Thursday, December 29, 2011
"We are abandoning due process out of fear of a danger that is largely illusory."
Ron Paul, who is expected to fare well in next week's Iowa caucuses, is also attracting passionate support in various other states, including Louisiana. Nobody gives him any chance of winning the GOP nomination, however. He wants, for instance to repeal the Patriot Act, so named, in the spirit of Orwell, because it betrays the principles that made America a beacon for the free world.
In these skittish times only the nutty fringe would advocate a return to the rule of law.
Paul, at 76, is said to be the candidate of the young and idealistic, who, four years ago, helped propel Barack Obama into the White House. Boy, did he have them fooled. Not only did he fail to reverse the repressive drift of the George W. Bush administration, but he has escalated it.
We have now arrived at the state where an American citizen may be arrested on American soil and held without trial indefinitely. Obama blithely tags an American citizen as a terrorist sympathizer and has him taken out by drone in a foreign country. The police-state refinements of the Bush years -- the warrantless wiretaps and e-mail searches, for instance -- remain in place. Guantanamo Bay, which was supposed to be an early casualty of the Obama administration, continues its grisly work.
This administration supposedly renounced torture, but it is hard to think of any other word for the cruelties inflicted on Pfc Bradley Manning since he was arrested for allegedly providing Julian Assange of Wikileaks with classified material, including video of a helicopter crew hollering in delight while mowing down civilians in Iraq.
None of the perpetrators of what looks like an atrocity faced any consequences, but Manning was confined for 23 hours a day in a tiny cell, often naked, and awakened every five minutes. This was too much for State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who resigned after calling Manning's treatment "counterproductive and stupid."
Presiding over Manning's preliminary hearing last week was Army Reserve Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, who in civilian life works as a prosecutor for the Justice Department. Since Assange is under investigation by the department, which would presumably not hesitate to lean on Manning for a little dirt, it does not take a legal scholar of, say, Obama's stature, to see grounds for recusal in this set-up.
Almanza refused to budge, however, and is now weighing whether he should recommend a court martial. There is little room for doubt on that score, or, indeed, whether Manning will be convicted. Obama has already publicly declared Manning "broke the law," and it is not regarded as a wise career move for army officers to gainsay their commander in chief.
Manning's security breach is alleged to have put lives at risk, but there is no evidence of any harm done, beyond the embarrassment suffered by inept and secretive officialdom. Indeed, the public is surely entitled to know of the outrages committed in its name, and no less an authority than Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame regards Manning as a whistle-blowing hero. He'll probably get life for that.
Meanwhile, the latest assault on American liberties arrives with the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which makes a mockery once and for all of any notion that the cowboys rode off into the sunset with Bush. In the land of the free these days "any person who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaida, the Taliban or associated forces" may now be detained "without trial until the end of hostilities." The way things are going in Afghanistan and the Middle East, it might as well say until the end of time.
We are abandoning due process out of fear of a danger that is largely illusory. American and British intelligence services say al Qaida poses little threat to America now that Osama bin Laden has been liquidated in Pakistan and drones have taken care of several more of its commanders. That Anwar al-Awlaki, assassinated in Yemen three months ago, was an American citizen was evidently jake with Obama.
Ron Paul is given no chance, but this time we need not fear that the Republican nominee will want to dismantle the Bill of Rights. That job has been done.