita Khrushchev, who, following Stalin's death, gave a speech to the Politburo denouncing Stalin's policies. A few minutes into Khrushchev's diatribe, somebody shouted out, "Why didn't you challenge him then, the way you are now?"
    The room fell silent, as Khrushchev angrily swept the audience with his glare. "Who said that?" he asked in a reasoned voice. Silence.
    "Who said that?" Khrushchev demanded, leaning forward. Silence.
    Pounding his fist on the podium to accent each word, he screamed, "Who - said - that?" Still no answer.
    Finally, after a long and strained silence, the elected politicians in the room fearful to even cough, a corner of Khrushchev's mouth lifted into a smile.
    "Now you know," he said with a chuckle, "why I did not speak up against Stalin when I sat where you now sit."

    The question for our day is who will speak up against George W. Bush and his Stalinist policies? Who will speak against the man who punishes reporters and news organizations by cutting off their access; who punishes politicians by targeting them in their home districts; who punishes truth-tellers in the Executive branch by character assassination that even extends to destroying their spouse's careers?

    Oddly, so far it's only been Justice Antonin Scalia, a man with whom I often strongly disagree. Scalia wrote in his minority dissent in the case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that the President does not have the power to suspend habeas corpus by executive decree. Instead, he wrote: "If civil rights are to be curtailed during wartime, it must be done openly and democratically, as the Constitution requires..."

    Scalia went on to quote Alexander Hamilton from Federalist Number 8, who noted that:
    "The violent destruction of life and property incident to war; the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty, to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they, at length, become willing to run the risk of being less free."

    "The Founders warned us about the risk," Scalia noted in his Hamdi dissent, "and equipped us with a Constitution designed to deal with it.
    "Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis..." but, Scalia added, "that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it."

    How ironic that Justice Scalia was willing to stand up to George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales, but most of the Senate Democrats won't.

    The Democrats in Congress say they're going to confirm Judge Gonzales and "keep their powder dry" for future, larger battles like Supreme Court nominations. But as Pastor Niemöller reminds us, the loss of liberty is incremental, not sudden and dramatic.

    One either totally stands for republican democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law in our republic, or one doesn't.
    Gonzales has shown that he does not, both by his prevarication in his confirmation hearings, his actions in condoning Bush's illegal suspension of habeas corpus and PATRIOT Act abuses of constitutionally-protected civil and human rights, and his support of other Bush decrees implicitly per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis.
    To quote Scalia's summary in the Hamdi case, "Because the Court has proceeded to meet the current emergency in a manner the Constitution does not envision [by letting the President suspend habeas corpus], I respectfully dissent."

    But is dissent enough?

    Or must we work for a wholesale change in our representatives, demanding that they either stand up for the principles for which so many Americans have fought and died, or leave the political arena altogether?
    Where are the true democrats among the Democrats? (Or, for that matter, the true republicans among the Republicans?) Have they all lost their voices?

    First Bush and Gonzales came for the terrorists, but I was not a terrorist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the enemy combatants, but I was not a combatant, so I did not object. Then they came for the protestors resisting "free speech zones" near Bush campaign rallies, but I was not a protestor and so I only voiced my unease.

    If we - and our elected representatives - do not speak out now, loudly and forcefully, it may not be long before they come for the rest of us.
  5. by   URO-RN
    IMO, terrorist have absolutely no rights whatsoever. A terrorists forfeits his humanity when he/she decides to wage war against members of it's own species.
  6. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Quote from Jo Anne
    IMO, terrorist have absolutely no rights whatsoever. A terrorists forfeits his humanity when he/she decides to wage war against members of it's own species.
    so, indeed, JoAnn, if you are right in what you say here, let me ask the obvious question: when we, as a country wage war on other nations, does what you just said apply as well?
  7. by   fab4fan
    I don't know which frightens me more, the article itself, or the people who think it is A-OK to just haul people off on "suspicion of something" and deny them access to counsel.

    Even worse, the president is trying to usurp the US Constitution and set himself up as some sort of grand overlord.

    If someone is a terrorist, let him be tried, let the evidence be shown, and then let the punishment fit the crime. Guantanemo is not much different than the Tower of London, IMO.
  8. by   fab4fan
    I guess the Japanese internment camps were a pretty good idea, too. After all, some of them might have been terrorists.
  9. by   URO-RN
    Quote from SmilingBluEyes
    so, indeed, JoAnn, if you are right in what you say here, let me ask the obvious question: when we, as a country wage war on other nations, does what you just said apply as well?
    Terrorists are not a legitimate army. Terrorists do not deserve to be protected. Period. if you strap your self to a bomb, take over airplanes and slam them into buildings, your members do not deserve to be protected under any Geneva rules for POW. Terrorists are not POWs because they don't belong to any legitimate army. Is Al-queda an army? a legitimate army? Heck no. Sorry, terrorists are scum and if the only way to protect our country and others is to use coercion when we capture them then I am all for it.

    We can agree to disagree and you know that I respect your opinion
    Last edit by Jo Anne on Jan 12, '05
  10. by   fab4fan
    Well, then the CIA should give you a call since you seem to have special powers to be able to determine who is/is not a terrorist without hearing any evidence or going through the usual investigative methods.
  11. by   Roy Fokker
    Quote from Jo Anne
    IMO, terrorist have absolutely no rights whatsoever. A terrorists forfeits his humanity when he/she decides to wage war against members of it's own species.
    Where is this "proof" that the detainees are terrorists?

    Let me tell you all an interesting story. This incident happened back home.

    A few years ago, the police "raided" a local restaurant and bar and arrested some "miscreants" on charges of drug dealing and "anti-social activities". Through much of the night, the boy was hit, punched and hammered at his legs with sticks as thich as a human arm - to try and glean "information" regarding the whereabouts of the "gang" and it's "nefarious activities".

    That boy in the story is me. Even today, I have trouble with my left knee on some days.

    What was my crime you ask? Nothing, I was in the restaurant filling my stomach (well, maybe I broke the law by having a glass of beer and I wasn't of legal age yet) with my friends. We were picked up and taken away, just like that. Thanks to my Father's "connections", I was let out, an inquiry was held and it came to be known that a new Superintendent had just taken charge of the area and had come down to the local cop-station and given the Chargeman a dressing down for "lack of progress in crime prevention". So the Chargeman with a loss of what to do, simply came around and picked us up and proceeded to "interrogate" us - to show that he was being pro-active and producing "results".

    It sounds like a very nice sob-story but that's not what I'm trying to say.

    Suspects are just that - suspects. We still operate under the principle of "Innocent untill proven guilty". If the man was a terrorist, hang him - I'll even provide the rope and set it all up free of charge. But untill then, they are human beings too - yes, even if they are Arabs/moslem/whatever.

    All this talk of human rights and prisoners rights is fun sitting here in our chairs. From being the victim of police brutality, I can assure you that the reality is quite painful. I'm happy human rights exist. Who knows? I might have just been shot and the report filed that "was involved in narcotics smuggling and resisted arrest".

    Here's a few questions I have for all :

    1. Why aren't the detainees stationed anywhere else BUT in Guantanamo? Afraid that if they bring them stateside, too much "truth" will leak out?
    2. Why aren't the detainees captured in A'ghan have PoW status? Because if they are the Taliban criminals that the Govt. says they are - they are PoWs.

    Never forget - often the biggest terrorist is the Govt.


    EDIT :: And no, I have nothing against cops. I realise that many are good, honest folk and that you find jerks in every profession
    Last edit by Roy Fokker on Jan 12, '05
  12. by   URO-RN
    Quote from Roy Fokker
    Where is this "proof" that the detainees are terrorists?

    Here's a few questions I have for all :

    1. Why aren't the detainees stationed anywhere else BUT in Guantanamo? Afraid that if they bring them stateside, too much "truth" will leak out?
    2. Why aren't the detainees captured in A'ghan have PoW status? Because if they are the Taliban criminals that the Govt. says they are - they are PoWs.

    Never forget - often the biggest terrorist is the Govt.


    EDIT :: And no, I have nothing against cops. I realise that many are good, honest folk and that you find jerks in every profession
    Where is the proof that the detainees are terrorists? They were captured in Afghanistan . What the heck is a Yemeni doing in Afghanistan with bombs and artillery? These terrorists are kept all over the world, not just in Cuba. Keep them as far away from my country. For the Taliban, they were the government of Afghanistan, they had an "army" of sorts...so even thought I think they should be shipped out to Guantanamo as well, (and many, many are there already) we should change their status.
    Last edit by Jo Anne on Jan 12, '05
  13. by   BeachNurse
    Quote from Jo Anne
    Where is the proof that the detainees are terrorists? They were captured in Afghanistan . What the heck is a Yemeni doing in Afghanistan with bombs and artillery? These terrorists are kept all over the world, not just in Cuba. Keep them as far away from my country. For the Taliban, they were the government of Afghanistan, they had an "army" of sorts...so even thought I think they should be shipped out to Guantanamo as well, (and many, many are there already) we should change their status.

    Exactly. I am at a total loss of where all this sympathy and outrage comes from for the mistreatment of war criminals. They were there to cause pain, death and destruction without concern for human lives, but we are supposed to fall over ourselves to be "fair" to them??
  14. by   Roy Fokker
    Quote from BeachNurse
    Exactly. I am at a total loss of where all this sympathy and outrage comes from for the mistreatment of war criminals. They were there to cause pain, death and destruction without concern for human lives, but we are supposed to fall over ourselves to be "fair" to them??
    Even the Nazis were treated better....

close