There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
- Buffalo Springfield/Stephen Stills (1966)
Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying, "This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
- Bob Dylan, "Blind Willie McTell"
Part of what's going down in this possibly "condemned land" carries more than a hint of homeland fascism.
In the name of mid-term electoral pragmatism, frightened that their narrow chance of taking Congress will be endangered by the visible possession of a civil-libertarian spine, much of the Democratic Party and its leadership has signed on to a freshly passsed proto-fascistic federal bill that gives state-terrorist war criminal George W. Bush "the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error" (New York Times, 28 September, 2006, A22).
Here's the latest diluted, prozac-laden story from CNN a few minutes ago:
"Senate passes detainee bill likely to be a GOP cudgel in midterm elections"
"WASHINGTON (CNN) — In a vote that will reverberate from now until election day, the Senate gave its final approval Thursday evening to a White House-backed bill establishing military commissions to prosecute terror detainees and providing CIA agents more guidance in how far they can go in interrogating them."
"The measure — which President Bush has called his top legislative priority this year — passed the Senate 65-34. It passed the House Wednesday by a vote of 253-168."
"And with the war on terror and national security certain to be hot-button issues in November's mid-term elections, Bush and his fellow Republicans were making it clear Thursday that they would remind voters that most Democrats opposed the bill, including the party's leadership in both houses. (Posted 9:50 p.m.)"
Election angles aside, here are some critical problems with the bill (all the quoted remarks come from the lead editorial in today's Times, p. A22):
* It chills domestic free speech and discourages dissent by defining "illegal enemy combatants” in a way that "could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president can give the power to apply this label to anyone he wants."
* It shits all over the Geneva Conventions by "allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods [should be] considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published."
* It pisses all over the venerable and core free society principle of Habeas Corpus since "detainees in U.S. military prisons lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment" and "prove their innocence."
* It flushes the cherished western-democratic principle of Judicial Review since "the courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever," the Times explained today, "is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial."
* It assaults a core constitutional protection since "coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses."
* It weakens fundamental protections that "prohibit evidence and testimony that are kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer."
* It offends national and international human rights law by advancing a definition of torture that "is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture."
Some of the talking heads I've been seeing on the corporate-imperial telescreens are saying that the bill will be challenged and shot down by the Supreme Court, consistent with recent decisions – the ones that led to this noxious and opportunistically timed legislation in the first place. Perhaps that's true but no subsequent high court actions or election outcomes can get rid of the oppressive stench surrounding this bill and the willingness of so many "opposition party" Congresspersons to go soft on the creeping homeland fascism of the strangely respectable and dangerously in-power hard right.
Only the people can turn this around.