19 October 2006

So Long, Farewell....

On Tuesday, Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law, suspending habeas corpus for anyone determined to be an enemy combatant.

This deeply concerns me.

In fact, I've been a little freaked out about it ever since it went zipping through congress on September 28 and 29.

Habeas corpus is a nice little law that says you have the right to know exactly why you're being locked up. And that you have the right to tell someone you didn't do that thing that you are being locked up for, and even maybe the chance to get out of prison for this thing that you didn't do. Without it, you can be grabbed off the street (or more likely, out of the airport, as in the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen INNOCENT OF ANY CRIME who was abducted by the United States Government, taken to a secret prison in Syria where he was held for 10 months and 10 days, beaten, tortured, forced to make a false confession -- and eventually RELEASED WITHOUT CHARGE) and "disappeared" without any indication of why you're being taken away.

Disappeared.... desaparacidos....that's right, we learned about that one in my "Radical Movements in 20th Century Latin America" class. Also in high school Spanish, when we watched the movie "La Historia Oficial" (every year - it was the "Stand and Deliver" of Spanish Class), about the disappeared in Argentina in the 70s and 80s, the dissidents who were forced to jump out of planes over the ocean, thus ensuring that their bodies would never be found -- the desaparacidos. The disappeared.

In the United States, we call it "extraordinary rendition."

You know what else is interesting (by which I mean terrifying) about the Military Commissions Act of 2006? There's this tricky little line in it that basically says that if the government -- aka Bush & Rumsfeld -- say you're an enemy combatant..... you ARE.

(Which reminds me of a note I once picked up off an elementary schoolyard. In the tiny, precise writing of a child, it said, "If you read this, you eat poop!" I thought, that's so clever. You can't deny eating poop, since in order to know what the allegation about you says, you must in fact admit that you did just read the note. As the note says, "IF you READ this, you eat poop," it clearly states that the only evidence needed to condemn you as a poop-eater is the mere incidence of your reading, something which once done, you cannot undo. To this day, that note remains in my mind the perfect example of cold conviction logic.)

If they say you are an enemy combatant, you ARE.

A few years ago, Bush's then-Secretary of Education announced that the largest teacher's union was a terrorist organization. According to the Military Commissions Act, the law would now say that once accused of being a terrorist organization, they ARE. Right?

Also, the MCA says that if you give monetary support to a group the president deems to be a terrorist organization, you can be considered to be an enemy combatant yourself. I wonder, in a country where the president can suspend habeas corpus without anyone blinking an eye, where the president can actively defend torture practices such as water boarding -- for which the United States prosecuted people after WWII, treating it as a war crime! -- where a group of teachers fighting for better dental plans can be called a terrorist organization -- I wonder if I shouldn't be worried about that donation I sent to KUNM earlier today. What if the president declares his personal war on the free media next? What if NPR is the next identified terrorist cell?

In the words of Keith Olbermann, "the only thing keeping you, I, or the viewer out of Gitmo is the sanity and honesty of the president of the United States."

Good luck.

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