Let It Come Down: Forcing the Constitutional Crisis of Liberty


The line it is drawn The curse it is cast… The order is rapidly fading And the first one now Will later be last For the times they are a-changin’

Nat Hentoff, one of our great champions of civil liberties, uncovers the ugly truths behind the Bush Regime’s plans for a Nuremberg-in-reverse at the American concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay: war crimes show trials being conducted by war criminals. Hentoff also cites the remarkable reports by the Seton Hall University School of Law which — drawing solely on official Pentagon documents — detail the shameful and criminal system that Bush and his lawless gang of legal perverts have established. As the Seton Hall reports note:

"Only 8 percent of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40 percent have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban…."The Government has detained numerous persons based on mere affiliations with a large number of groups that are, in fact, not on the Department of Homeland Security terrorist watchlist . . . A large majority — 60 percent — are detained merely because they are ‘associated with’ a group or groups the Government asserts are terrorist organizations. (And members of almost 72 percent of those groups are allowed into the U.S.)….

"Only 5 percent of the detainees were captured by United States forces. Eighty-six percent of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86 percent of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the United States at a time when the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies."

Hentoff adds: "Remember, these findings are based entirely on Department of Defense records. (Robert Gates can fact-check them.)…Remember, too, that in the 2006 Military Commissions Act, Congress stripped from all these prisoners any meaningful right to utilize our federal courts, thereby defying our own Supreme Court."

(For more on the MCA and Bush’s larger web of arbitrary rule, see Presidential Tyranny Untamed by Election Defeat and Fatal Vision: The Deeper Evil Behind the Detainee Bill.)

This issue must now be brought to the crisis. When the new Congress convenes, it should pass a law repealing the Military Commissions Act and firmly re-establishing Constitutional principles of jurisprudence and civil liberties. Then let Bush veto it if he will, so that it will be plain at last where we stand: Constitutionalists on one side, Authoritarians on the other. These poles are fast becoming the true political divide in this country, a split that runs through all parties. To echo George Washington, "Let us have [a government] by which our lives, liberties and properties will be secured; or let us know the worst at once."

It is folly to wait upon the Supreme Court to sort out the matter. There is little indication that the current Court will strike down the MCA; at best, it may seek to mitigate some of its most egregious excesses. But allowing the law to stand in any form represents an acceptance of the principle of unconstitutional presidential authority, of arbitrary action by the executive. And of course the MCA is not the sole building block of the vast edifice of tinpot tyranny that Bush and his anti-American minions have constructed over the years. That’s why any move to repeal the Act must be accompanied by further legislation to roll back all of Bush’s encroachments on our Constitutional system.

Will such a law be vetoed? Yes. But let it be so. Let it come down. Force all those who represent us in government declare which side they are on. Let all the pundits and opinion-slingers declare which side they are on. Let the people themselves see clearly and openly the choice that is before them: Do you want a republic of free citizens, or a bastardized autocracy?

Excerpts from Our Own Nuremberg Trials (Village Voice): During the mutual-admiration hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services — which led to the unanimous confirmation of former CIA chief Robert Gates to be Donald Rumsfeld’s successor — no senator asked Gates if he approves of the Pentagon’s "extreme . . . emergency" insistence on a $125 million appropriation to construct a permanent compound for a war-crimes court at Guantánamo. There, in 2007, war-crimes trials will be held for dozens of Guantánamo "detainees." The facilities will accommodate simultaneous proceedings.

Unlike the Nuremberg war-crimes trials of the Nazis, there will be no government officials in the dock, but rather — as detailed in my last column — prisoners against whom the United States has itself committed war crimes under the Geneva Conventions and our own War Crimes act. These crimes include their conditions of confinement and a total lack of the due process that the Supreme Court ordered in Rasul v. Bush (2004) and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006).

Each of the defendants will have already been designated as an "enemy combatant" by previous "administrative" Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantánamo. At these sham hearings they were presumed guilty before any of the "evidence" against them (which they were not permitted to see) was aired. That means the presumption of guilt will continue at the war-crimes trials. The world will watch the total transmogrification of America’s much self-praised "rule of law."

…The Seton Hall revelations have reached beyond the metropolitan press to, for example, the Anniston Star in Alabama. A December 1 editorial, "The Gitmo Games," quotes from the Seton Hall findings, and concludes:

"The military is holding something less than a kangaroo court that results in putting people away — without charging them with any specific wrongdoing — for an indefinite period of time . . . History will be very unkind to the rulers who constructed this very unjust, un-American system. Those un-American rulers, of course, include George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, a coven of lawyers at the Defense Department and the White House, and Donald Rumsfeld. Will Robert Gates take his place among them?"

The Anniston Star’s indictment-editorial ends: "[History] also will be unkind to people who tolerated [this un-American system.]" That means us.